Saudi Arabia’s government is known to be opaque, with very little ever given to the media in terms of information. But a major report given to The Daily Telegraph by advisers to Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman suggests that things might be about to change.
In what the newspaper calls an “unprecedented step,” The Telegraph was given a document by the advisers that addresses concerns from the West about issues like human rights and the role of women in Saudi society, as well as setting out future governmental programmes.
Saudi Arabia’s royal family has undergone a major overhaul since the death of ruler King Abdullah in January. Abdullah was replaced by Salman, who has put in place a series of changes to the way Saudi Arabia’s succession plans work.
Salman has given his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman great responsibility and removed Prince Muqrin — one of Abdullah’s sons — from the order of succession. The changes have sparked widely reported rumours of a planned coup to oust King Salman and replace him with one of his eight brothers.
Regardless of whether the rumours are true, the leak appears to suggest that Saudi Arabia’s rulers are trying to quash any possible plans and to set about modernising the country.
Business Insider was unable to obtain the entirety of the leaked document, but here are some choice extracts of what the Saudi government has to say on various topics, as first featured by The Telegraph:
- On changes to the structure of the Saudi royal family and rumours of a coup — “These resolute and decisive changes may have annoyed some people but it does not amount to a crisis.”
- The document suggests there is a desire for modernisation from Saudi citizens — “The media is talking about a crisis within the royal family but they forget to talk to the Saudi people who are thirsty for change and economic reform. People want a ‘remake’ of the Kingdom on new foundations that will make it a major economic power, and this will not happen without a shake-up.”
- It acknowledges that the government is partly to blame for international criticism of the role of women in Saudi society — “The Saudi women issue has become a global issue of public opinion and it seems that we have lost a lot in this case (in terms of public opinion), (but this) was fair, because we did not improve the way we managed that issue.”
- The document says the Saudi authorities’ attitudes to women had been held back by “heritage and popular tradition.”
- But it says things are improving — “We have come a long way and cannot just underestimate efforts made in the last few years in enhancing the role of women in society and give them the rights they deserve.”
- The government says it is now willing to “open the doors of the kingdom to international committees and human rights organisations.”
- One area in which the government is unrepentant is the sentencing to death of the al-Nimrs, a case that has garnered huge international attention — “The al-Nimr family members pursued violence and attacks on security forces and government facilities beside terrorising civilians, hooliganism and vandalism … It is a clear criminal act that led to murders of police officers.”
- The document added “We have all the rights to maintain safety and security of our citizens and we cannot understand the demands to make it go unpunished.”
- It did say, however, that it “understands Britain’s position” on the matter. Numerous petitions have launched in the UK to try to force the release of the men.