Saudi Arabia is a country in the midst of dramatic change. The fundamental pillars of its economic and social institutions have been upended, and a young generation is moving to the foreground. At the head of this dramatic shift is Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, known as MBS, who since 2015 has branded himself as a modern reformer and the face of a new generation of Saudi leadership. But who is the real MBS: the man who will lead Saudi Arabia into the 21st Century, or a dictator known for his retaliatory actions against members of the royal family and brutal restrictions on human rights? In the wake of the Khashoggi murder and in the midst of a war in Yemen, detention and torture of women’s rights activists, and repeated efforts to consolidate his own power, it is unclear to what extent bin Salman’s actions are driven by a strategy. Meanwhile, an increasingly connected Saudi population is confronting traditions and modernization initiatives which may open new conversations.
The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host a book talk with two acclaimed journalists whose works draw from firsthand experience in Saudi Arabia to examine the rise of Mohammed bin Salman and the changing nature of Saudi society in the decade of Vision 2030. Ben Hubbard and Susanne Koelbl will be joined in conversation with Deborah Amos to explore the current and future obstacles facing reform and progress in Saudi Arabia.