Cultural centers

Saudi cultural and sports festivals: real reforms or “Mr. Saw” whitewashing shows?

Abdullah al-Ouda, the leader of the National Assembly Party (NASS), a Saudi opposition party founded outside the country last year by a group of dissidents, posted images of Washington in a Twitter post saying : “Today we observed people walking through the streets and shouting that we deserve democracy, not Mr. saw”, referring to bin Salman’s role in the assassination of Khashoggi who was killed and dismembered by a death squad using a saw.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): After Mohammad bin Nayef’s sacking in 2015, Mohammad bin Salman came to power as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The man unveiled Saudi Vision 2030 a year later. The vision consists of cultural, economic and social reform measures. Behind this roadmap, Prince Mohammed essentially sought to pose as a progressive, different and open-minded waiting king in order to attract the young generation and women to present a moderate image of the kingdom both at home and abroad.

What is important in the Vision 2030 document is bin Salman’s emphasis on attracting foreign investment, diversifying the economy and creating tourism opportunities by paving the way for major sporting events. and cultural so that the country can gradually reduce its dependence on oil. Bin Salman gradually began his reform measures, including lifting the ban on driving and cinema for women, admitting women to sports clubs, and increasing secular recreation and tourism centers in Saudi Arabia. . Still under the influence of these reforms, for the first time, a woman was appointed the country’s ambassador to the United States.

Despite these measures, Saudi Arabia’s actions such as the invasion of Yemen, the financing and arming of terrorism in the region, the elimination of political rivals, the repression and imprisonment of national dissidents, the suppression of Shiite citizens and even their execution, and ultimately the murder of critical Saudi journalist Jamal Khashgeji in his home country embassy in Istanbul in October 2018 showed the world a much darker and abusive image of Saudi Arabia and its crown prince.

The assassination of the virulent critic of bin Salman prompted rights groups to take anti-Saudi positions and call for a boycott of the Arab monarchy. Despite global pressure, Prince Mohammed as the main defendant got away with the murder without trial. Gradually, Western countries have reestablished normal relations with Riyadh.

Under such circumstances, bin Salman, in order to improve his tarnished image and change his view of the world, took various measures. By hosting festivals and buying Newcastle United football club, the Saudi leader has tried to make a mark in sports, culture and tourism.

He also organized political and economic events. In October 2019, the “Davos of the Desert” economic conference was held in Riyadh with the participation of representatives from more than 30 countries. Saudi officials aimed to portray Saudi Arabia as a vibrant economy and attractive for foreign investment. In 2020, the country hosted the G20 summit.

In sport, although Ben Salman’s takeover offer from Manchester United came to nothing, he bought Newcastle United for $ 409million. The kingdom currently hosts F1 Grand Prix competitions. He spent around $ 900 million over 10 years to obtain the right to host international motor racing.

The New York Times, in a report published earlier this month, wrote that the huge, well-funded Saudi investments in football and golf are efforts to “wash away the sport” despite increasing repression over the years. last years. Rights watchers, writes the NYT, are strongly opposed to Saudi Arabia hosting sporting events because it legitimizes a repressive regime. Shortly after Khashoggi’s murder, many foreign investors had already activated their investments in the kingdom when they arrived to join the events of F1.

In the cultural sector, Riyadh invites singers from the Arab and Western worlds to perform in the country. The Saudis plan to invest $ 64 billion in the film industry. In recent days, they have hosted the first edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival, in which 100 films from foreign countries were shown. The Guardian newspaper reported, citing critics, that “the Arab regime in the Persian Gulf is using the glamor of show business to distract from rights violations in the country and beyond.”

Despite the start of social and cultural reforms, no steps have yet been taken towards political reforms, leading analysts to suggest that reforms will be ineffective in the long run. From another perspective, the existence of a conservative and religious circle opposing bin Salman’s cultural and social measures may constitute a potential for harsh protests and opposition in the country in the future.

Moreover, despite bin Salman’s pro-reform efforts, the country has not been able to achieve the image it envisioned due to its continued human rights violations and repression of the political opposition. . The evident crimes of this country during the invasion of Yemen which led to a major humanitarian crisis, as well as the repressive measures at home and abroad against human rights activists, critics and Shiites, as well as failure to lay the groundwork for reforms, including not persuading the public, can prove to be detrimental to bin Salman himself and other leaders in the first place.

Abdullah al-Ouda, the leader of the National Assembly Party (NASS), a Saudi opposition party founded outside the country last year by a group of dissidents, posted images of Washington in a Twitter post saying : “Today we observed people walking through the streets and shouting that we deserve democracy, not Mr. saw”, referring to bin Salman’s role in the assassination of Khashoggi who was killed and dismembered by a death squad using a saw.

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