OpinionLamp Post

The world is raving about Saudi Arabia’s rave party

I always thought that rave parties were the prerogative of Goa, but Riyadh is now a competitor

When Bob Dylan sang in the 1960s, could he have been anticipating Saudi Arabia of the 2010s and 2020s?

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agein’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a’changin

In diplomacy we are trained to obverse the timing of events

Even as the Saudis ordered their Pakistani servants to host an extraordinary conference of the Foreign Ministers of Islamic countries in Islamabad to beg for some money for Afghanistan (and lots for themselves), the House of Saud was enjoying its first ever international electronic music Rave party that began over the weekend, hosted and paid for by the monarchy

Men and women danced side by side and liquid that looked like alcohol, smelled like alcohol and intoxicated like alcohol, was being served

The Editor-in-Chief of the Goa Chronicle would have loved Riyadh those nights with musicians, dancers, DJs and beautiful women from all over the world!

Whatever his motivation, the all-powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks to the future

In 2015, some 150 beautiful women, flown in from Brazil, Russia and elsewhere, were ferried to a private island in the Maldives to party hosted by MBS for USD 50 million with just a “few dozen” men from the Middle East

The venue was Velaa, a private island in the Maldives “designed to be one of the world’s most luxurious and expensive destinations”

As the boats pulled up to the island’s dock, the women were whisked away via golf cart to a medical facility where they were tested for STDs

When news of the party leaked out, the prince and his buddies slunk away, the beauties left soon after

It took six years for the extravaganza to move from the Maldives to Riyadh, in three years the next mother of all parties will be in the royal palace

MBS has seen what could happen during the Arab Spring, when the Muslim Brotherhood, a ninety-year-old Islamist movement, temporarily won the presidency of Egypt citing the high-flying, alcohol-drenched ways of Saudi royals as proof of the corruption of the Gulf regimes

For bin Salman, it is not so much a matter of keeping two balls in the air simultaneously (fundamental Islam and liberalism) as of tossing one ball so high up in the air (restriction) that you have all the time in the world to deal with the other (freedom)

He is doing it with panache

For decades, Saudi Arabia with its Wahabi brand of ultra-conservative Islam was increasingly looked upon with suspicion, tolerated for Saudi’s oil wealth, but never liked

Osama son of Laden did his country’s reputation no good when he demolished the twin towers in 2001 with 15 Saudis among the hijackers

His stupidity led to the destruction of three countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria as the non-Muslim world united to take revenge

America began to close its universities and training institutions to Saudis

In 2001, Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York refused a $10 million donation for disaster relief from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who suggested that U.S. policies in the Middle East contributed to the September 11 attacks

Interestingly, in November 2017, Alwaleed and other prominent Saudis were arrested in Saudi Arabia, in a purge that the Saudi government characterized as an anti-corruption drive

He was released from detention after nearly three months following a financial settlement of some kind,

Saudi Arabia’s leadership is coming under growing pressure to address significant economic and demographic challenges so it can remain a stable, prosperous country. These include a youth bulge with nearly 45 percent of the population (currently about 26 million) under the age of 25 and rising unemployment with nearly one-third of young Saudis unemployed

As demand for jobs grows, the traditional employers – the public sector and the energy sector – are increasingly incapable of providing opportunities.

Young, urbanized Saudis are demanding reforms that will relax the country’s highly restrictive social climate, especially regarding gender issues

Mohammed bin Salman, knows that Saudi Arabia’s young people are tired of decades of obscene spending by the ruling family and frustrated by online accounts of princes’ ostentatious homes, spending sprees at Harrods, and sports cars racing through the streets of [London’s] Mayfair

They too want to have “fun”

Even though elements of repression are still evident and human rights activists, women’s rights activists, journalists, former insiders, and dissidents are systematically repressed through tactics including torture, jailing, and killings, MBS has already instituted several popular social reforms, and is now undertaking sweeping socioeconomic changes to address the country’s challenges

He has established an entertainment authority that began hosting comedy shows, professional wrestling events, and monster truck rallies

He was personally linked to the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had criticized the Saudi government, but he has denied involvement in the killing

The prince is behind the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen which has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis and famine there, he was involved in the escalation of the Qatar diplomatic crisis, the detention of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the start of a diplomatic spat with Canada, the alleged phone hack against Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos, and treason charges against his cousin and rival Muhammad bin Nayef in March 2020

Of late, he has been promoting reforms to rebrand his regime’s image internationally and within the Kingdom

First and foremost among the Saudi traditions that pose obstacles to economic reform and modernization are those related to gender and women’s roles in society

He has decreed restrictions on the powers of the religious police, the removal of the ban on female drivers in, and weakening the male-guardianship system

That decision was followed by other steps. The government announced that women would no longer be prohibited from attending public sporting events, and a senior Saudi cleric recently suggested that women would not be required to wear the abaya and niqab (full veil) in public

Other cultural developments under his reign include the first Saudi public concerts by a female singer, the first Saudi sports stadium to admit women, an increased presence of women in the workforce, and opening the country to international tourists by introducing an e-visa system

The Saudi Vision 2030 program aims to diversify the country’s economy through investment in non-oil sectors including technology and tourism

Vision 2030 is an aspirational document that is frank about the need to open Saudi society on many levels if economic reforms have any hope of succeeding

Some elements of the traditional, “male guardianship” system remain intact, although the government has pledged to permit women to travel abroad without a male family member accompanying them

Well done MBS – you have chosen to set your country’s clock forward by 1400 years

Yehi hai right choice Baby!

 

Author:

Deepak Vohra

Ambassador Dr. Deepak Vohra, Made in India,
Special Advisor to Prime Minister, Lesotho, South Sudan and Guinea-Bissau,
Special Advisor to Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils, Leh and Kargil, Gauri Sadan, 5 Hailey Road, New Delhi 110001.

 

I am not Indian because I live in India, I am Indian because India lives in me!

They said: Hide from the storm; I replied: I am the storm  

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