Source: The Guardian
Martin Chulov Middle East correspondent
A rumbling war in Yemen, a festering standoff with Qatar, and a turbulent time at home: things haven’t being going well for Saudi Arabia lately.
Tuesday’s announcement that the kingdom would finally grant women the right to drive cars put a stop – for a while at least – to the cycle of bad news. In doing so, it gave women in the conservative country a jolt of empowerment that many had long demanded – and believed might never arrive.
Surprise, joy and trepidation were common reactions to the move, which senior officials hailed as a watershed moment. Change in Saudi Arabia has long been seen as “better evolutionary than revolutionary”, but this declaration shocked the system.
Four months into his role as change agent, which he believes will usher him to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman has played his biggest card yet. In doing so, the new crown prince has harnessed the support of his biggest potential obstacle: the country’s rigid clerics, who have previously been poorly disposed towards progressivism, and particularly to women’s rights.