For decades, Saudi Arabia has been known as a hardline Islamic country with a poor human rights track record and an abysmal approach to women's rights. The wheel of change though has reached the country and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is driving the country towards gender equality. "We are all human and there is no difference between men and women," he recently told CBS News Program in what is being widely hailed as the coming of age for Saudi Arabia.
The country in recent months has relaxed prohibitive rules which included women being forbidden from driving and from watching all-men sporting events at stadiums. While close allies like the United States have lauded the efforts being made, it is but a start. Mohammed bin Salman says years of "ultraconservative interpretation of Islam" will take time to subside. "We were victims, especially my generation that suffered from this a great deal," he said about conservatism that spread through the kingdom after 1979.
While bin Salman may have indeed sparked a change after decades of oppression, critics remain adamant that a whole lot more needs to be done for him to prove he has noble intentions. For starters, many argue that activists and writers jailed for demanding more rights for women must be freed. Many also say that the so-called guardianship laws continue to chain women in Saudi Arabia because it gives men control over their lives. Bin Salman himself has led a lavish lifestyle - he recently bought a yacht for half a billion dollars - and his commitment towards common Saudi people is doubted.
Asked, therefore, about how successful he predicts his rule would be, bin Salman reportedly said 'only death can end my reign as Saudi Arabia's crown prince.'