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The Saudi Kingdom’s In Deep Turmoil. Here’s The Man At The Centre Of It All

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When Saudi Arabia’s new anti-corruption committee purged 11 princes and dozens of ministers and officers on November 5, 2017, it sparked speculations and rumors about the country’s political scenario. After all, this was an unprecedented development in the kingdom.

As the events unfolded, it seems that all’s not well in the royal family. In July 2017, Mohammed bin Nayef, who was the next-in-line to the throne, was reportedly deposed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz to allow his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, to become the crown prince.

Terming it a coup, media sources said that the king was determined to elevate his son as his heir to the throne. Earlier, the king and the crown prince came to power only through family consensus in the kingdom. Here, the Ibn Saud family has been ruling over since 1953, after the death of Abdulaziz bin Saud, the first monarch of the kingdom.

After deposing Mohammed bin Nayef, when Mohammed bin Salman (or MBS, as he is known) acceded to the throne, things started to change rapidly. It was he who waged a proxy war against Houthi, a Shia militant group supported by Iran, and the Hezbollah, which is fighting against the Yemen government. Then, Saudi Arabia targeted Qatar for maintaining relations with Iran by imposing a blockade.

Recently, hours after forming the anti-corruption committee, MBS launched the purge against the members of the royal family and wealthy tycoons – including Miteb bin Abdullah, the head of the National Guard who could have been a potential future king, and Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the wealthiest men in the world who rubs shoulder with Bill Gates. All the elites purged in charge of corruption have been put under house arrest in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton 5-star hotel.

Then, the Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia, citing rising Iranian influence in Lebanon and the fact that his father was killed allegedly by the Iran-backed Hezbollah. But as the reports are coming out, it seems that he may have been forced to resign by the Saudi regime and also put under house arrest.

The 31-year-old crown prince, MBS, who is overseeing the interior, defense ministries and the National Guard (which is assigned to protect the royal family), is now enjoying unlimited power. No one in the royal family exercises as much power as MBS does now.

The rise and rise of Mohammed bin Salman? (Photo by Nicolas Asfouri – Pool/Getty Images)

Previously, the king of Saudi Arabia used to govern the kingdom with the advice of family members, and the different portfolios were given to the brothers or family members. Now, all the portfolios are being managed by that one man – Mohammed bin Salman. And he is purging all those who oppose his decisions and prove to be hurdles in his way of becoming the next Saudi king.

Behind this game of thrones, the main target of MBS is to reform the Saudi kingdom economically and socially. The kingdom’s economy is largely dependent on oil exports, and it has not been doing well over the last decade. He wants to transform the oil-based Saudi economy into a corporate business.

To this end, he has unveiled a Saudi Vision 2030, which includes a flagship project of establishing a formidable city, Neom, spanning over three countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Egypt. The city, which will have all the facilities of luxurious life including robot services, is being established as an independent economy zone whose governance and rules would be different from those of the kingdom.

Socially, the kingdom has followed ultra-conservative and orthodox forms of Islam. MBS wants to transform it into a modern monarchical state. In order to bring about these reforms, the crown prince is trampling upon the opposition, dissenters and trying to grab absolute powers. It also seems that by hyping anti-Iran sentiments, he wants to gather the support of the Sunni faction for his ambition.

The extent to which the upstart crown prince MBS will succeed in his ambitions is yet to be seen. However, his undemocratic approach and reckless use of power may destabilise the kingdom, or even fuel a civil war if any member of the family incites an armed struggle against him.

His political decisions (the embargo on Qatar, the war in Yemen, etc.) did not go well with the kingdom and have somewhat backfired. Qatar refused to toe the Saudi line, and the rebels in Yemen are steadily fighting against the government as the Saudi intervention could not defeat them.

Undoubtedly, all this is happening with the support and consent of the US, who is the most favorable ally of Saudi Arabia. Publicly supporting King Salman and the crown prince, the US President Donald Trump tweeted“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing…”


Featured image source: Nicolas Asfouri – Pool/Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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