Muhammad Bin Salman meeting
image via flickr

The Saudi crown prince, Muhammad Bin Salman has been in the news since his rise to power in 2015. More recently, he has been the center of global media’s attention for his alleged link of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, for which the UN report has suggested an investigation against the prince.

Muhammad Bin Salman, or MBS for which he is better known, is the eldest son of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud. Although his person is involved in controversies, he was initially admired by many in Saudi Arabia as well as the rest of the world as the reformer and a catalyst in the stagnant and very conservative society.

In 2013, two years before his ascendance to power, the prince was awarded the “personality of the year.” However, he rose to prominence in 2015 when his father became the king. Since then, the prince has been acting as a “de facto king.” As a boy, he had educational brilliance as he was ranked among the kingdom’s top ten students. With the bachelor’s degree in law at the King Saud University in Riyadh, he has the vast experience of serving in the state bodies.

When following the death of King Abdullah in 2015, Salman became the king, one of his first cares was to name his son MBS the minister of defense. Since then, MBS has become a key figure in the Kingdom’s affairs. He launched military action in Yemen in March 2015.

Probably one of the main reasons King Salman nominated his son the heir-apparent, is that he has been the favorite child among the siblings. And while the other siblings of MBS were brought up by their mothers in their harems, MBS lived with his father as his favorite child.

The prince was eventually promoted as heir-apparent in 2017, by-passing his elder and more experienced cousin, Muhammad bin Nayef. Thus, taking the leadership role from the father, who readily had devolved his regal duties to his favorite son. The son too did not fail his father’s faith in him, and introduced several economic and social reforms, encouraging privatization to flourish in an authoritarian and monopolistic environment.

Since he secured his place as a de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, MBS has seen favorable coverage by international media, with special regard to the reforms he had introduced. But his role hardly ends here. For the prince has many layers in his personality. From his alleged role in the illegal abduction of the Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri during his visit to the kingdom in 2017 to his imprisoning women’s rights activists, his character seems to be reflecting contrasting shades.

Although he effected such liberal moves as allowing Saudi women to drive, they came after chaotic phases which saw the imprisonment of women’s rights activists. And it is no exaggeration to say that the reform drive of the prince has been motivated by the Arab Spring itself that unleashed in 2011 in Tunisia, and spread like wildfire in neighboring territories.

However, by the time the wave of Arab Awakening was knocking the Saudi Kingdom, MBS had realized the pulse of the people and took specific gradual reformative measures in an attempt to ease out pressure posed by the clamoring for the more significant political rights in the wake of Arab Spring. This is what the experts view as the success of the prince that he adapted to the new circumstances, but, on his terms.

Related: Saudi Ministers Denied the Prince’s Connection with Khashoggi’s Murder