The Best, the Worst, of Times
Listen to Today's Edition
It was a time of lavish spending on ambitious projects. It was a time of brutal repression. In Saudi Arabia, it was business as usual.
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently unveiled plans for The Line, a 656-foot wide, 1,640-foot tall city that would stretch for 100 miles or more from the desert into the Red Sea, wrote Architectural Digest. As part of a plan to diversify the oil-rich country’s economy away from fossil fuels, the green city aims to use innovative design, artificial intelligence and cutting-edge transportation systems to make as little impact on the planet as possible.
“We committed to a civilizational revolution that puts humans first based on a radical change in urban planning,” bin Salman said in a statement. “The city’s vertically layered communities will challenge the traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced human livability.”
Part of a larger $500 billion project called NEOM, the city will cost between $100 and $200 billion, Reuters reported. Eventually, as many as 9 million people could live there.
It’s a lingering question as to whether or not those 9 million people will be happy or free. While bin Salman has been planning his utopia, he has also been doubling executions in the desert kingdom and cracking down on women activists who want to enjoy the same rights as men in the ultra-orthodox Muslim country.
Executions have been occurring at a record rate in Saudi Arabia this year despite bin Salman’s pledge to reduce them, the Washington Post explained. On a single day in March, 81 men were put to death. Around half happened to be Shiites, a Muslim sect that bin Salman and his fellow Sunni Muslims view as heretics.
A Saudi court recently sentenced Saudi women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison, Middle East Monitor wrote. A doctoral student in Britain, she was arrested while on vacation in her native country and sentenced to six years in prison for following and retweeting content by Saudi activists and dissidents on social media. When she appealed, she received a harsher sentence.
Another Saudi woman recently received a 45-year sentence for daring to express her opinions about her rights on social media, the BBC added. Such cruelty testifies to other horrors perpetrated by bin Salman. Remember, the crown prince stands accused of ordering the murder and dismembering of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.
Some might wonder how bin Salman and his regime reconcile their riches and 21st-century vision with their cruelty and medieval values. But they don’t see any inconsistencies.