Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

by Manal al-Sharif
Martin Schoeller for TIME

Outside of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman might be associated with confrontation—with Iran, with Qatar, and especially in Yemen. But inside the kingdom, there is cautious optimism. The heir to the throne is lifting restrictions on women, allowing us to work in positions once limited to men, play sports and attend public events. In June we will finally be allowed to drive. There is serious talk of letting women hold political positions for the first time and abolishing male guardianship altogether. Saudis appreciate his controversial challenge to the culture of corruption, and reining in religious police who choked us, literally and figuratively. At first I was skeptical of the prince’s Vision 2030 plan to modernize our kingdom. I have come around. Most Saudis are under age 30, and have only known elderly rulers. Now a major leader is our peer. I want to see the changes lead to political reforms, even a constitutional monarchy and full freedom of expression. If MBS would do that, my hopes for a better Saudi Arabia are bigger than the sky.

Al-Sharif, who was jailed in 2011 for driving a car, is a women’s-rights activist and the author of Daring to Drive

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