Saudi Crown Prince, in His Own Words: Women Are ‘Absolutely’ Equal

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Time: March 18, 2018
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. In an interview with “60 Minutes,” he said, “I’m a rich person and not a poor person,” adding, “I’m not Gandhi or Mandela.”CreditDan Kitwood/Getty Images

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The powerful crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, 32, arrives in the United States on Monday for an extended visit during which he is scheduled to meet President Trump and tour a number of American cities.

Among his trip’s goals: selling Americans on his sweeping plans to reform the economic and social life of the kingdom — and to get American investors to put money into them.

On Sunday, “60 Minutes,” the CBS News program, aired an episode about the prince and where he hopes to take Saudi Arabia. The quotations below were taken from a transcript provided to The New York Times.

On Islam

Prince Mohammed acknowledged that Saudi Arabia has been dominated by an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam that was wary of non-Muslims, deprived women of basic rights and constricted social life by banning movie theaters and music.

“We were victims, especially my generation that suffered from this a great deal,” he said of the wave of conservatism that spread through the kingdom after 1979.

He has pushed to expand entertainment options and promised to let women drive in June.

On Women’s Rights

When asked if women were equal to men, Prince Mohammed said: “Absolutely. We are all human beings and there is no difference.”

His rise to power has been accompanied by a loosening of restrictions on women’s dress and an expansion of their role in the work force. He said the government was working on regulations to ensure equal pay.

But women in Saudi Arabia are still bound by so-called guardianship laws that give male relatives control over aspects of their lives, like their ability to travel abroad and undergo certain medical procedures.

On Purge of Princes

Prince Mohammed defended the recent jailing of more than 380 princes, businessmen and former government ministers in the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh as part of a campaign to stamp out corruption.

“What we did in Saudi Arabia was extremely necessary,” Prince Mohammed said of the arrests. “All actions taken were in accordance with existing and published laws.”

Relatives and associates of the detained said that many were subjected to coercive tactics and physical abuse to get them to sign assets over to the state. One detainee died, his body showing signs of mistreatment.

The Saudi government denies that any abuse took place.

On His Wealth

Prince Mohammed has been criticized for lavish personal spending at a time when he is imposing new taxes on Saudi citizens and preaching fiscal responsibility. In recent years, he bought a yacht for a half-billion dollars, a French chateau for more than $300 million and a painting for $450 million.

In the interview, Prince Mohammed said his private spending was his business.

“As far as my private expenses, I’m a rich person and not a poor person,” he said. “I’m not Gandhi or Mandela.”

On Becoming King

Prince Mohammed is expected to ascend to the throne after his father, King Salman, dies. If that happens, given his young age, he could rule Saudi Arabia for 50 years.

This article was first published The New York Times

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