Saudi Arabia is a country in the midst of dramatic change. The fundamental pillars of its economic and social institutions have been upended, and a young generation is moving to the foreground. At the head of this dramatic shift is Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, known as MBS, who since 2015 has branded himself as a modern reformer and the face of a new generation of Saudi leadership. But who is the real MBS: the man who will lead Saudi Arabia into the 21st Century, or a dictator known for his retaliatory actions against members of the royal family and brutal restrictions on human rights? In the wake of the Khashoggi murder and in the midst of a war in Yemen, detention and torture of women’s rights activists, and repeated efforts to consolidate his own power, it is unclear to what extent bin Salman’s actions are driven by a strategy. Meanwhile, an increasingly connected Saudi population is confronting traditions and modernization initiatives which may open new conversations.
The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host a book talk with two acclaimed journalists whose works draw from firsthand experience in Saudi Arabia to examine the rise of Mohammed bin Salman and the changing nature of Saudi society in the decade of Vision 2030. Ben Hubbard and Susanne Koebl will be joined in conversation with Deborah Amos to explore the current and future obstacles facing reform and progress in Saudi Arabia.
Beirut bureau chief, The New York Times; author, MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman
Ben Hubbard has spent more than a dozen years in the Middle East, reporting from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. He is the currently the Beirut bureau chief for The New York Times.
Reporter, Der Spiegel; author, Behind the Kingdom's Veil: Inside the New Saudi Arabia Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Susanne Koelbl is an award winning journalist and a military and foreign correspondent for the German news magazine Der Spiegel. Her stories highlight the intricate dynamics in conflict areas and wars around the world, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Koelbl is known for her probing reports from Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea. Her highly acclaimed book Dark Beloved Country: People and Power in Afghanistan was published in 2009, Siedler-Verlag/Random House.
Deborah Amos, moderator
International correspondent, NPR
Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. In 2009, Amos won the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting from Georgetown University and in 2010 was awarded the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award by Washington State University. Amos was part of a team of reporters who won a 2004 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of Iraq. A Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1991-1992, Amos returned to Harvard in 2010 as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School. In 2003, Amos returned to NPR after a decade in television news, including ABC's Nightline and World News Tonight, and the PBS programs NOW with Bill Moyers and Frontline.
Image credit: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Anadolu Agency