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A Saudi woman drives her car along a street in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah. Photo: REEM BAESHEN/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia began a series of reforms last year to its ultraconservative social dictates, including bringing back movie theaters and, most notably, announcing that women will be allowed to drive beginning later this year. The reforms are being ushered in by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Why it matters: At an investment conference last year, the 32-year-old crown prince defended his reform efforts, saying “we were not like this in the past,” and “we want to go back to what we were: moderate Islam," per the AP. The reform effort is connected to the Prince's economic overhaul plan, seeking to unleash new investment opportunities and reduce the country’s reliance on oil by diversifying its revenue streams.

The reforms, at a glance
  • Saudis went to the movies last week for the first time in more than 35 years at a makeshift cinema, per Arab News, in response to the country’s decision last December to allow theaters to open. About 300 cinemas are expected to be opened by 2030, a move that could generate $24 billion in revenue and create 30,000 permanent jobs, Arab News reports. Previously, Saudis could only watch movies on satellite TV or online.
  • The kingdom is poised to welcome tourists from around the world, as Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Natural Heritage, announced in November that the kingdom's first tourist visas will be issued in 2018, per CNN. Previously, visas were given only to workers. The country plans to build resorts stretching about 100 miles on the Red Sea's sandy coastline and is mulling the idea of opening a Six Flags theme park by 2022, per CNN.
  • The kingdom announced last September that it will rescind its ban on female drivers in June of this year, a major victory for women's rights activists. Lifting the ban is the most substantial step taken by the crown prince to modernize the kingdom, which was the only country in the world to prohibit women from driving.
  • The government is allowing more live entertainment events. Marvel fans dressed as their favorite characters at the Kingdom’s first ever Comic-Con event in Jiddah — a three-day festival that attracted thousands and included appearances from HBO’s Game of Thrones’ Grand Maester Pycelle and Tywin Lannister, per the AP. Men and women were not segregated, except for an area where women were allowed to remove their traditional attire and show their superhero costumes, the AP reports.

Go deeper

House passes bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

Juneteenth march on June 19, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

The House voted 415-14 on Wednesday to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The big picture: The vote comes one day after the Senate unanimously approved the bill and three days before the holiday.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Group of 20 bipartisan senators back $1.2T infrastructure framework

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) arrives for a meeting with Senate Budget Committee Democrats in the Mansfield Room at the U.S. Capitol building on June 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Majority Leader and Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee are meeting to discuss how to move forward with the Biden Administrations budget proposal. Photo: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

A group of 10 Democratic and 10 Republican senators (the "G20") tasked with negotiating an infrastructure deal with the White House has released a statement in support of a $1.2 trillion framework.

Why it matters: Details regarding the plan have not yet been released, but getting 10 Republicans on board means the bill could get the necessary 60 votes to pass.

DOJ drops criminal probe, civil lawsuit against John Bolton over Trump book

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Justice Department has closed its criminal investigation into whether President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton disclosed classified information with his tell-all memoir, “The Room Where it Happened," according to a source with direct knowledge.

Why it matters: The move comes a year after the Trump administration tried to silence Bolton by suing him in federal court, claiming he breached his contract by failing to complete a pre-publication review for classified information. Prosecutors indicated they had reached a settlement with Bolton to drop the lawsuit in a filing on Wednesday.

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