Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)

Human rights concerns overshadow Saudi campaign to attract tourists

Illustration of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's photograph on a billboard being covered up by a tourist campaign
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Saudia Arabia is trying to recast itself to the West as a more liberal, fun destination, but the country’s questionable human rights record continues to haunt its attempts to boost tourism and make its economy less oil-dependent.

Why it matters: Critics of Saudi Arabia claim the legal changes and popular entertainment meant to lure tourists distracts from human rights abuses and the country's involvement in the Yemeni civil war, per the Guardian. Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's image on the world stage have also been starkly affected by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul 1 year ago.

A year after Jamal Khashoggi's murder, Saudi trial veiled in secrecy

Photo of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a memorial service
Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The men accused of murdering and dismembering journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, have been on trial for his murder since early January, but Saudi Arabia is keeping the proceedings secret.

Why it matters: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has consistently denied ordering the killing, though media reports and a UN investigation have raised serious doubts about that claim. The Trump administration insisted after the murder that it was waiting for more information before assigning blame, but has neither accused nor absolved the crown prince.