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You Say You Want A Revolution: Saudi Arabia

You Say You Want A Revolution: Saudi Arabia

Rahaf al-Qunun, an 18-year-old Saudi woman, boarded a plane this week in Kuwait in hopes of reaching Australia. On arriving in Bangkok, where she intended to change planes, she says she was greeted by a Saudi official who seized her passport. (Saudi officials deny this.)


Thai officials tried to persuade her to board a return flight, but the young woman explained she had renounced Islam and would be killed if she went home. Thai officials then assured her she would not be forced to leave. On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees referred her to Australia to be considered for refugee resettlement.

This episode has refocused global attention on gender politics in Saudi Arabia. Much has been made of last year's decision to allow women in the kingdom to drive. Beginning this weekend, female citizens also have the right to know if their husband has divorced them—courts will be required to inform women via text that their husband has made other marital plans.

But if you're a female Saudi citizen, you still can't legally open a bank account without permission from a male guardian. Or apply for a passport. Even if you have a passport, male approval is required for travel abroad. You can't get married, open certain types of businesses, or have elective surgery. That all-important guardian can be your father, husband, brother, or son.

This brings us back to Rahaf al-Qunun. It was not the Saudi government or police that threatened her, she told Thai authorities. It's her family. "My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things," she told Reuters.

The bottom-line: Changing the law is one thing, and changing culture is another. By launching reforms that give Saudi women new freedoms, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's social reforms will ignite a million small revolutions behind closed doors. Because your father, husband, brother, or son may not want you to have the things your government (finally) says you're entitled to.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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