Human Lives Human Rights: The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has spent billions of dollars hosting major entertainment, cultural, and sporting events as a deliberate strategy to whitewash his image as a pervasive human rights violator.
The Kingdom has announced that it plans to build a new “extreme park” on an old oil rig, set to be open in 2025.
The theme park is part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an attempt to diversify the economy and attract further investment to the country.
The oil rig, which is set to be converted into a 1.6 million foot resort, will include up to three hotels, 11 restaurants and roller coaster rides. Those arriving to the theme park will have options to come by helicopter or yachts.
Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, is funding the project, coming just weeks after it announced the purchase of the UK’s Newcastle United football club. pg 67
Since the crown prince’s takeover of the PIF, it has made significant investments in companies worldwide, including a $3.5bn investment in ride-sharing app Uber. It also took ownership of Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s state oil company.
But the PIF has made murkier investments. Earlier this year, court documents filed in Canada confirmed that the PIF was used to purchase a company that owned two private jets that transported the men who killed and dismembered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.
A statement from the PIF said that the oil rig project was a unique tourism attraction that is likely to attract tourists from around the world.
Other projects set to be developed by the PIF include the Red Sea Development Company and the Cruise Saudi company, as well as the Qiddiya, the world’s biggest entertainment city. The entertainment city will have the largest roller coaster and a sports city in the world.
Earlier this week, a Pitbull concert hosted in the city of Riyadh drew criticism from people online, many of whom cited human rights abuses in the kingdom, as well as lack of social distancing amid the Covid pandemic.
Saudi Arabia has long been accused of whitewashing abuses, by hosting sports and entertainment events in an effort to enhance its image, particularly following the murder of Khashoggi.
Rights firms say that the Saudi citizens and residents should enjoy top-notch entertainment and sporting events, but they also should enjoy basic rights such as free expression and peaceful assembly.