Saudi Arabia appoints first female ambassador to US | News | DW | 25.02.2019
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Saudi Arabia appoints first female ambassador to US

Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud replaces the brother of Crowned Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as the Saudi ambassador to the US. Her appointment comes as the kingdom is becoming more progressive on women's rights.

Saudi Arabia appointed its first female ambassador on Sunday, Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud to serve as the kingdom's top diplomat in the United States.

She replaces Prince Khalid bin Salman Al Saud, the son of King Salman and the younger brother of Crowned Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who is returning to Riyadh to become the Middle Eastern kingdom's deputy defense minister.

Read more: Saudi women refugees in Germany: Still living in fear

"I will work with God's permission to serve my country, its leaders and all its children, and I will spare no effort to that end," Princess Reema wrote on Twitter after her appointment.

Two decades in US

Princess Reema lived in the US for 20 years while her father, Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, served as the Saudi ambassador. She studied at George Washington University before returning to Saudi Arabia.

She worked in the kingdom's private sector before joining the General Sports Authority, where she championed women's participation in sports and focused on increasing women's empowerment.

Read more: Saudi women step on face veils in online protest

Her appointment as ambassador comes as Saudi Arabia is moving towards granting women some freedoms. Last year, the Saudi government allowed women to drive.

However, the oil-rich nation has also arrested women's rights activists as part of a wider crackdown on any perceived dissent. 

Women also have to seek permission from a male guardian on issues such as getting married, obtaining a passport or traveling abroad.

Tough task

Princess Reema faces an uphill challenge in improving relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, which escalated after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was murdered at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. 

Several members of the US Congress insist Khashoggi's murder was orchestrated by the Saudi crowned prince and have also criticized the kingdom for its role in Yemen's civil war. 

Read more: US House lawmakers vote to end US support in Yemen war

However, Saudi Arabia has been a central part of US President Donald Trump's foreign policy in the Middle East. Trump hailed a $110 billion (€97 billion) arms deal with the kingdom and defended relations with the OPEC-member nation after Khashoggi's death. His administration also pushed to build dozens of nuclear power plants across Saudi Arabia, a proposal which concerned several national security and ethics officials in the White House.

dv/ng (AP, Reuters)

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