Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has created the Ministry of Culture and appointed a new minister of labor amid widely-condemned crackdown on women’s rights activists.
According to the kingdom’s official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Friday, Salman issued a royal decree ordering the establishment of the Ministry of Culture, and appointed Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud as its new minister.
The decree also meant that the Ministry of Culture and Information must henceforth be called the Ministry of Information as the newly created ministry would separately and independently “be responsible for activities pertaining to culture.”
The Saudi king also dismissed Ali bin Nasser al-Ghafis as the head of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and replaced him with Ahmed bin Suleiman al-Rajhi.
The developments come as the regime is under pressure from the United Nations and international rights groups, including Amnesty International, for arresting nearly a dozen prominent women’s rights activists during the past few weeks.
According to a statement released by Amnesty earlier in the day, the activists were arrested and still remained in detention centers without charge and incommunicado with no access to their families or lawyers.
Saudi authorities have so far labeled the detainees “traitors”, infuriating the country’s rights activists who fear additional arrests amid much-hyped reports of reforms led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
This is while reforms have been accompanied by heavy-handed crackdown on dissent against Saudi critics, ranging from clerics to some of the very female activists who campaigned for years to end the ban.
On Thursday, the European Parliament also denounced human rights violations in the Arab kingdom and strongly urged the Al Saud regime to immediately release all detainees and stop discrimination against minorities. It also called on Riyadh to speed up the pace of reforms and not just to make promises.