Princess Rima bint Bandar al-Saud is Saudi Arabia’s next ambassador to the U.S. – the first woman to take on an envoy role for the Islamic kingdom.
Her appointment was made public in a royal decree issued early Sunday morning.
Princess Rima is a daughter of the kingdom’s longtime ambassador to Washington Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, and spent her early years living in the capital.
She replaces Prince Khalid bin Salman Al Saud, a son of King Salman and a former fighter pilot who insisted after journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance in Turkey on Oct. 2 that the Washington Post contributor simply left the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Before his still unexpained death, the journalist was a columnist for the Post newspaper, where he frequently criticised the Saudi government.
“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 Rima wrote on Twitter after her appointment.
Princess Rima’s posting comes as Saudi Arabia under King Salman and Prince Mohammed allowed women to drive last year. However, the kingdom meanwhile has arrested women’s rights activists as part of a wider crackdown on any perceived dissent in the OPEC-member nation.
The princess previously worked at the kingdom’s General Sports Authority, where she led a campaign to increase women’s participation in sports.
Saudi Arabia has faced growing Western criticism over its airstrikes in neighbouring Yemen hitting markets and clinics, killing civilians. U.S. lawmakers increasingly are pushing to withdraw American support for the conflict, which pits the kingdom and its allies against the Houthi rebels that hold the capital of the Arab world’s poorest nation.
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