This is a first in the Arab world: a woman astronaut arrived on the international space station on Monday.
Rayyanah Barnawi is a biologist who studies stem cells in breast cancer. She embarked last Sunday at the age of 33 aboard the American Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket, thus becoming the first Arab woman in history to carry out an orbital mission.
>> Space: two Saudi astronauts take off for the International Space Station, a first
The takeoff took place from Florida for a ten-day scientific research operation aboard the International Space Station (ISS). On a video posted on Twitter, Rayyana Barnawi floats, weightless and sends this message: “Hello from space! Earth looks amazing from here. Thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leaders, King Salman, and the visionary Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, for their support. I want to tell people from all over the world: the future is bright. Keep believing in humanity!”
For Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as “MBS”, it is above all obviously a great communication operation. The country is still considered the most conservative in the world. Until 2018, Saudi women were not even allowed to drive a car and now, five years later, the kingdom sends a woman into space.
A growing verticalization of power
“This space exploration operation allows Mohammed Bin Salman to improve his image and appear as the ultimate modernizerexplains Umar Karim is a specialist in Saudi Arabia at the University of Birmingham. He wants to show that he is capable of transforming his oil monarchy into a country of technology and science.” In fact, Mohammed Bin Salman’s objective is to diversify the Saudi economy, attract foreign investors, and prepare “post-oil”, a manna which still represents three quarters of the kingdom’s income.
But this forced modernization is accompanied by a growing verticalization of power: the prince wants to be the only master on board, he does not tolerate any opposition. And he does not hesitate to use the good old means of all dictatorships to silence it: surveillance, arbitrary imprisonment and political assassinations.