Saudi Arabia is notoriously change-averse, but four years after assuming the crown King Abdullah may finally be ready to fulfil his promise to lead his country toward greater tolerance and modernity. We welcome his decision to name several reformers to top posts in his government — and his even more surprising decision to oust certain hard-line leaders of the powerful religious establishment. We hope it means that Saudi Arabia will soon grant full civil and legal rights to women and all who reside in the kingdom.

Most of the attention has centred on the king’s appointment of the first female deputy minister, who will focus on women’s education. That is an important first step. But there

is still a very long way to go before women have anything approaching equality. While more than half of the university students are women, their job prospects are limited.

King Abdullah has demonstrated a laudable desire for change, but he must make even bolder changes to meet the needs of his people and to set an example of moderation and tolerance for the rest of the Arab world. For that, he will have to carve out more space for political debate and citizen participation. That is the only way to ensure his reforms will continue no matter who is advising the king in years to come. — International Herald Tribune