August 30, 2004
On the morning of August 30, a vehicle from the US Consulate in Jeddah was struck by gunfire by a single assailant while driving in the city. The two occupants of the vehicle – the driver and a Consulate American employee, were not injured and the investigation by local authorities has begun.
The Embassy reiterates its previous warning strongly urging American citizens to depart the country.
This Warden Message, sent from the US Embassy and Consulates in Saudi Arabia, is directed to “wardens,” individuals who stand at the top of pyramids of groups of Americans. With a warning message such as this, the wardens start calling the next tier down the list and the calls cascade to–hopefully–every American citizen in-country who has registered with the Embassy or one of the Consulates. Encouragingly, hotels are part of the pyramids, so even travelers who have not yet registered get the warnings.
The Embassy has updated its website, making it a more user-friendly site. You can see it at http://riyadh.usembassy.gov/
Roger Harrison and Essam Al-Ghalib, Arab News
JEDDAH, 31 August 2004 â€” An American escaped unhurt yesterday when a US Consulate vehicle in which he was traveling came under fire from an unidentified gunman in Jeddah.
While Saudi authorities are working to close down terror cells within the country, it’s clear that there’s still a lot to be done.
This attempt on “official Americans” is a new tangent in the terror war in Saudi Arabia. Before this, the terrorists were going after softer targets–unprotected civilians for the most part. US government offices are pretty well protected and vehicular travel is in at least lightly armored vehicals (LAVs). It will further complicate the ability of US Embassy officials to go about their normal work routines, not to mention their “ordinary” lives.
Abeer Mishkhas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Asked by a journalist what I thought about women participating in the coming municipal elections, I gave him the most pessimistic answer I could come up with. I told him society was not ready for women to participate and my answer ?â€” when I saw it in print â€” shocked me. I felt that my pessimism had reached a new high, which could be dangerous to my mental stability.
Fascinating article by a Saudi woman who, as she says, is “confused and conflicted” about the role women should play in the coming municipal elections. There’s still no definitive governmental statement saying whether women will be permitted to run or even vote in the elections. I’m sure the government is waiting until it can tell which way the wind of popular opinion is blowing. Given the opinion stated in this piece, it won’t be an easy decision for anyone to make.
Qenan Abdullah Al-Ghamdi â€¢ Al-Watan (email@example.com)
In a recent report published in Al-Eqtisadiah business daily Dr. Abdul Wahid Al-Humaid, deputy minister of labor for planning and development, underestimated the impact of Riyadhâ€™s accession to the World Trade Organization on Saudization. He said the WTO would not insist the Kingdom back down in its drive to nationalize jobs. He added that the Kingdom would negotiate with the organization about the rate of foreign manpower inflow acceptable according to requirements.
This article, translated by Arab News from the Arabic Al Watan has an interesting perspective. The writer claims that Saudi attitudes are not a result of “Western ideas” imported during the boom days, but the result of a general attitude of arrogance.
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
JEDDAH, 30 August 2004 â€” Saudi security forces succeeded in preventing a large number of terrorist attacks in the country, Interior Minister Prince Naif announced here yesterday. He said the attacks that had taken place accounted for only a fraction of the ones which had not. â€œI can confidently say that what has taken place (among the terrorist attacks) does not exceed five or six percent of what was prevented,â€ Prince Naif was quoted as saying by the Saudi Press Agency.
The war against terror continues within the Kingdom. This article, based on a press conference held by the Minister of Interior, comments on recent successes. While the Minister has clear reasons to paint the best possible picture, that picture is still largely accurate.
Essam Al-Ghalib, Arab News
JEDDAH, 30 August 2004 â€” Having recently discovered Reality TV, part of the ART satellite network, I found myself drawn to a show called â€œCheaters.â€ The aim of the program is to conduct surveillance to expose and film Americaâ€™s husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends in the very act of cheating on their supposedly â€œsignificantâ€ other. The show, though quite entertaining, is considered by many to be pure trash TV.
To some, the show constitutes a gross invasion of privacy but to others, it serves sweet justice while others see it as a deterrent. The showâ€™s very existence has sparked heated debate between conservatives and liberals with the issue being how much press freedom is too much. As much as many people would like to see a Saudi version of â€œCheatersâ€, it is a sure bet that it will never happen here.
This is a very good article discussing the differences between American and Saudi (actually, pan-Arab) appreciation for freedom of the press.
A Saudi Arabia-US Relations Information Service Interview With Thomas Lippman
SUSRIS: Many observers of the health of US-Saudi relations are drawing pessimistic conclusions about the state of the relationship. What is your assessment?
Lippman: Well, over the past few months, I’ve been at many sessions on Saudi Arabia – think tanks, a war college, all kinds of places around town — even in mid-August this is going on, unusual in Washington. And you can really do the glass half empty, half full thing.
Thomas Lippman, former Middle East correspondent for The Washington Post and author of Inside the Mirage was recently interviewed by the Saudi Arabia-US Relations Information Service, a Saudi-focused NGO in Washington. Lippman has excellent insight into the contemporary realities of the country and his comments are worth reading.
Intisar Al-Yamani–Saudi Gazette
…Male disc jockeys or DJs dominate the nightclub scene in the West, but women have emerged as the more high-profile disc jockeys in the Kingdom. Women DJs provide music entertainment for segregated women s parties, private functions like dinners, weddings and the celebrations of birth. The number of women DJs has increased in the last few years to keep up with a growing demand….
While the Saudi government is looking for new jobs for women, Saudi women are taking matters into their own hands… as they have done for many, many years. Here is a suprise to me, though it shouldn’t have been. Social functions, such as weddings, are sexually segregated. So it’s only natural that female Disk Jockies should spring up to replace the more expensive female musical groups. A very interesting article!
Maha Akeel, Arab News
JEDDAH, 29 August 2004 â€” Under the support of Princess Sarah Al-Anqari, wife of Makkah Governor Prince Abdul Majeed, the first program of the National Awareness Campaign focuses on eradicating illiteracy and will be launched next Saturday.
Saudi Arabia, just a few years ago, was close to the top of the list when it came to female illiteracy. Things have changed, as this article notes, with the illiteracy rate now around 22%, down from 60%. I was pleased to see adult literacy courses being offered by the Ministry of Education when I was last there. The Saudis are now pressing to get the illiteracy level close to zero.
Sabria S. Jawhar–Saudi Gazette
SAUDI schools don t instill hatred of Christianity and Judaism in students, rather their philosophy is based primarily on Islamic teachings that tolerate other religions and consider believing in them a requirement for the completion of one s faith, several Saudi educators.
This is an interesting article from the Saudi Gazette. Saudi educators explain how they see their textbooks in light of criticism from the US–and others–that the books instill religious intolerance. A point not often heard is the reminder that “Islam” has several meanings, including “monotheism,” in its Abrahamic, i.e. Judaic, and Christian sense. That is, not only does it refer to contemporary Islam, but also pre-Islamic monotheism in the Christo-Judaic tradition. Given this, exhortations that “Islam is the sole route to salvation” could indeed be seen to mean something other than what many critics make it out to be. Definitely worth reading.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid
Just a few hours after two Saudi women employees left a restaurant in the Eastern Province city of Sehat through the rear door, police and municipal officials came and locked the restaurant for three days and expelled the women on the ground that they violated the regulations.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, Editor-in-Chief of Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, the most influential Arabic-language paper, has strong words about extremism in defining the “correct” social roles of women. He’s calling for those who want a moderate society to stand up and demand it.
JEDDAH, 27 August 2004 â€” Saudi border guards have arrested a number of Saudis as well as other Arab nationals who were trying to cross into Iraq, according to an Interior Ministry official.
…Anti-terror efforts by Saudi authorities have been stepped up in recent months following a spate of terror attacks in the Kingdom believed to have been orchestrated by groups linked to Al-Qaeda and aimed mostly at Westerners.