Amend These Man-Made Laws
Nayla Lamfon • Okaz

Since it is men in this country who make laws and decide how they should be enforced, it is hardly surprising that these man-made laws serve the interests of those who made them. It doesn’t matter if women suffer as a result of the laws as long as it is men who benefit in the end.

A Saudi man who marries a non-Saudi woman will have his wife get Saudi citizenship within five years. This period can be shortened if the husband is able to prove his virility by fathering three children. The faster the children come, the better the chance their mother has of becoming a Saudi citizen. As for the children, they automatically get their father’s nationality.

On the other hand, consider a Saudi woman married to a non-Saudi man. None of the privileges enjoyed by the Saudi man married to a non-Saudi apply here. Not only that, but a host of hurdles and obstacles are put in the Saudi woman’s path….

The issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia extends far beyond the obvious, like freedom to travel, drive, work with men, etc. This article, from the Arabic daily Okaz notes some of the legal “penalties” that come from being a Saudi woman… and enjoying far fewer rights then men.

The article makes it clear that the status quo is not sufficient and that it’s up to Saudis to set their own system straight.

June:30:2005 - 21:15 | Comments Off | Permalink

Kingdom Issues New List of Terrorists
Raid Qusti & Samir Al-Saadi, Arab News

RIYADH/JEDDAH, 29 June 2005 — Saudi Arabia yesterday issued a new list of 36 suspects believed to be linked to a series of terror attacks across the country, reflecting the government’s resolve to go ahead with its anti-terror campaign.
In the latest response to a two-year campaign of bombings and killings by supporters of the Al-Qaeda terror network, the Interior Ministry broadcast pictures of the suspects on state television and offered hefty rewards for their capture. “Security authorities managed to uncover plans by the deviant group who used themselves as a tool to distort Islam and harm the security of the country,” the ministry said in a statement.

The announcement came days after a report that one of the last remaining militants — Abdullah Al-Rashoud — on an earlier list of 26 most wanted terrorists had been killed in Iraq.

Officials say at least 90 civilians and more than 40 members of the security forces have been killed by militants.

Police have killed more than 100 terrorists during the same period and there have been no attacks this year comparable to the multiple suicide bombings of residential compounds in 2003 or the targeted killings of Westerners 12 months ago.

The Saudi government has updated its list of terror suspects–now that 24 of the second list of 26 have been killed or captured. The new list is:

A) Terror suspects who are wanted for their roles in terrorist activities in the country and are believed to be inside the Kingdom.

(1) Younus Mohamed Al-Hiyari, 36, Moroccan. He entered the country in 1991 to perform Haj. He has not left the country since and has gone underground. He has a wife and a child and was last seen east of Riyadh.
(2) Fahd Farraj Al-Juwair, 35, Saudi. Born in Zulfi, his last residence was in Riyadh.
(3) Zaid Saad Al-Samary, 31, Saudi. His last residence was in Al-Kharj.
(4) Abdul Rahman Saleh Al-Miteb, 26, Saudi. He was born in Zulfi and lived in this central city. (
5) Saleh Mansour Al-Harbi, 22, Saudi. He used to live in Buraidah in the Qasim region.
(6) Sultan Saleh Al-Hasry, 26, Saudi. He used to live in Madinah.
(7) Mohamed Abdul Rahman Al-Suwailemi, 23, Saudi. He used to live in Riyadh and has good computer skills. He is also good in using the Internet. He was last seen in Al-Kharj.
(8) Mohamed Saleh Al-Ghaith, 23, Saudi. He used to live in Riyadh.
(9) Abdullah Abdul Aziz Al-Tuwaijeri, 21, Saudi. He used to live in Buraidah.
(10) Mohamed Saeed Al-Amry, 25, Saudi. He used to live in Madinah.
(11) Ibrahim Abdullah Al-Motair, 21, Saudi. He was born in Zulfi where he used to live. He was last seen in Al-Kharj.
(12) Walid Mutlaq Al-Radadi, 21, Saudi. He used to live in Madinah and was last seen in Al-Kharj.
(13) Naif Farhan Al-Shammary, 24, Saudi. He used to live in Hafr Al-Baten.
(14) Majed Hamid Al-Hasry, 29, Saudi. He used to live in Riyadh.
(15) Abdullah Muhaya Al-Shammary, 24, Saudi. He used to live in Hail.

(B) Terror suspects who are wanted for their role in domestic terrorist activities but information says they are abroad:

(1) Noor Mohamed Moussa, 21, Chadian.
(2) Manour Mohamed Yousef, 24, Chadian.
(3) Othman Mohamed Kourani, 23, Chadian.
(4) Mohsen Ayed Al-Fadhli, 25, Kuwaiti.
(5) Abdullah Walad Mohamed Sayyed, 37, Mauritanian.
(6) Zaid Hassan Humaid, 34, Yemeni.
(7) Fahd Saleh Al-Mahyani, 24, Saudi.
(8) Adnan Abdullah Al-Sharief, 28, Saudi.
(9) Marzouq Faisal Al-Otaibi, 32, Saudi.
(10) Adel Abdullateef Al-Sanie, 27, Saudi.
(11) Mohamed Abdul Rahman Al-Dhait, 21, Saudi.
(12) Sultan Sunaitan Al-Dhait, 24, Saudi.
(13) Saleh Saeed Al-Ghamdi, 40, Saudi.
(14) Faiz Ibrahim Ayub, 30, Saudi.
(15) Khaled Mohamed Al-Harbi, 29, Saudi.
(16) Mohamed Othman Al-Zahrani, 44, Saudi.
(17) Abdullah Mohamed Al-Rumayan, 27, Saudi.
(18) Mohamed Saleh Al-Rashoudi, 24, Saudi.
(19) Saad Mohamed Al-Shahry, 31, Saudi.
(20) Ali Matir Al-Osaimy, 23, Saudi.
(21) Faris Abdullah Al-Dhahiry, 22, Saudi.

June:28:2005 - 20:51 | Comments Off | Permalink

Who Wants Law Schools?
Turki Al-Thunayan • Al-Watan

The need for the Kingdom to have law schools teaching the legal profession has become a pressing necessity. In the past law schools were luxuries, but it is no longer the case. With globalization now removing the barriers between countries and competition so fierce that only those coping with the new realities can expect to survive, the need to have law schools is greater than ever.

It is unfortunate that because we don’t recognize it as a separate discipline, we refuse to teach law in our universities in specialized faculties and continue to treat it as if it were a plague.

This article–from the Arabic daily Al-Watan merits your attention.

The writer, without out spelling it out directly, notes that Saudi society is now faced with a contradiction of its own making: According to all legal precedent, the only law of Saudi arabia is religious law, the Shari’a. But Shari’a law is not capable of dealing with all legal issues anymore. As a result, “commercial law”, “labor law”, and several other constructs have appeared to deal with those issues not well-handled under Shari’a jurisprudence. As far as it goes, those work more-or-less adequately.

But the time has come–particularly with Saudi accession to the WTO on the horizon–for Saudis to be trained in Law (with a capital L). To publicly admit this, though, can be seen as a criticism of the Shari’a, something that is politically impossible.

The fact that Law is among the fields of study permitted under the new program offering scholarships for study in the US is telling. It may help to fill the gap until hard political decisions can be taken. This isn’t the first example of a government being caught between a rock and a hard place because of law, but it’s certainly an unusual one.

June:27:2005 - 21:43 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Saudi Men and Women Petition Rights Body on Women Driving
Raid Qusti, Arab News

RIYADH, 28 June 2005 — Two Saudi women journalists have submitted a petition in support of women driving to the Kingdom’s National Association for Human Rights. The journalists, who requested anonymity, submitted the petition, signed by 102 Saudi men and women, to the association’s deputy head, Hamad Al-Majed, on Saturday. He told the journalists that the association would look into the matter, saying it would be discussed next week.

“The idea for the petition came after the statement in the press by the interior minister,” said one of the journalists. “The petition was signed by housewives, businessmen and businesswomen, men and women teachers, men and women government and private sector employees and even all members of some Saudi families,” she said. She said those who signed the petition were not from only one area but from all over the Kingdom. She also said that the establishment of the human rights body in the Kingdom had “raised people’s awareness of their basic rights.”

This is an interesting article: you should read the entire thing.

Saudi men and women have presented a petition to the new National Association of Human Rights, seeking their assistance in raising the issue of women’s driving as a human right. The organization, about 18-months-old, has been growing in is responsibilities, doing investigations into spousal abuse and conditions in prisons. Taking on this case will either make it or break it.

It’s worth noting that the petitioners are acting in response to a statement made earlier this month by the Minister of the Interior to the effect that the question of women’s driving is a social issue, not a religious issue. Taking him at his word, the petitioners are using the legal system–as well as the hammer of public perceptions–to make their case.

June:27:2005 - 21:43 | Comments Off | Permalink

Expat Physician Held Against His Will Fights for Rights
Raid Qusti, Arab News

RIYADH, 28 June 2005 — Dr. Ganesh Pande, a specialist in internal medicine, has been working in the Kingdom since 1986. Nineteen years later he is a prisoner. The doctor’s sponsor has not paid him since 2002 and has held his passport against his will. In other words, Dr. Pande has been denied both his financial entitlements and his right to a vacation since 2002.

Over the past few years, the Saudi media has been noting abuse of expatriate employees by their Saudi employers. The cases they’ve raised have ranged from Indonesia housemaids who have been beaten, raped, and gone unpaid. This tory involves an Indian doctor who has been caught in a mesh of less-than-competent bureaucracy, an apparently uncaring employer, and the byzantine laws that apply to expats.

To anyone who’s worked in the kingdom, this story isn’t very exceptional–many similar cases can be cited. What is different, though, is that the story is being reported in the Saudi media, for a Saudi audience, in a piece written by the Riyadh editor for Arab News. This is an example of an activist media, something the country can use right now.

June:27:2005 - 21:43 | Comments & Trackbacks (7) | Permalink

Rashoud’s suspected death still being probed
By Shroog Talal Radain–Saudi Gazette

Ministry of Interior investigators are still trying to determine whether a terrorist website report that Abdullah Al-Rashoud died in a battle with US and Iraqi forces near the Syrian border is true.

Saudi Arabia s most wanted suspected terrorist was reported killed on Thursday in Iraq. He was shot dead near the Syrian border, according to statements issued by Al-Qaeda s Iraqi chief Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

Saudi security officials are still reserving judgment about the reported death in Iraq of Abdullah Al-Rashoud, one of Saudi Arabia’s 26 most dangerous terrorists. The article quote Ministry of Interior spokesman Mansour Al-Turki:

Turki said the report of Rashoud s death in Iraq is not evidence that the Saudi crackdown on terrorism has forced Al-Qaeda to try to implement its plans elsewhere.

This still doesn t mean that the cell is moving, he added.

Rashoud was a lecturer in Al-Imam Saud University in Riyadh. He then had a changed his moderate thinking and became an extremist.

The last time he made an appearance was on Jihad voice magazine on the July 7, 2004.

Turki, however, cautioned that Zarqawi s statements about Rashoud should be viewed with skepticism. We still don t have clear evidence; we have to make sure of his death since we can t base things on wrong information, Turki said.

June:26:2005 - 13:17 | Comments Off | Permalink

2,500 US Scholarships Available for Saudis, Says Ministry Official
Javid Hassan, Arab News

RIYADH, 26 June 2005 — Some 2,500 scholarships are available for Saudis wishing to study in the US in different fields, an official at the Ministry of Higher Education has announced.

Speaking to Arab News, Saad A. Al-Hagan, manager of public relations at the ministry, said scholarships were available for bachelor’s, master’s or PhDs in medicine, including nursing, pharmacy, engineering, computer science, basic sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry), law, accounting and e-commerce.

Following up a story from June 19 (posted here), the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education announced that applications are now being accepted.

I would like to have seen scholarships for liberal arts studies, comparative religion, or area studies, but the fact that they are available for undergraduate as well as graduate work is a very good sign. The article does not explicitly state that women may apply for the scholarships, but seeing that they already represent over 50% of the university population, I’m sure that they are. Whether a particular woman can get her family’s permission to study in the US is another matter.

June:25:2005 - 19:24 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Editorial: Man of People

The widespread surprise at the victory of Tehran’s conservative Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should not tempt anyone into premature judgments about the man who has become Iran’s new president and the policies he is likely to pursue. The first thing to figure out is why this little-known former Revolutionary Guard won a landslide victory over the highly experienced former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, considered to be favored by the religious elite of whom he is a senior member….

This Arab News editorial is worth taking a look at, if for no other reason than to get a Saudi take on the Iranian elections. Saudi Arabia and Iran have had a tense relationship since the 1960s, at least (and that’s not considering the historical friction that dates back to the pre-Islamic period).

The editorial seems to follow the line of thought that some expressed after the election of conservatives to the Saudi municipal councils earlier this year. (See Who Won the Elections). It doesn’t matter, deeply, what ideological background the elected come from, the thinking goes, they will be held to account for meeting the needs of the voters.

As the piece points out, economic development and unemployment (now over 14%) are the major concerns of Iranian, not nuclear power plants, nor a hard line toward the US and EU. The old government was voted out because it failed to deliver needed jobs. Perhaps the new government can do better.

[UPDATE: 06/26/05: The Saudi Gazette's editorial echos this to a large extent, though it notes more clearly that the US government has dismissed the elections, starting with criticism of the process itself.]

June:25:2005 - 19:24 | Comments Off | Permalink

Judge Me Not in Haste
Tariq A. Al-Maeena,

A news item recently carried by the Associated Press brought up the case of a Saudi couple who were accused and arrested in Colorado on charges of turning their live-in housemaid, a young Indonesian woman, into “a virtual slave, forcing her to clean, cook and care for their children while she was threatened and sexually assaulted.” The woman was controlled by “a climate of fear and intimidation” that included sexual abuse and the belief that she would “suffer serious harm” if she did not perform her tasks, the indictment said. While the matter is still under US Federal and State investigations, and the guilt or innocence of this couple has yet to be established, a young lady from California sent me her take on the subject.

Tariq Al-Maeena has a good op-ed piece today. It provides a useful reminder that stereotypes are dangerous because they try to assess large numbers of people based on the perceived behavior of a much smaller number. Read what he has to say.

There’s no question that compared to just about any Western country, Saudi Arabia (as a country, comprised of 16+ million individuals) has a “poor” record on a number of human rights issues. Women’s rights, religious freedom, trafficking in persons. These are amply detailed in numerous reports from the US State Dept. and organizations like Freedom House.

Where these reports fall short, though, is in providing any useful perspective. Yes, the events cited happened. But how often do they happen? How many people are actually engaged in those actions?

Is it the vast majority of Saudis? We don’t know because the reports don’t discuss that. Rather, the reports focus on effective or ineffective governmental action to stop abuses.

But people develop perceptions based on those reports. For many Americans, it’s that all Saudis are dangerous, despicable, undesirable. For many Saudis, it’s that all Americans are happy to bash away at them because of any number of causes that don’t actually apply to the typical or average Saudi.

It’s hard to report on “non-news”. Who’s going to write that, out of 2 million expat workers, 1,988,123 of them had no problems? (The number is for illustration purposes only; no one is citing 22,000 cases of abuse.)

June:24:2005 - 20:22 | Comments Off | Permalink

Editorial: Gitmo: America’s Shame

Last week, former US President Clinton joined the swelling chorus within the US demanding the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Either that or clean the place up, he said. The constant abuse stories coming out of it has to stop.

Hardly are the words out of his mouth then, fast on the heels of the Qur’an desecration stories, come new shocking allegations about Guantanamo.

The New York Times claims that doctors and other mental health professionals there have been working not for well being of detainees, but to help interrogators refine their techniques. They have been advising interrogators how best to turn up the psychological pressure on individual prisoners, working on their fears and phobias.

This is a very strongly worded Arab News editorial. Presumably reflecting Saudi opinion, it makes it clear that they believe the US prison facility at Guantanamo is beyond the pale.

The piece concludes, “Sooner rather than later, American public opinion will demand an end to this aberration.” I suspect it will be later, rather than sooner as only 20% of polled Americans believes the prison to be a matter of concern.

June:24:2005 - 20:22 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Women’s Driving: Why Bring in Religion to the Debate?
Ali Al-Khoshaiban, Arab News

Before you start a dialogue with Arabs, laymen or scholar, you have to convince them that a world outside their narrow perceptions exists, according to a Palestinian writer. Keeping this in mind makes it easy to understand the conflicts and differences in our society.

Islam, as we know, has things which are clearly permitted and things which are not. Unfortunately society has mixed these clear matters up with others that may or may not be permitted. Many scholars will not even consider you a human being because in their description, a human being is something totally different from you. You must therefore prove to him that you are one of those who live on this planet in the midst of the scholar and his idea of human beings.

The heated exchanges over the matter of permitting women to drive reveal a society incapable of dealing with social realities and understanding change….

This is a perceptive op-ed, worth reading the whole thing.

The author notes how preventing change cripples a country and society, guaranteeing a failed future. Trying to stifle debate on social issues by trying to make them religious issues damages not only society, but religion. He points out the inconsitency currently at play in Saudi society concerning women’s virture.

The Quran is silent about women’s driving, though various hadith show early Muslim women playing a much freer and more significant role in society. There is nothing in Islam that makes driving forbidden.

On the other hand, there are Quranic admonishments that prohibit women from being in the close company of unrelated males. Foreign drivers, for instance.

If arguments can be found to accept–if not justify–the close contact between women and drivers, why cannot a socially acceptable answer be found that permits women to both act according to religious law and drive.

Part of the answer, the writer says, is through people’s realizing that they have to accept personal responsibility for their acts, whether they do so because it is correct, because religions tells them so, or because punishment awaits.

This is a good piece from a writer worth keeping an eye open for.

June:23:2005 - 22:05 | Comments Off | Permalink

Better Understanding With Non-Muslims Stressed

RIYADH, 24 June 2005 — Participants who gathered in a preliminary session of the 5th National Forum for Dialogue which is to be held in Abha, have asked that the word “infidel” be substituted by “other” in all religious and media speeches in the Kingdom when referring to non-Muslims.

They also called for better upbringing according to universal Islamic teachings of children, where youngsters would learn how to properly deal with “others” and called for religious institutions in the Kingdom to acknowledge their mistakes and correct them in this matter, whether they were in the judicial system or during sermons in mosques. Furthermore, they said that the hatred taught about non-Muslims in the educational system and in the media should stop and called for a definition of “religious standards” on how to deal with non-Muslims.

This article from the Arab News warrants your attention.

This conference, preparatory to one of a series of similar dialogues taking place around the country, is opening minds to new possibilities. The move to drop the word “infidel”, kafir from daily speech is an excellent start.

Other items discussed included religious freedom for non-Muslims, protecting the rights and dignity of foreign workers, and changing attitudes about “Saudi superiority

June:23:2005 - 22:04 | Comments Off | Permalink
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