Here’s a strange story from the Arabic website Lojainiat, via Saudi Wave.

It’s reported that there’s a serious falling out between Pr. Khaled bin Talal and his better known brother, Pr. Al-Waleed. It’s so serious that Khaled is calling on the Saudi state to seize his brother’s rather considerable assets as he views Al-Waleed as a ‘corrupting influence’ on Saudi society.

Khaled objects to things like film and music. That puts him squarely in the camp of extreme Salafists. I suspect he’s not his reformist father’s favorite son…

Prince Khaled calls for the freezing
of the assets of his brother, Waleed bin Talal


In an unprecedented appeal Prince Khaled bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud has called for the freezing of his billionaire elder brother al-Waleed’s assets, who he has accused of “spreading depravity and lust” throughout the Kingdom with his “corrupting projects”.

“Al-Waleed is challenging society with his corrupting projects. Prince Al Waleed’s behaviour does not conform to Islamic morals”, Prince Khaled recently pointed out in a long interview granted to the website Lojainiat.

He calls for the “freezing of Prince al-Waleed bin Talal’s assets” and has also demanded that his brother be prevented from travelling until “he rectifies his behaviour” which according to Prince Khaled, “does not conform to the morals of the [Saudi] rulers”.

June:30:2009 - 08:42 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

That women are sometimes late, that they take too much time on their toilette, is the meat of a long line of jokes. In this story reported by Saudi Gazette/Okaz, a husband may have taken the joke a little too much to heart. It appears that as his wife was taking too much time in the restroom, he got on his plane without her and left her in Malaysia. The couple were on their honeymoon!

The wife, unamused, is now asking for a divorce. I hope she gets it. Either the man needs to learn patience or needs to tone down his authoritarianism; the wife might need to work a bit on her own time management and respect for her husband and money, of course…

Wife seeks divorce from hubby who dumped her

June:30:2009 - 07:05 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

Takfir, the declaring a Muslim to no longer be Muslim, is a noxious device practiced by religious extremists to ‘authorize’ the killing of some Muslims at its worst and to still the voices of those who question extremism as its least. We’ve seen Osama bin Laden declare that various Saudi leaders are ‘no longer Muslim’; we see various Sunni clerics claim that the Shi’a are not Muslim.

While the Saudi government has been trying to stop this practice for the past five or so years, the job is not yet done. So, it is conducting a conference in Madinah later this year to address the issue. The conference will join Saudi and foreign Islamic scholars to discuss the issue with the intent to highlight its dangers, its origins, and where it stands within Shariah law. It sounds like a useful endeavor, one that would have been better had it been held 20 years ago.

Madina set to host Takfir conference

JEDDAH – Islamic scholars from within the Kingdom and abroad are scheduled to discuss this year in Madina the danger of “Takfir” (accusing other Muslims of unbelief) to the life of the society and the individual.

The conference, to be patronized by King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is being organized by Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz International Prize for the Prophet’s Sunnah and Contemporary Islamic Studies with the participation of Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University, will discuss the causes of Takfir and the ways to deal with it.

June:30:2009 - 06:59 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia will take the initial lead in an all-Arab force to stop piracy in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Arabian/Persian Gulf, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reports. Saudi Gazette covers the issue with the story below. I don’t know how much substantive support Yemen and Sudan might provide—port facilities perhaps?—but the other countries do have navies that should be adequate to the job.

I think it right that the Arab states whose waters are most threatened by piracy shoulder responsibility for policing those waters. The Saudi government will serve as the communication point between this force and the 40-nation international force already patrolling the region.

Arabs plan anti-piracy joint force

RIYADH – Arab states of the Gulf and Red Sea said Monday that they are planning a joint anti-piracy force, insisting defense of the crucial Red Sea waterway was the “primary responsibility” of littoral states.

Saying it was necessary to prevent the spread of piracy to the Red Sea or the Gulf, 11 regional states agreed to set up an all-Arab Navy Task Force, to be led at the outset by the Saudis, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The delegates to the conference in the Saudi capital stressed the “importance of the exclusion of the Red Sea from any international arrangements, especially the fight against sea piracy.”

Arab News runs essentially the same story, but notes Saudi concerns about oil, shipping, and desalination facilities along the coastlines.

Arab states plan anti-piracy force

June:30:2009 - 05:28 | Comments Off | Permalink

The US-Saudi Relations Information Service (SUSRIS) has two pieces that might be of interest. Both are concerned with Saudi (and other Arab) attitudes toward the chaotic elections in Iran.

Quiet in the Kingdom, Reacting to Turmoil in Iran
A Conversation with Jon Alterman

As the post-presidential election strife and government crackdown in Iran continue through a second week we took a look at the reaction to and impact of the turmoil on Saudi and American interests in the Gulf. We turned to Dr. Jon Alterman, Director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. for his perspectives. Here for your consideration is the SUSRIS exclusive interview conducted by phone with Dr. Alterman on June 23, 2009. We invite your attention to the comprehensive bank of links covering US-Saudi-Iranian issues that follows the interview.

A more pan-Arabic is provided in this piece by Gamal A. G. Soltan, a senior research fellow in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo:

Iran is in crisis; so is the Middle East
Gamal A. G. Soltan

For months, major regional and international actors were waiting for the conclusion of Iran’s presidential elections. The prevalent feeling was that a new beginning in Middle East politics should follow those elections. US President Barack Obama’s overture toward Iran was thought to be effective in bringing about changes in Iranian foreign policy. Even many of those who had doubts about the usefulness of Obama’s initiative thought it should at least be tested before being discarded. Thus both believers and skeptics were looking forward to the conclusion of Iran’s presidential election campaign so that Obama’s Iran and Middle East policy could be assessed.

While interested parties were getting ready to deal with either a radical Iran under the renewed leadership of Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad or a moderate Iran under the leadership of one of the reformist candidates, it seems that now we have to deal with an unstable Iran, a scenario that was never seriously contemplated. While attempts to reconcile the Iranian political factions have not yet been abandoned, developments indicate that a break between the two main factions is the likely outcome of the current crisis. Coexistence between conservatives and reformists in Iran’s politics is finally coming to an end. The Iranian regime that is likely to take shape in the aftermath of the current crisis will be a narrow-based conservative regime. Reformists are likely to be turned into a permanent opposition in Iranian politics that seeks the transformation rather than the reform of the regime of the Islamic Republic.

June:30:2009 - 05:01 | Comments Off | Permalink

The US Supreme Court today denied a writ of certiorari to the insurance companies seeking to overturn lower courts’ rulings that Saudi Arabia and senior government officials had sovereign immunity from the suit alleging their responsibility for funding the 9/11 attacks.

This action, relayed in a simple decree:

Certiorari Denied:

ends the case.

Insurers and the families of those harmed and killed in the 9/11 attacks cannot sue either the Saudi government or the named officials. They still may have a case against particular Saudi organizations and charities, but that is a different case that has not yet worked its way through the American legal system.

Associated Press has filed this report:

Court won’t hear Sept. 11 claims vs. Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has refused to allow victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to pursue lawsuits against Saudi Arabia and four of its princes over charitable donations that were allegedly funneled to al-Qaida.

The court, in an order Monday, is leaving in place the ruling of a federal appeals court that the country and the princes are protected by sovereign immunity, which generally means that foreign countries can’t be sued in American courts.

The Obama administration had angered some victims and families by urging the justices to pass up the case.

June:29:2009 - 09:42 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

This story from Saudi Gazette/Okaz, if reported accurately, has to stand as the idiocy of the day.

A man takes in the abandoned children who were the responsibility of their uncle, who moved away. Two of the children are teenage girls. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice charge him with khulwa, illicit seclusion with members of the opposite sex, a sin and a crime in Saudi Arabia, and are set to jail him for a month.

It may help the man’s case that he had been asking for help from the Ministry of Social Affairs—responsible for family and child services—for about a year beforehand. It might help, too, if the Saudi government established a minimum age for marriage so that these girls would have been considered too young to establish a state of khulwa.

Hai’a charges man helping desolate kids with ‘khilwa’
Abdul Kareem Al-Murabba’

MAKKAH – The former neighbor of two homeless girls and their brother who he took into his home while attempting to find them suitable care through official channels has described his dismay at facing a month in prison after the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai’a) charged him with khilwa, or illegal seclusion with non-related members of the opposite sex.

“It is ironic that I now face a month in prison after the Hai’a arrested me for being in illicit seclusion with the girls,” said the former neighbor of the 13 and 14-year-old girls and their nine-year-old brother. “The case is still being looked into by a court in Makkah.”

The children had been living on the street after being abandoned by the uncle in whose custody they had been placed following their father’s imprisonment and their mother’s remarriage, until their former neighbor saw their plight and took them into his home with his own family while the Ministry of Social Affairs resolved the issue.

He has now spent nearly a year trying to resolve the situation through the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Committee for the Care of Prisoners, and Makkah’s Social Protection Home.

An official from Makkah Social Affairs, which has taken up the case, said the children had been subjected to violence by their uncle, and that an application for urgent shelter had been submitted to the Ministry of Social Affairs. – Okaz/SG

June:29:2009 - 07:56 | Comments & Trackbacks (7) | Permalink

Saudi media report that the world largest dialysis center will be built in Jeddah within a year and a half. The center will have 140 dialysis machines and will offer counseling about kidney disease and training in the use of home dialysis machines. The center will be funded entirely through Saudi charities.

The articles note that kidney disease is growing in Saudi Arabia at a rate of 9%/year. The Hijaz region has the highest rate of kidney problems. No particular cause is cited for this, however.

Here’s Arab News‘s take on the story:

Jeddah to have Mideast’s biggest dialysis center

RIYADH: The biggest dialysis center in the Middle East, equipped with 140 machines to serve 800 patients daily, will be established in Jeddah at a cost of SR60 million. The center will be named after the late Makkah governor, Prince Abdul Majeed, and will be fully funded by the Prince Fahd bin Salman Charitable Foundation For the Care of Kidney Patients. The society has awarded the contract to Majd Al Ola Constructing and Contracting Establishment.

… Around 500 million people (10 percent of the world population) suffer from kidney problems and 90 percent of them have permanent kidney-related illnesses. The number also includes 1.5 million patients who are undergoing medical treatment following kidney transplants, he said, adding that the number would increase by 100 percent over the next 10 years. Patients who reach the end-stage of renal diseases are advised to undergo kidney transplant. It is estimated that there are about 11,000 dialysis patients in the Kingdom, with an annual increase of nine percent.

Shaheen said statistics indicate that the Western province has the highest incidence of kidney problems. “There are 3,300 patients who need dialysis but the number of dialysis units are limited,” he said.

Saudi Gazette‘s report:

Jeddah to have world’s largest kidney dialysis center

June:29:2009 - 07:48 | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink

Arab News takes a look at the problems that Saudi women with ‘no traceable lineage’—i.e., born out of wedlock—face in a society that places much value on social status. Saudi women already face certain systemic problems in life: can’t drive, are limited in their legal authorities, need to be chaperoned, etc.

If a woman can’t identify her father, though, her chances for a successful marriage in Saudi Arabia become even more limited. While her personal character may be impeccable, her lack of status too often is considered a lack of character. She ends up with a misfit for a husband or is treated like a maid by the family. It seems that being raised in an orphanage in the Kingdom is a sentence to celibacy and spinsterhood, at least within its laws and society.

Paying the price for others’ faults
Fatima Al-Saadi | Arab News

JEDDAH: They are children without known lineages, often the outcome of illegitimate relationships. Their mothers abandoned them in streets or outside mosques at birth, as they could not bear the shame of giving birth outside wedlock. With no one to turn to, such children are taken to social care homes, where — deprived of the warmth and care of a father and mother — they are raised alongside orphans.

The number of children without traceable lineages has been on the rise in recent years. Although not guilty of any crime, they pay the price for others’ mistakes. The greatest difficulty such children face is perhaps in marrying; this is especially the case for women. Most men, particularly those who come from decent families, simply do not want to marry women without traceable lineages.

June:29:2009 - 07:32 | Comments Off | Permalink

The new Saudi Minister of Health was brought on to fix some of the endemic problems affecting health care in the Kingdom. One of those problems has been mistakes made by doctors and medical staff. As they are human, mistakes will (and do happen wherever medicine is practiced in the world), but the results can be tragic.

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report on the establishment of a department within the Ministry to focus on exactly that kind of problem. It will serve a monitoring role and provide ‘best practice’ advice to doctors, hospitals, and clinics throughout the country. The article suggests that the department will not have any law enforcement capacity, but it’s unclear whether it might have a mandatory referral process to police or courts.

Department on medical errors set up
Nawaf Afit

RIYADH – The Ministry of Health will have a new “Clinical revision” department to improve medical performance and reduce medical errors. The department will be headed by Dr. Atef Suroor.

Creation of this department is part of the ministry’s overhaul ordered by Dr. Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rabeah, Minister of Health, on Sunday.

June:29:2009 - 07:23 | Comments Off | Permalink

The trials for those who have risen up in violent acts against Saudis and the Saudi state have been touted for nearly a year now. It seems that their days in court are approaching, however, with this brief piece from Saudi Gazette that points out that they will have legal representation at their trials. The government is still averse to holding public or televised trials, however. It doesn’t want to give the militants a soapbox from which to preach to the unconverted.

Militants allowed lawyers: Official

RIYADH – Saudi militants being tried in special courts are allowed to have lawyers to help their defense, the country’s top human rights official said Sunday.

Bandar Al-Aiban, president of the official Saudi Human Rights Commission, said his group was monitoring the trials which opened earlier this year.

“They can choose a lawyer… or the ministry of justice will provide one,” Al-Aiban said in an interview.

On a question about public trial, he said: “We have to be mindful of other dangers,” noting that the government was worried that some defendants would use a public trial as a soapbox to preach radical and violent ideology.

The government has arrested nearly 1,000 people for alleged involvement in Al-Qaeda attacks or plots.

June:29:2009 - 07:15 | Comments Off | Permalink

The UAE’s Khaleej Times runs this Agence France Presse article. As great as the news is, this piece doesn’t actually report on just how far along the creation of regulations on child marriages might be. They’re certainly an aspiration for many, but there is strong religious opposition.

Saudi working on child marriage curbs

RIYADH (AFP) – The Saudi government is working on new regulations to impose a minimum age for marrying to prevent child weddings, the head of the official Human Rights Commission said on Sunday.

“Although they are very limited, we are worried about cases of children being married,” the commission’s president Bandar al-Aiban told AFP in an interview.

“This is under serious review. We are discussing what is the appropriate age for marriage,” he said, adding that the minimum age in the new regulations could range from 16 to 18 years old.

Saudi Arabia has come under attack for permitting pre-teen and prepubescent girls to be married off by their parents.

In a case that stirred an international outcry late last year, an eight-year-old Saudi girl was sold into marriage with a man in his 50s by her father in exchange for dowry money.

The girl’s mother challenged the marriage in court but it was upheld twice by a judge.

However in April, the parties agreed to a divorce in an out-of-court settlement, under heavy public pressure and what newspapers described as intervention by an unidentified “important personality.”

Aiban said the problem is that under Islamic sharia law, the foundation of the Saudi justice system has no prohibition on child marriage and new regulations have to be crafted in harmony with sharia principles.

He said government bodies, rights groups and others are involved in the discussions to shape the new regulations, with some advocating a minimum age of 18 while others want a minimum of 16 or 17. One person proposed 15, he added.

June:28:2009 - 09:04 | Comments Off | Permalink
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