Arab News runs two pieces today that seek to show that Saudi law applies to all, the mighty included.
One concerns a prince (unnamed) who has been sentenced to death for killing another. The article seems to go to great lengths explaining that a death sentence is not necessarily final. Not only is there an appeals process, but the family of the victim can waive the death penalty.
The second reports that the Saudi BinLaden company — one of the country’s largest construction firms — is being penalized for not abiding by labor regulations. It is losing access to Ministry of Labor databases until it corrects its behavior and comes into compliance with the regulations.
Al-Arabiya TV, which is owned by the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), writes about new efforts to take down satellite TV stations that run pirated materials. It is estimated that 10% of all Arab satellite broadcasters run programs for which they do not own the rights. This affects those stations that have paid for those materials… to the tune of $10 million/year, according to MBC.
While efforts have been made throughout the region to stop the theft of intellectual property, they have primarily focused on counterfeiting consumer goods and bootleg computer software.
Pirate TV: 47 ‘illegal’ Arab stations taken off air
Ben Flanagan | Al Arabiya News, Abu Dhabi
Almost half the Arab world’s ‘pirate’ TV stations have been taken off air, as legitimate media companies battle a problem they say costs them $100 million a year.
A total of 96 channels that allegedly broadcast pirated material were active in August – accounting for almost 10 per cent of the total number of channels available in the Middle East.
But 47 of these are no longer broadcasting following efforts by an industry coalition dedicated to fighting piracy, said Sam Barnett, chief executive of MBC Group.
“Nobody wants to deal with organized crime, which is what it is,” the executive told Al Arabiya News. “We’re fighting a long battle, but we have had progress.”
Saudi Gazette runs a report from Agence France Presse stating that the Saudi government is extending its buffer zone along the 800-mile border with Iraq by a depth of 20km (12 miles). The area, which is chiefly desert, is being put off limits to Saudi citizens.
RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has expanded a buffer zone along its northern border with Iraq, official media said on Tuesday.
Mohammed Al-Fahimi, a spokesman for northern region border guards, said “the depth of the border has been increased by 20 kilometers (12 miles),” the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Officers guarding the frontier “called on residents and citizens to stay away from the border areas,” it added.
In early September, the Kingdom inaugurated a multi-layered fence, backed by radar and other surveillance tools, along its northern borders.
Arab News reports that a Saudi Special Criminal Court — a court designed to hear terrorism cases — has sentenced three of those responsible for the 2004 terrorist attack on a residential compounds in Riyadh and the Eastern Province. Victims of the attacks included British, Indian, Swedish, Egyptian, South African, Sri Lankan, and Filipino citizens, as well as Saudis.
3 sentenced to death for Riyadh, Alkhobar terror attacks
JEDDAH: MD AL-SULAMI
A special criminal court in Riyadh has sentenced to death three members of a terror cell for killing 20 people and injuring 35 others at the Oasis Residential compound in Alkhobar in the Eastern Province, and the Al-Mohayya complex in Riyadh in separate attacks. Five were each handed 30-year jail terms.
The victims of the terror attacks included BBC photographer Simon Cumbers. His colleague Frank Gardner was critically wounded and is now wheelchair-bound. There were also Saudi civilians and policemen among the victims.
The first defendant, N. Boqami, chief of Cell 86, said Al-Qaeda had assigned him and others to storm the Oasis complex in 2004. They had been told that US forces had kidnapped and detained several Sunni Iraqi women during the 2003 invasion.
However, he denied all other 27 charges against him, including storming into a facility of the APICORP and the Oasis compound carrying grenades, assault rifles and revolvers on May 29 and holding 45 hostages. The state contends that he was accompanied by Al-Qaeda members Turki Al-Motairi and Abdullah Al-Sobaie during the operation.
The spat between Qatar and fellow-GCC members Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE seems to be drawing to a close. Asharq Alawsat reports that all three countries are returning their ambassadors to Doha with the expectation that GCC cooperation will resume.
Riyadh and Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Qatar, Abdullah Al-Ayfan, returned to Doha on Monday, following an agreement to end a rift between Qatar and its neighbors earlier this week.
An emergency meeting in Riyadh on Sunday resulted in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain ending their dispute with fellow member-state Qatar, and agreeing to return their ambassadors to the country after a seven-month absence.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ayfan said he was now restarting his work in the Qatari capital, and that all diplomatic relations had returned to normal.
He said he hoped the recent meeting in Riyadh would pave the way for further political and economic cooperation between all GCC countries, leading to what he called a “genuine union” between them, as proposed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
King Abdullah hosted the Riyadh meeting, which came about due to Saudi–Kuwaiti efforts.
The UNDP marks Saudi Arabia as having jumped from 57th place to 34th place in its 2014 report on global human development, Arab News reports:
The 2014 Human Development Report by the UN Development Program reported that Saudi Arabia achieved a significant progress by ranking in the 34th globally, compared to its previous 57 rank in the UNDP report of 2013. Such a rank boosted its position and qualified the Kingdom to join high human development index countries.
The Kingdom also ranked second on the Arab and Gulf levels, and 10th within the G-20 countries, reflecting a positive development, which the nation must build on to improve its future ranking on the Human Development Index launched in 1990.
An analytical study prepared by the Supreme Economic Council on the realities of Saudi Arabia, included in the human development report 2014 which was entitled
“Sustaining Human Progress, Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience,” confirmed that despite the improvement made during the march of the economic and social development in the Kingdom, the composite of evidence and the other evidences on the country’s ranking, in addition to the results of opinion polls made on the satisfaction degree concerning the human element, all such factors indicated that the Kingdom’s ranking could be improved and boosted.
Asharq Alawsat reports that those oil producing countries that most need high prices for oil are starting to make their case before the start of an OPEC meeting later this month. Venezuela and Iran in particular are saying that they want OPEC to decrease production in order to drive up prices. They need a price near $100/bbl in order to balance their budgets. The Arab Gulf States can absorb lower prices as their economies are in better shape and they all have sovereign funds they can fall back on to make up any temporary shortfall.
Saudi Arabia would be happy with oil at $100/bbl, but it doesn’t need oil at that price. It can manage well enough with oil priced at $75-$85/bbl. More particularly, it does not want to be told to decrease its oil production while other OPEC countries take smaller or no decreases in their production.
Dubai and Al-Khobar, Reuters/Asharq Al-Awsat—OPEC hawks Iran and Venezuela on Saturday called on fellow crude producers to shore up prices that have plunged more than 30 percent to four-years low ahead of an OPEC meeting later this month.
Oil prices have fallen to below 79 US dollars on abundant and weak demand from 115 dollars a barrel in June. Skepticism that OPEC will cut supply when it meets on November 27 have also weighed on the prices.
So far, only Kuwait and Iran have said a reduction is unlikely, while a Libyan OPEC official, Venezuela and Ecuador have all called for OPEC to cut output.
Privately, some delegates are talking of the need for some action, although they warn an agreement will not be easy to reach.
In comments reported by Iran Oil Ministry’s news agency, Shana, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rafael Ramírez, speaking in Iran, said Tehran and Caracas hold a common stance on the oil market.
“We believe that the prices are at a very low level and instability in the market is in no one’s interest,” Ramírez told Shana. “A hundred dollars per barrel is the desirable price for Venezuela.”
Iran Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh made similar remarks.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Madinah in which the writer warns that extremists groups are turning the word “Islamic” into a warning flag. The groups take a well-known brand and convert it to their own uses while completely ignoring what the brand is supposed to represent. As a result, would-be consumers need to do more than just accept the branding and pay attention to what’s really being sold.
Unfortunately, the point of the article seems to have gone over the head of commenters to the piece. They’re sold on the brand, no questions asked or even considered.
Beware of the ‘Islamists’
Qaisar Metawea | Al-Madinah
WE are, by our very nature, a conservative Muslim society. We, therefore, feel attracted toward anything Islamic.
With bad intentions, some of us have used others’ natural love for Islam and for everything Islamic to make personal, sectarian, political, social or commercial gains.
Some of the exploiters of our love for everything Islamic started using the word “Islamic” to defend their unholy actions and ideas against any critique. They will begin their conversation with you by using the word “Islamic” to tie themselves to Islam and to make you believe that they are the sole representatives of this great religion.
An exploiter of Islam will easily convince you that he is a true Muslim even if he abuses, attacks or kills because these abhorrent deeds are an “Islamic” demand.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor has restated its ruling that women employed in the private sector are entitled to 10 weeks of maternity leave. Those women who have been with the company for three or more years get full pay for the period; those with less, get half-pay, but do not lose vacation pay.
The report in Saudi Gazette also notes that women now comprise 11.6% of the Saudi workforce, up from 2.7% in 2010-2011.
10-week paid maternity leave in private sector
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — The Ministry of Labor has defended private sector employees’ right to maternity leave by saying any woman who works in the private sector should receive a maternity leave of four weeks prior to her due delivery date and six weeks following the delivery.
The entire period of maternity leave should be fully paid if the employee has been working with the same employer for three years.
An official source at the ministry told Al-Madina daily that employers are required to pay female employees half their salaries during the 10-week maternity leave if they have been employed for a minimum of 12 months. Salaries are due before employees take their maternity leave.
“Employers do not have to give their female employees paid annual vacation if an employee availed of maternity leave with full salary. Employees who only received half salaries during maternity leave should get the due half salaries during annual vacation,” he said.
Arab News reports on a major change in Saudi Arabia’s policy on the right of foreign mothers of Saudi children to live and work in the Kingdom, regardless of their marital status. The women need only prove that they are the mothers of children born within a registered marriage. This done, they will receive five-year iqamas — residency permits — and will be allowed to work and will have access to government services.
Until now, a Saudi divorced from a foreign wife could prevent her from visiting the country simply by withholding his consent.
Foreign mothers of Saudi children can now apply for permanent residency without having sponsors and regardless of whether they are married, divorced or widowed.
The Passports Department has begun receiving applications to grant them residency, said Col. Ahmed Al-Luhaidan, media spokesman of the department. He said that the women also do not need to have employers.
However, they must prove they were legally married to citizens and gave birth to their children. The Passport Department will submit these applications to the General Directorate in Riyadh to issue free iqamas, or residency permits, for a period of five years.
Al-Luhaidan said the various branches of the Passport Department would soon be capable of handling requests.
The Cabinet had previously approved permanent residency for foreign mothers of Saudi children, with all fees covered by the state.
They are allowed to work in the private sector and counted toward Saudization quotas, and treated as Saudis in terms of access to public universities and treatment at public hospitals.
Throughout its long history in Saudi Arabia, few have criticized ARAMCO of sitting on its thumbs while the world sped past it. Asharq Alawsat reports that Saudi-ARAMCO is setting up a new Asian subsidiary in Beijing, a recognition that China will be a major importer of Saudi oil into the future. Currently, China imports 19% of its oil from Saudi Arabia.
The article notes, too, how ARAMCO is getting more deeply involved and invested in the US oil market, not as a supplier to US demand, but as a partner in US oil production.
Al-Khobar, Asharq Al-Awsat—After years of operating in Asia through its offices in Hong Kong and South Korea, Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom’s state-owned oil company, is opening a brand new Asian subsidiary, Aramco Asia, setting up shop in the Chinese capital, Beijing.
Structured as a holding company, Aramco Asia will run all its Saudi parent company’s operations in an areas stretching from India in the west to Australia and New Zealand in the east.
According to sources familiar with the plans who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, the new company will be headed by Ibrahim Al-Buainain, who previously served at Aramco’s offices in Hong Kong and South Korea and headed Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV).
SAEV acquired a number of SMEs in the energy sector in the US and elsewhere in a bid to gain more control over international supply chains, especially to the US and Europe.
Saudi analyst Fahad Nazer’s commentary on the attack on Shi’ite worshipers in Al-Ahsa runs in “The Hill,” an online news site aimed at US Capitol Hill. He points out not only the swift response by Saudi security personnel, but the widespread condemnation of the attack on the minority Shi’a population. From the highest levels of government to the man-on-the-street, the attack was seen as an atrocity.
He notes, too, that the Saudi government is taking efforts to reach out to the Shi’a community though those activities are not spelled out in the article.
A ruthlessly executed, deliberately timed attack by masked gunmen against a Shia religious center in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province earlier this month has caused some observers to maintain that it portends the spillover into the kingdom of the sectarian violence that has devastated both Syria and Iraq. There is little doubt that this unprecedented attack could have long-term repercussions for Sunni-Shia relations inside Saudi Arabia as well as far-reaching ramifications for the international community’s efforts against global terrorism. However, the Saudi public’s revulsion at the attack and widespread calls for “unity” from both Sunnis and Shia, in addition to the government’s quick actions and unequivocal rhetoric may actually usher in a new, more positive chapter in the Kingdom’s long-strained Sunni-Shia relations.
Nevertheless, it is clear that in the coming weeks and months, the Saudi government will have to utilize every tool at its disposal and rely on its long experience in the field of counterterrorism to prevent a repeat of this type of sectarian violence, while taking conciliatory measures towards its Shia citizens – as it has done already – to forestall a serious rupture in its often tenuous relations with them.
The attack against a Husseiniya – a Shia religious community center – in the Shia-majority governorship of Al Ahsa in Eastern Saudi Arabia has both shocked and repulsed Saudis for its brazenness, brutality and clear intent to foment sectarian strife.
Not only did the perpetrators pick the eve of the holiest Shia religious observance of Ashura, which commemorates the seventh century “martyrdom” of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein – marking the beginning of the still extant “schism” between Sunnis and Shia – they also displayed the ruthlessness that has become the hallmark of Al Qaeda and its offshoots. Several of those killed and injured were in fact children.