When will Saudi women achieve equality with Saudi men? Not anytime soon, I’m afraid. Saudi Gazette reports that the Grand Mufti has waded into the fray calling those who would see them as equal ‘decadent and immoral’. Women, he seems to say, are too silly to be taken seriously and men must be kind in their condescension of them. But never, no never, should men and women be allowed to work side-by-side in the workplace.
This would be a laughable attitude except that it isn’t. This is coming from the highest religious leader in the country, a man who is considered to know more about what God wants than the common man. He even draws a government salary to espouse his views.
Sorry, Saudi women… the clock measuring your progress just got set back a century or two.
Mufti slams advocates of free mixing of sexes
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The advocates of intermingling between men and women at the workplace want decadence and immoral behavior to spread among Muslims, said Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Alsheikh.
Giving his Friday sermon at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh, he said such mixing poses a great danger to society and women in particular.
The Grand Mufti also stressed the importance of not taking divorce lightly, warning men against making hastened decisions in issuing concerning their family life.
He said that women can lead their husbands to divorcing them when they do not adhere to rules of modesty and that men must help their wives, protect their rights and be patient with them.
“Islam has taught men not to focus on their wives’ follies and to forgive their mistakes. They must look at their wives’ virtues and positive attitudes,” the mufti said.
After many prior announcements — all of which turned out to be premature — the Saudi government is now preparing to offer Tourist Visas to those interested in seeing Saudi Arabia for reasons other than business and religious obligation. Arab News reports that the Council of Ministers has asked the Saudi tourist commission (a government agency) to come up with the regulations necessary. That commission is an active one, so something is likely to happen. Sometime.
Saudi Arabia still lacks a lot of necessary tourist infrastructure. There are hotels in the major cities, of course, but not at the more remote — and more interesting — sites. Transportation is still a problem, hazardous at best. And then there’s the mismatch between Saudi attitudes toward foreigners and the fact that tourists expect to be treated warmly and generously. Saudis are certainly generous people, but I would not consider them particularly warm when it comes to dealing with foreigners. The religious police are going to need some expanded training, too.
Tourist visas to be introduced
JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry is set to receive a shot in the arm following the government’s decision to issue tourist visas for the first time to woo foreigners intending to visit its historical sites.
The Council of Ministers has entrusted the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) with the task of issuing tourist visas on the basis of certain regulations approved by the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs.
The new tourism law aims at bringing about a qualitative improvement in the industry, which is expected to play a significant role in strengthening the economy besides creating thousands of jobs for Saudis.
Saudi Gazette gives front-page treatment to a piece reporting that a quarter million Saudis found jobs while foreign workers were being forced to comply with immigration and labor laws or leave the country.
That’s a considerable number. It should help with the statistics on unemployment, but there’s still a long way to go before those willing to work — male and female — have jobs.
Over 250,000 Saudis got employed during amnesty
Saudi Gazette report
AL-KHOBAR – Minister of Labor Adel Fakieh said that more than 250,000 Saudis have benefited from the seven-month amnesty period that ended on Nov. 4.
“The ministry will publish in the near future all the figures regarding their placements in each sector and region, in addition to the outcome of the status correction campaign,” he told the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) after inaugurating the Third Social Dialogue Forum here on Wednesday afternoon.
Fakieh thanked Minister of Interior Prince Muhammad Bin Naif and other ministry officials for their support to make his ministry’s drive to regulate the local employment market a great success.
The minister said the first forum focused on ‘working time and period of work hours’ while ‘the policies and structures of wages in the private sector’ figured in the second forum.
Given the fatal results of flash floods in various Saudi Arabian cities over the past few years, it’s not strange that the municipalities involved would seek ways to ameliorate the situations. Vastly cheaper than digging up the cities to retroactively install major drainage projects are attempts to prevent rain. Unfortunately — or so allege Amnesty International and the Arab Organization for Human Rights — the Jeddah mayor’s office chose to use a chemical to stop cloud formation that seems to be classified as a WMD. Oops.
Oddly enough, the chemical allegedly used — “alkimitre” in the article; “alkimitril” in other sources — is pretty mysterious stuff. In fact, it’s one of the favorite chemicals condemned by the “Chem Trails” conspiracy theorists. Perhaps the “oops” belongs at the feet of Amnesty International?
City sued for ‘using toxic gas’ to prevent rain in Jeddah
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Two international organizations are suing Jeddah Municipality for allegedly using poisonous gases to dissipate clouds, Al-Hayat newspaper reported.
The representative of Amnesty International and the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), Dr. Talat Attar, said a lawsuit was filed with the Board of Grievances in July this year.
Attar said the lawsuit accuses the municipality of using Alkimtre gas for dissipating clouds to prevent rain.
This gas, he added, causes many environmental and health hazards. In a press statement, Attar pointed out that the legal authorities will review the case within the coming days.
“Alkimtre gas is a mass destruction weapon and its usage is in clear violation of all human rights,” he said.
Writing at Harvard University’s “Iran Matters” website, Saudi analyst and government advisor Nawaf Obaid offers his take on the recent deal reached between Iran and the “5+1 group. In sum, while the Kingdom is always interested in international agreements that tend toward peaceful resolution of issues, it is wary about Iran’s expansionist foreign policy and the likelihood of its acquiring nuclear weapons.
The Iran deal: a view from Saudi Arabia
The fundamentals of Saudi foreign policy stem from its role as the cradle of Islam, the world’s central banker of energy and the Middle East’s economic and financial engine. As the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and the location of the religion’s two holiest sites, the Saudi Kingdom is in a unique standing vis-a-vis the more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. This situation makes it incumbent on the Kingdom to remain extremely conservative at its core and outlook. This reality is enhanced by the Kingdom’s role as the world’s largest crude exporter. This has made Saudi Arabia the largest economy by far in the Middle East-North Africa region and the world’s third largest holder of foreign exchange reserves and is giving it the firepower to expend formidable financial and economic resources in assisting other nations in dire straits to maintain stability. The Kingdom’s enhanced role has generated an ever expanding foreign policy assertiveness that is being transformed from a primarily reactive based doctrine to a proactive one. The implications are that the Saudis will amalgamate political and financial incentives with an ever-growing military capability to sustain a forceful diplomacy to pursue vital national security imperatives.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts to reform its legal system continue. Saudi Gazette reports that three new measures have been signed into law by King Abdullah. These will help courts to work more efficiently and fairly. Defendants are assured both the right to an attorney and to be informed of the charges against them. Specialized courts will deal with particular areas of the law such as traffic, labor, and commercial law.
New laws to make judicial procedures more effective, open
Saeed Al-Bahes | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
DAMMAM – Approval of the three landmark laws by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah was widely welcomed by all those concerned with the Kingdom’s judicial sector.
They said that the new systems would expedite judicial procedures and make them more effective and transparent.
King Abdullah approved on Friday drafts of the Shariah defense law, the criminal procedure law and the procedures of the Board of Grievances, approved recently by the Council of Ministers
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Nassaar, President of the Board of Grievances, described this as a giant step in judicial reforms which address all pressing needs and realize the ambitious goals. “As part of making the Board more effective, there would be more supportive bodies, such as the technical affairs bureau, of which the powers include publishing the copy of verdicts. The Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court have been constituted in line with the new laws,” he said.
Saudi Arabia, through the King Abdullah Economic City, continues its efforts to diversify and expand its economy. Saudi Gazette reports (here in a piece from Al Arabiya TV) that it has signed agreements with Volvo and Renault to build trucks at KAEC, located north of Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia to produce Volvo and Renault trucks
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) recently signed a land plot to purchase of 225,000 sq. meters in KAEC’s Industrial Valley for the construction and operation of Volvo and Renault trucks.
The plant, constructed by Zahid Tractor and Heavy Machinery Company, will be developed on an area of 60,000 sqm and is expected to produce 4,000 trucks a year and provide 400 new jobs.
Fahd Al-Rasheed, Managing Director and CEO of KAEC, said “the new trucks assembly plant, which will be constructed by Zahid Group, is considered a major milestone in the growth of King Abdullah Economic City.”
Saudi Gazette runs a story from Reuters noting that Saudi Arabia is not concerned about a huge increase in US oil production. It believes global demand will continue to grow at such a pace that Saudi oil production can continue at it current rate and still be very profitable. Rather than seeing a smaller piece of the global petroleum pie, Saudi Arabia will be taking a piece of a much bigger pie.
(Reuters) DUBAI – Saudi Arabia remains unconcerned by surging US shale output, which threatens to eat into OPEC’s market share, and sees no need to cut production to support prices, Deputy Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz told a conference in Dubai on Wednesday.
“We need to make sure that the world economy comes out decisively on a growth pattern and, if that can be established, I think that the world economic growth will be sufficient to handle growth from all sorts – shale oil, shale gas, tight oil and including renewable,” he said.
“The world economy over the long term will need every contribution of every source of energy available,” he said. “The kingdom welcomes new resources of energy supplies, as they are needed.”
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries expects global demand for its crude to fall in the next five years because of increasing supplies outside the 12-member group from the boom in shale energy and other sources, according to its annual World Oil Outlook.
Saudi Arabia leads the world in terms of YouTube viewership. But Saudis aren’t just consuming YouTube videos. Al Arabiya TV runs this Reuters report on how young Saudis are creating content to fill the void created by state-operated media (void because no one watches it for other than Saudi sports and religious inspiration).
Saudis live in a severely constrained social environment. As a result, many youths are living a ‘virtual’ life on the Internet where they are able to say and see things that are otherwise not available to them. Rather than waiting for governmentally shaped commentary, they make their own and get immediate feedback, both positive and negative.
Young Saudis getting creative on YouTube
Turn on a Saudi television and you’ll usually get a diet of religious programming and uncontroversial imported fare. But there’s much more to a “night in” for the average Saudi – they’re also the world’s most avid watchers of YouTube.
The programs of Jeddah-based UTURN, from drama to reality shows, are typical. “3al6ayer,” or “On the Fly,” is a Saudi version of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” “Eysh Elly” is a lighthearted weekly review of Arab online videos.
As of mid-September, UTURN had 286 million views on YouTube and 8 million followers on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, most of them Saudis, said Abdullah Mando, 27, who set up the company in 2010 with two university friends.
The secret of UTURN’s success is simple, but in a Saudi context, rather revolutionary: give the audience what it wants
The state of the judiciary in Saudi Arabia is problematic. While the country has undertaken a program of massive legal reform, training and re-training judges, and working to codify laws, individual judges remain an issue.
Saudi Gazette/Okaz front-page an article about a handful of judges who are being relieved of their positions and one who will be facing trial. Their actions range from sending out inappropriate Tweets to financial corruption.
Judges sacked for corruption, absence, lack of discipline
Adnan Al-Shabrawi | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Judicial authorities are completing procedures to relieve four judges from their posts for corruption and discipline-related reasons.
Okaz/Saudi Gazette learned that one of the judges was accused of financial corruption and is still detained in a Riyadh prison.
Another judge was relieved from his post for remaining absent from work for a whole year while the remaining two were dismissed for disciplinary reasons such as inappropriate tweeting, even though they were repeatedly warned.
The judge accused of financial corruption, identified as F.Y., is expected to stand trial within the next few weeks before a disciplinary committee.
He will also be tried before the Supreme Judicial Council and will be able to defend himself.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed offers commentary on the current idea that Saudi Arabia will obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan if Iran produces its own.
He notes that Iran cannot claim self-defense as a motive for nuclear weapons acquisition, but Saudi Arabia most certainly can. Iranian weapons directly threaten the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia will either have to obtain its own or have treaties with partners whom it can trust to reply to a nuclear attack on the Kingdom. Given that Saudi Arabia does not trust the US to act in the Saudi interest these days, that strongly implies that Saudi Arabia will acquire its own bombs.
Saudi Arabia’s nuclear bomb
There has been recent talk of Saudi Arabia’s supposed determination to buy a nuclear bomb from Pakistan. Firstly, is this even possible in light of the international agreements signed by both countries forbidding the owner of a nuclear weapon to transfer or sell it? This question is especially pertinent as Saudi Arabia is not allowed to manufacture such a weapon for military purposes. Secondly, would such nuclear weapon add any value to Saudi Arabia’s defense systems?
After buying Chinese missiles and after news of the secret deal was leaked, it was said that Saudi Arabia might use these missiles to carry nuclear warheads. However, in 1988 the kingdom signed a treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Saudi Arabia now abides to that treaty, along with 190 other countries. There have always been stories and skeptical media campaigns stating that Saudi Arabia intends to become a nuclear power. Such stories were supported by claims made by an employee who defected from the Saudi embassy in New York. He said that Saudi Arabia is building a nuclear bomb to support Iraq. Before that, a U.S. intelligence analyst had said that Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan’s nuclear project with an investment of $2 billion.
From Foreign Policy magazine, a piece discussing how Saudi Arabia — finding that the US is not a useful partner at the moment — is looking for their own solutions to what they consider serious international problems.
Saudi Arabia’s Shadow War
The Kingdom is turning to Pakistan to train Syria’s rebels. It’s a partnership that once went very wrong in Afghanistan. Will history repeat itself?
BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia, having largely abandoned hope that the United States will spearhead international efforts to topple the Assad regime, is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces. And according to three sources with knowledge of the program, Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, along with the CIA, also supported the Afghan rebels against the Soviet-backed government during the 1980s. That collaboration contains a cautionary note for the current day: The fractured Afghan rebels were unable to govern after the old regime fell, paving the way for chaos and the rise of the Taliban. Some of the insurgents, meanwhile, transformed into al Qaeda and eventually turned their weapons against their former patrons.
While the risk of blowback has been discussed in Riyadh, Saudis with knowledge of the training program describe it as an antidote to extremism, not a potential cause of it. They have described the kingdom’s effort as having two goals — toppling the Assad regime, and weakening al Qaeda-linked groups in the country. Prince Turki, the former Saudi intelligence chief and envoy to Washington, said in a recent interview that the mainstream opposition must be strengthened so that it could protect itself “these extremists who are coming from all over the place” to impose their own ideologies on Syria.