The Saudi government is amping up its efforts to lower the number of illegal expat workers, Saudi media report. According to this story in Arab News, while the effort that started last year and which led to close to a million unregistered or undocumented expats leaving the country, new programs including highway check-points are going to be put into effect starting next Sunday.

New KSA campaign to expel illegal expats

Intensive security measures are in force to seize foreigners who violate the Kingdom’s labor laws, said a Jeddah police source.

Security checkpoints on roads are also focused on ensuring the success of Saudi Arabia’s campaign against undocumented workers.

“The highway security patrol enforces the regulations and directions of the Ministry of Interior,” said Maj. Gen. Khaled Al-Qahtani, commander of the special force for highway patrol.

“Such operations involve tracking the illegal labor force and detecting violators. This is our daily duty to boost highway security,” he said.
With the beginning of the second labor correctional campaign, he indicated that intensive measures will be implemented at security checkpoints on roads.

Saudi Gazette‘s report is similar:

Crackdown on illegals to begin next Sunday

March:01:2015 - 07:44 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

The Washington Post runs an article from the Associated Press, under a somewhat exaggerated headline, noting that the King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna is coming in for criticism.

The critics want the Center to condemn Saudi human rights abuses which include capital punishment, flogging, and jailing Saudi critics. Supporters say that Austria, Spain, the Vatican and others were well aware of the status of human and religious rights in Saudi Arabia before they signed on to support the Center. What’s more, human rights aren’t exactly the issue the Center was formed to address. It was set up to provide a venue where people of different religions could meet and discuss issues of religion as well as to create value by demonstrating that they could do that without calling each other pagans and apostates.

Saudi effort to promote open society abroad in tatters

VIENNA — Austria was enthusiastic when Saudi Arabia said it was ready to bankroll a center for religious and cultural understanding in Vienna — but two years after its launch, the desert kingdom’s foray into promoting a more open society abroad while continuing to repress rights at home is in tatters.

Its vice president, a former Austrian justice minister, has quit over comments interpreted as downplaying Saudi beheadings. And the center’s silence over the flogging of a Saudi blogger for criticizing Islam has drawn weekly street protests and condemnation from Austria’s chancellor — who said the nation “will not tolerate” the center’s refusal to repudiate Saudi human rights violations.

“I believe that the center needs to be done away with,” said demonstrator Norbert Brandl outside the turn of the century downtown palace housing KAICIID — the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. “Either that or it has to speak up against these unbelievable incidents.”

February:28:2015 - 06:44 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

The government of Saudi Arabia requires pre-marital genetic counseling. The counseling, however, is just that: advice about the risks of passing genetic diseases and disorders to the next generation. It has no force of law and couples are free to ignore the advice.

Many do ignore it, Arab News reports. Over the past year, some 3,000 couples, who had been advised that their marriages and potential child-bearing were hazardous, have decided that they will take the chance, leaving it in the hands of God.

Defying MOH advice, 3,000 with genetic illnesses to marry

Some 3,000 Saudis diagnosed with genetic diseases have rejected advice from the Health Ministry and decided to marry, a health official has said.

These Saudis were among 7,500 people declared incompatible last year because they had illnesses they could pass on to their children, said Mohammad Al-Suwaidi, director general of the ministry’s genetic diseases department.

The ministry tests for sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

Some 4,500 of those found with such disease, or 60 percent, did not go ahead with their marriage plans.

Explaining the danger, Al-Suwaidi said that if two spouses are both carriers of sickle cell disease or thalassemia, for example, there is a 50 percent chance that their children would also have the illness.

February:27:2015 - 09:38 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

According to an article in Arab News, King Salman is continuing the efforts of the late King Abdullah to encourage religious moderation and toleration. Speaking at an event sponsored by the Muslim World League, he decried those who “abuse Islam” and drive people from it.

King calls on Muslims to shun intolerance, extremism

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has called on Muslims to shun intolerance and extremism, work to unify their ranks and seek international cooperation.

King Salman made these comments during a reception at his palace in Riyadh for the scholars and experts who participated in the international counter-terrorism conference organized by the Muslim World League (MWL) in Makkah earlier this week.

King Salman also said that Saudi Arabia “is the land of Islam that implements the Shariah in all walks of life.” He said Saudi kings have been proud of having the title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. “We ask the Almighty to guide us so that we can serve our religion of tolerance.”

He said Islam is a religion of moderation. “We have to follow what is stated in the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his followers. We should not alienate people. There are people who abuse Islam and drive people away from it. We beseech Allah to return them to their senses.”

February:27:2015 - 09:33 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that the number of cases (and deaths) due to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus is spiking. This is seen to be due to the birth of young camels, which exposes more people to the virus.

Coronavirus infections to hit 1,000

RIYADH — Cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus infections have so far reached 913, rising from 897 last week and are expected to touch 1,000 in the coming weeks, the Health Ministry announced. It said during the past week alone, the number of deaths rose from 377 to 388. The ministry said the number of patients who have recovered increased from 486 to 498 and the number of the patients who are still under treatment in 20 hospitals all over the Kingdom has dropped from 32 to 25. It said from Feb. 20 to 25, as many as 15 people got infected and 10 of them died.

The paper also reports that the WHO believes there are still too many unknowns about the disease.

Saudi Arabia reports 10 MERS deaths in a week

RIYADH — Ten more people in Saudi Arabia have died from MERS over the past week, health ministry figures showed on Friday, after an international mission urged extra measures to combat the virus.

Saudi Arabia is the country worst-hit by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

The latest deaths occurred between February 20 and 26, adding to a surge of cases which has killed 27 people since the start of the month.

Doctor Abdul Aziz bin Saeed, who heads the centre coordinating the ministry’s response to MERS, warned in early February that a rise in cases typically occurs around this time of year, when there are more juvenile camels circulating.

February:27:2015 - 09:26 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia is on course to develop as a post-petroleum nation, the country’s Minister of Oil, says. In remarks reported in Saudi Gazette, Ali Al-Naimi points to the economic diversification now building as the nation’s plan for the future. He was speaking at the Jizan Economic forum, in the far southwest of the country, site of Jizan economic city, now being constructed.

Among the industries ripe to be developed, the report says, is tourism in the Farsan Islands among other destinations in the province.

KSA to cut dependence on oil
Hassan Cheruppa | Saudi Gazette

JAZAN — Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi said the Kingdom’s future development vision aims at expanding the economic base and concentrating more on the manufacturing sector through building small, medium and large industries and reducing dependence on oil in a phased manner.

Addressing the opening session of Jazan Economic Forum (JEF) here on Wednesday, Al-Naimi said the contribution of the industrial sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) has doubled from SR135 billion to SR276 billion over the past 10 years and it is expected to increase further in the coming years.

Al-Naimi said that Jazan Industrial City is one of the major projects that have contributed to this remarkable achievement.

February:26:2015 - 07:49 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

In an op-ed for Al-Arabiya TV, Hisham Melhem, the station’s Washington bureau chief, offers a critique of Pres. Obama’s penchant for vague language when it comes to dealing with terrorism committed in the name of Islam. In seeking to avoid any possible offense with his language, the President and his administration end up using wishy-washy terms devoid of any actual meaning.

Arab and Muslim societies, Melhem writes, do have a problem and it’s one that’s largely self-created. Too many leaders have used religion as a tool of manipulation. Too many have created shadows on the wall to demonize the West. Too many have allowed absurd “religious” inspirations to deflect attention from very real problems created by those leaders.

Failing to acknowledge what the problem is — and it’s not a “lack of jobs,” contrary to what a State Dept. spokeswoman claimed from her pulpit — cannot lead to a solution to the problem. The main burden is on Arab and Muslim society and those who govern them. Pretending it is not will not and cannot lead to a solution.

Violent extremism vs Islamist extremism
Hisham Melhem

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

President Obama is a wordsmith. His relatively short political life has been chiseled and shaped by the possibilities and the limits of his language. He bursts on the national stage when he delivered a memorable keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In fact, he defined his campaigns and his presidency by few pivotal speeches that tried to explain his vision of America, domestic decisions, and how he sees the world. Obama the wordsmith struggled with his language the way Obama the president struggled with his decisions. And just as his leadership style and some of his decisions were characterized by tentativeness, excessive caution and deliberation, his language can also oscillate between that which is inspirational and that which is deliberately ambiguous, deceptive and downright Orwellian. His framing of the Syrian conflict and his claims that his options were the extremes of doing nothing or invade Syria are a case in point.

February:23:2015 - 06:27 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Apparently lacking anything more important to do, Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has decided to wade into the issue of what female TV presenters wear while on the air, according to this Arab News report. They’re not entirely out of sync with Saudi society, though, as many were outraged when a female Saudi diplomat at the UN had the effrontery to address the Security Council while not wearing hijab and abaya.

Can one be Saudi without wearing national costume? Apparently not.

Shoura passes dress code law for women TV anchors

The Shoura Council has passed a new law that would make it mandatory for women TV anchors working in the Kingdom to wear modest dress and not show off their beauty.

Ahmed Al-Zailaee, chairman of the media committee at the consultative body, said once the law is passed by the Cabinet it would apply to all women media workers in the Kingdom, including those of MBC and Rotana.

Latifa Al-Shualan, a Shoura member, expressed surprise at the council’s interest in the dress code of women TV anchors, and said there are other more important issues to tackle.

“There are many other pressing issues such as the danger posed by the media activities of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group,” she said.

February:22:2015 - 09:13 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Arab News reports that the GCC is considering the issue of revising the subsidies governments provide for the purchase of fuels. Even though these states are all oil- and gas-producers, the level of subsidies is having negative effects on their economies. Not only do subsidies cost the countries, but they promote a sense of entitlement and devaluation of the resources such that waste proliferates.

Subsidies are not going to be just dropped, though. At most, there will be a reduction and a slight rise in the cost of fuels. Nobody is seeking angry citizens.

Expert says GCC mulls cut in fuel subsidy

In the wake of the World Bank’s appeals to emerging market countries, especially the states of the Middle East and North Africa, to end fuel subsidies, oil producing countries, including those of the GCC are actively thinking of such a move.

While they do not want to lift subsidies completely, the Gulf countries are contemplating partial amendment to the support, especially since the Kingdom’s oil prices are the lowest internationally.

Oil and energy experts say the decision to amend support lifting subsidies is currently being studied and its application is only a matter of time.

February:22:2015 - 09:05 | Comments Off | Permalink

The World Health Organization is getting concerned about the sudden spike in cases of MERS in Saudi Arabia. According to this Saudi Gazette report, it has sent a team to the country to try to figure out what’s happening. WHO notes an improvement in clinical care, but transmission of the disease remains a worry.

UN team investigates surge in MERS cases

JEDDAH — An international team of United Nations human and animal health experts has flown to the Kingdom to investigate a recent surge in cases of a deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) caused by coronavirus.

A spokeswoman of the World Health Organization-led team said it was worried by a steep rise in cases of MERS, which has infected some 50 people in the Kingdom in February alone — one of the highest monthly rates since it first emerged in humans in 2102.

“We are all very aware of this surge in cases,” said the WHO’s Fadela Chaib, one of an 11-strong international MERS expert team.

“Although this is still a small outbreak compared to last year, we still need to understand more about what is happening.”

February:22:2015 - 08:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

In Saudi Arabia, only Saudi Arabs can own the typical retail shop or store, by law. What has happened, over decades, is that some Saudis will claim to own the business, that is, they will lend their names to the operation, but in fact, it is a foreigner owning it. This “fronting” is called tasattur and, according to this Saudi Gazette report, it’s a growing problem. It has two direct negative effects, the reports says: it keeps Saudis out of jobs and it results in huge transfers of money out of the country. Indirectly, it creates problems for national security and, more importantly, it promotes disrespect for the law.

For some Saudis, it looks like easy money. They’re just renting out their names and citizenship with the rights those include. There’s no actual work that needs to be done beyond signing the original papers. Money comes in every month while the Saudi is earning an income from his regular job. It’s not unlike a celebrity licensing the use of his or her name to promote products or services. It is, however, against the law in Saudi Arabia.

Is the war against tasattur failing?
Saudi Gazette report

THE illegal practice of foreigners running businesses registered under the name of Saudis in return for fixed amounts of money known locally as “tasattur” has continued to increase despite the efforts of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.

Expatriate workers continue to flout Saudi laws by engaging in tasattur, something that makes them and the Saudis who help them susceptible to being fined and penalized if caught.

The practice negatively impacts the Kingdom’s economy and security, and as a result the Ministry of Commerce and Industry regularly holds seminars to raise awareness about the problem.

The ministry has also named and shamed individuals caught involved in the practice. In spite of this, tasattur continues to thrive as Saudis view it is as an easy way to become rich.

Dr. Talal Al-Bakri, a former Shoura Council member, said some Saudis place their personal interests and gain before the greater interests of the nation by circumventing the law.

February:21:2015 - 10:00 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News reports on a meeting of the military chiefs of 22 countries now taking place in Riyadh. The purpose is to come up with a unified approach to dealing with ISIS. The article notes that Bahrain is now stepping in, sending aircraft to Jordan to support ongoing operations.

infographic: countries involved in anti-ISIS activities

Anti-IS coalition chalks out strategy in Riyadh

Military chiefs from more than 22 countries battling the Islamic State (IS) group began talks here Wednesday to assess the coalition’s current strategy and map out a plan to tackle other terrorist groups operating in the Middle East.

A formal reception was hosted for the military chiefs of the foreign countries at a local hotel on Wednesday night, a diplomatic source, who requested anonymity, said.

This led to an informal round of discussions, but the main talks are scheduled for Thursday, he said. This high-powered military meeting is significant because of the growing threat posed by IS.

The meeting also coincides with the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, which started in the US Wednesday.

February:19:2015 - 09:11 | Comments Off | Permalink
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