Saudi Gazette reports that a group of female nurses in Saudi Arabia are objecting to having to care for male patients. By being forced to do so, they claim, they are being forced also to break religious taboos about seeing naked male bodies or touching them. They point to a fatwa issued nearly 20 years ago as the basis of their action.
Clearly, this is a sensitive topic and one that is driven by cultural and religious values. And while nurses in the US (who are predominantly female) may not have particular issues in dealing with male patients, the opposite view can come into play: female patients are not all comfortable with male nurses (or even doctors) in some circumstances. In the US, it’s very often the case that a male doctor will have a female assistant in the examining room at all times he is dealing with a female patient. It would be a mistake, however, to attribute this to moral scruples: in fact, it’s legal prudence. Doctors have been accused of improprieties when there have been no third-party witnesses to examinations.
In Western societies as a whole, both nurses and doctors (as well as other health care providers) are assumed to be professional. They are there to deal with illness, disease, and injury. Those things affect both men and women and it is neither practical nor efficient to set up separate facilities and staffs for the two sexes. A nurse who categorically refused to deal with patients of the opposite sex would be recommended to find a different profession.
Female nurses refuse to work in male wards
Saudi Gazette report
HOFUF — The directorate of health affairs in Al-Ahsa region is investigating the case of 12 Saudi female nurses working in a government hospital who allegedly refused to work in the male wards out of fear that they may be obliged to look at the patients’ private parts while bathing them or changing their clothes.
The nurses, working at Hassan Al-Afaliq rehabilitation hospital, defend their decision based on a fatwa issued about 19 years ago by the Council of Senior Scholars preventing female nurses from seeing men’s genitals or touching their bodies while dressing their wounds.
The fatwa, however, said female nurses could do this only under extreme situations when there are no male nurses available in a hospital.
The fatwa, signed by five senior religious scholars, including the former grand mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Baz, said this matter should never be taken lightly.
Ahmed Al Omran has written about the issue as Riyadh Bureau, his supplement to Saudi Jeans.
The World Health Organization has announced that another case of MERS-CoV has been diagnosed in Saudi Arabia. This case was identified in the north-central part of the country, in Al-Qassim, and does not appear to be related to the earlier outbreak in the Eastern Province.
What this means is simply not known. WHO and Saudi Public Health authorities are keeping a close eye in monitoring the disease and its occurrence in the Kingdom. While it does not yet seem to be highly contagious, it has a high mortality rate.
23 May 2013 – The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has notified WHO of an additional laboratory-confirmed case of infection with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
The fatal case was reported from Al-Qaseem region in the Central part of the country and is not related to the cluster of cases reported from Al-Ahsa region in the Eastern part of the country. The patient was a 63-year-old man with an underlying medical condition who was admitted to a hospital with acute respiratory distress on 15 May 2013 and died on 20 May 2013. Investigation into contacts of this case is ongoing.
The Saudi authorities are also continuing the investigation into the outbreak that began in a health care facility since the beginning of April 2013 in Al-Ahsa. To date, a total of 22 patients including 10 deaths have been reported from the outbreak.
Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 44 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 22 deaths.
Earlier this year, the government of Saudi Arabia announced that there was a path by which children of Saudi mothers and foreign fathers could attain citizenship. The move was welcomed by the tens of thousands of Saudi women who were faced with the problems of stateless children.
Sabria Jawhar, writing for Arab News, reports that while it’s a nice gesture, there are many details that have not been well thought out. Listing such children as “employees” of the mother — which sort of makes sense for dealing with the paperwork — makes little sense in actuality, for instance.
There’s a further problem with government moves to deport workers whose papers are ‘irregular’. No effort and no thought seems to have been given to the status of the Saudi women to whom some of these men are married, or to the children they share.
The entire government, Jawhar suggests, needs to be talking among its various ministries and branches to ensure fair treatment to the women and children of mixed marriages.
Confusion prevails even as Saudi women can now sponsor children
Sabria S. Jawhar
Saudi women married to non-Saudis finally got a break when they won the right to sponsor their own children, and that their children are considered Saudis by the government in getting education and work. This gives women more control over the lives of their families and more stability. There is security knowing that their children can receive government education and have access to good jobs.
We know that previously, children of Saudi women were virtually non-entities in the eyes of the government. Children of non-Saudi fathers have no citizenship. The law says that only boys can receive the citizenship at the age of 18 if they meet specific requirements. And even then, there is no guarantee that boys will ever receive citizenship. No child of expats receives citizenship at birth. Up until the new decree, children of non-Saudi fathers had no rights as Saudis, although they were Saudis in every aspect except name.
So, the recent decree gives these children a measure of comfort, yet it says nothing about what happens to these children once their mother dies.
Back in March, the Saudi government announced the arrest of eighteen individuals who were spying for Iran. Today, according to Arab News, another ten have been arrested in the same or a related case.
Ten more arrested in Iranian espionage case
RIYADH: Ghazanfar Ali Khan
An official spokesman from the Saudi government has confirmed the arrest of 10 people involved in an Iranian espionage cell who were allegedly associated with the same spy network that was dismantled in March of this year by Saudi security officials.
A security spokesman confirmed that the latest cell had eight Saudis, one Lebanese and one Turkish national.
“Initial investigations carried out by authorities led to the detention of 10 others for involvement in espionage activity,” TV news channel Al-Ekhbariya reported citing sources from the Interior Ministry yesterday.
An earlier confession made by suspects arrested by the Kingdom in March also reinforced evidence.
Want to make something stop in Saudi Arabia? It’s easy… just call for a new study on something, even if it’s been studied to death before.
Saudi Gazette reports that a number of female academics are calling for a new study on the decision to permit sports and athletic programs in girls schools. While they grudging admit that health might be important, they seem to think it more important that Saudi girls learn to comport themselves as Saudi women, wrapping themselves in cultural and religious virtue, even if it does shorten their lives.
Inactivity by both men and women in Saudi Arabia has been identified as a major component of the country’s vast experience of diabetes. Even those who might choose to take part in exercise are prohibited from doing so.
It’s useful to recall that it’s not just a heavy-handed patriarchy that delays needed change in Saudi Arabia… there are plenty of Saudi women, too, who serve to obstruct, whether on matters as simple as exercise for girls in schools or women getting behind the driver’s wheel.
Ministry decision sparks new debate on women’s sports
Saudi Gazette report
DAMMAM — A number of female academics have said the Ministry of Education’s plans to introduce physical education at private schools for girls need exhaustive study as it is a sensitive issue.
While calling for suitable sports facilities to be provided, the academics stressed that taking such steps should be in line with religious and social norms and Saudi traditions, Al-Yaum daily said in a report.
Dr. Soad Al-Suwaid of Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh said schools’ top priority should be to prepare female students for married life and teach them how to take care of their children once they get married.
“This will undoubtedly reduce negative social phenomena such as divorce and drug abuse. Sports are important for everyone but some things are more important,” said Al-Suwaid, while adding that introducing sports will distract girls from their main task.
Who could have seen this coming?
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Madinah lamenting the fact that making jobs exclusive to women costs more than having men in those jobs. The article focuses on the fact that while men might work the equivalent of two shifts in a long day, Saudi women can or will only work one shift; family duties require it. Not mentioned, but also substantial costs, are the changes mandated by law to prevent men from peeking into, say, lingerie shops; the hiring of guards to protect the women and prevent men from entering the shops; and instituting a different benefits regime.
Who could have seen this coming? Anyone who cared to look. Saudi Arabia’s insistence that men and women be kept separate except in family situations just adds millions and billions of riyals to the cost of doing business in the country. Instead, a hypocritical system has evolved that keeps men and women apart, except when it’s convenient, as when unrelated males are hired to drive women around. Certain Saudis need to get their heads around the fact that mere proximity does not result in illicit sex.
Feminizing stores that sell women’s fashion has a price
Abdulrazaq Baleelah | Al-Madinah
TRADERS in women clothes and accessories are unanimous that ensuring their shops are staffed by women only by July 10 will raise prices by 30 to 50 percent. They justified this huge price rise by pointing to the fact that work in their shops can only be covered in two shifts, while women can only work for one shift.
They said in this case they would have to employ two women for the same job instead of one. Therefore, their salary bill will double, thus increasing prices.
Speaking recently at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), the traders said they would not be able to implement the decision of the Labor Ministry within two months. They asked the ministry to extend the period and to launch an awareness campaign to change the work ethics of the majority of Saudi families.
What will the ministry do especially as it has been burdened with too many assignments? It has been reported that the ministry will not back off from its decision and that it is now considering the mechanisms of implementation in a manner that will not harm the merchants and manufacturers and at the same time fulfill the core objectives of the government to provide enough working opportunities for the Saudi women.
The US State Department has issued its annual report on religious freedom as experienced around the world. As is sadly usual, Saudi Arabia does not fare well and remains a “country of particular concern”, as it has been since 2004. The country report on Saudi Arabia can be found HERE. There is nothing particularly new here. The same violations of the rights of Saudi Shi’ites, discrimination toward non-Muslim foreign workers, and the absolute lack of freedom to practice religions other than Islam continue. Only the names of those arrested, threatened, or deported have changed over the years.
The global report draws attention to the rise of religious discrimination around the world, including that aimed at Muslims. It points to particular problems with laws that punish apostasy and the impunity with which people act in various countries when governments condone — or at least take no action against — religious discrimination.
Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose…we also remember that religious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe. This freedom is an essential part of human dignity, and without it our world cannot know lasting peace. President Barack Obama
Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Congress took a momentous step in support of religious freedom when it passed the International Religious Freedom Act, establishing within the Executive Branch the position of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. With this measure, the U.S. government made a bold statement on behalf of those who were oppressed, those who were persecuted, and those who were unable to live their lives at the most basic level, for the simple exercise of their faith. Whether it be a single deity, or multiple deities, or no deities at all, freedom to believe–including the freedom not to believe–is a universal human right.
Freedom of religion and belief and the right to worship as one chooses fulfill a deep and abiding human need. The search for this freedom led the Pilgrims to flee Europe for America’s shores centuries ago, and is enshrined in our own Constitution. But it is by no means exclusively an American right. All states are committed to freedom of thought, conscience and belief in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been the touchstone and the global standard for the protection of human rights around the world since 1948.
The right to religious freedom is inherent in every human being. Unfortunately, this right was challenged in myriad ways in 2012. One of the basic elements of the International Religious Freedom Act is the requirement that the Department of State publish an annual report on the status of religious freedom in countries around the world, and the record of governments in protecting–or not protecting–this universal right.
The “Novel Coronavirus” now popping up in Saudi Arabia has been given the name Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus or MERS-CoV by the Coronavirus Study Group, an international organization. The World Health Organization and the Saudi Ministry of Health have accepted the new name. Giving it this name is expected to reduce confusion among scientists (and journalists) in their discussions of the disease.
Deadly Middle-East Coronavirus Has a New Name: MERS
A new virus that surfaced in Saudi Arabia last year, and has so far killed 20 people and infecting 20 more, finally has an official name: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), according to news reports.
The Coronavirus Study Group, an international team of scientists, announced its decision to name the virus in a paper published in the Journal of Virology on Thursday (May 15).
The MERS coronavirus causes severe pneumonia with symptoms similar to another coronavirus, SARS, which emerged in China in 2002 and infected 8,000 people worldwide. Gene sequencing showed that the newly discovered virus was genetically different than SARS.
Arab News reports that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines have signed an agreement to end the interruption of labor contracts for domestic workers. The agreement stipulates various responsibilities for the two governments and sets certain working conditions for Filipinos taking jobs in the Kingdom as household workers.
Among those conditions are minimum salaries, set days off and daily breaks, freedom to communicate outside the household, and possession of their own travel documents. The agreement also requires that workers not be charged for the processing or procurement of recruitment and visas. All contracting must be handled through companies licensed in each country.
Some of these terms are still more notional than actionable at present. Both countries are going to have to work to set and get the conditions they require. They are feasible, though, and will serve to reduce abuse of domestic servants, intentional or accidental, and should make life easier for both Saudis and Filipinos.
KSA, Philippines sign watershed labor pact
Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr. | Arab News Staff
RIYADH: Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz and Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufarrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani signed a labor agreement Sunday on the hiring of Filipino household service workers (HSWs). Al-Haqbani signed on behalf of Labor Minister Adel Fakeih.
“The agreement is historic and today is a very significant day in Philippine-Saudi bilateral relations,” said Baldoz. The agreement is the first by the Saudi Ministry of Labor with a manpower-supplying country.
“This agreement heralds an era of stronger bilateral labor cooperation between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia for the protection and welfare of Filipino HSWs in the Kingdom,” she said.
The agreement comes after Saudi Arabia and the Philippines agreed on a standard labor contract last year, which shall govern the employment of HSWs in the Kingdom.
Just Do It isn’t only a Nike advertising slogan. According to this opinion piece in Saudi Gazette, it’s what the government of Saudi Arabia needs to do when it comes to the issue of women’s driving.
As with many things in Saudi Arabia, Mahmoud Ahmed reminds us, Saudi society takes a long time to come to conclusions about change. And the funny thing is that they never actually reach conclusions until the government says, “do this.” Once the mandate has been issued, and after a bit of fussing, the new becomes accepted. There are actually few things in which Saudi society has been the driver of change — satellite TV is one that comes to mind. In most cases, it’s the government that says girls will be educated or that English will be taught in primary schools. Even the most mundane issues like girls’ sports programs in schools take a government boot to get people moving.
It’s time, Ahmed suggests, for the government to act. All the arguments pro and con have been hashed out over the years. Everyone understands them. But until the government authorizes the activity, it’s not going to happen. So, just do it for crying out loud!
Will society allow women to drive?
There’s a decided single-mindedness in Saudi society when it comes to making decisions on social issues— especially issues that concern women. Just procrastinate and the issue will fade away. Is it me, or is it really the case that when issues require a firm decision, we either take a long time deliberating or just don’t bother to consider them, allowing them to simmer. In either case, the manner in which we tackle issues is poor at best. In the first case, we are just delaying the inevitable and the second — pushing the decision off with the attitude that out of sight means out of mind — is just wishful thinking.
Among the many issues demanding a decision from society is that of women driving. It has been said that only society can decide whether women should drive, but the question is: How long will this take?
Saudi society is divided on many mundane issues, including teaching English at the elementary level (a necessity of the times), changing the weekend to Friday and Saturday instead of Thursday and Friday ( in line with global necessity), girls’ sports in school (a healthy option for society) and many others. So why should the issue of women driving be any different? The irony is that not that long ago, society was divided on the issue of women going to school. But once the decision was taken society accepted it with the naysayers realizing the necessity of education for both boys and girls. Now those who were once against the idea are used to it and the result is that there are many schools and universities for women in the Kingdom.
Agence France Presse reports that Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour has won a “Newcomers” award at the Cannes Film Festival for her film “Wadjda”. In the interview — here republished by Yahoo.com’s news portal “Maktoob” — Al-Mansour says she sees culture changing in Saudi Arabia. While there’s still a long way to go, changes are taking place.
Saudi Arabia more tolerant, says woman film maker
Saudi Arabia’s first woman film maker, Haifaa Al-Mansour, said her country was becoming “more tolerant and more accepting” as she picked up an award in Cannes on Saturday for her acclaimed film “Wadjda”.
The 2012 tale of an impish young Saudi girl who plots to own a bicycle in defiance of a ban has won the hearts of critics and public alike in France, Germany and Switzerland, where it is being distributed.
Filming “Wadjda” was an odyssey in itself.
In conservative neighbourhoods, local residents would block shooting, or Mansour would have to direct from a van with a walkie-talkie, as she could not be seen in public together with male crew and actors.
The film itself will only be seen in the kingdom on DVD or on television, as cinemas there are banned.
Only five years after Farouk Al-Zuman became the first Saudi Arab to climb Mount Everest, a Saudi woman has done the same. Al-Jazeera TV reports on 25-year-old Raha Mharrak’s accomplishment.
A 25-year-old graphic design graduate has become the first ever Saudi woman to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
Raha Moharrak is the only female in a group of four Arabs who announced two months ago that they would be reaching the summit in 2013.
“The first ever Saudi woman to attempt Everest has reached the top!! Bravo Raha Moharrak. We salute you,” said a tweet from the group.
If Saudi women were permitted to do what their male counterparts are allowed to do, with only a five-year lag…