This post just notes a strange little quirk in Saudi media practice.

A Saudi retail company had several of its branches shut down by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry following complaints about a fraudulent “discount” sale wherein products had their prices marked up, then an advertised discount applied.

Saudi Gazette reported on the event, but chose to not publish the name of the company, referring to it only as a “mega” company:

Discount scam: Mega firm’s retail outlets closed down

The report from Arab News, on the other hand, did cite the company’s name, if not in the headline, then in the first sentence of the first paragraph:

Popular store apologizes to its customers

Saudi custom is to not publish the names of those people or companies that are accused of wrong-doing. Is that custom breaking down? I think it would be a good thing if it did as it would offer much greater transparency about exactly what is going on in the country.


November:23:2014 - 09:53 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, is noted for having said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” It seems that the sentiment applies when it comes to Saudis and abayas, according to this report from Arab News.

Dammam University, in the Eastern Province city of that name, appears to have issues with non-black abayas. The claim is that colored abayas detract from the dignity of the university. M’kay… I guess it could be analogized to a ban on wearing shorts and flip-flops at an American university, not that any but a religiously-affiliated university would seek to impose such a ban. But all universities in Saudi Arabia are religiously-affiliated, in one way or another.

I do find it peculiar, though, that though “modesty” is being imposed by head-to-toe coverings, the actual color of the coverings matters. Does a blue or green abaya conceal less than a black one? This might be an interesting research project for one studying physics or optics or human psychology.

Campaign against colorful abayas

Dammam University has launched a campaign against colorful abayas after a number of girls were caught without the customary black outer covering mandatory in educational institutions.

Supervisors at Dammam University confirmed that the campaign against the wearing of colored abayas had begun in all their colleges. They pointed out that although colored abayas are easily available in the market, female students are required to abide by the rule of wearing black as a sign of respect to the educational environment.

Female students also said that supervisors and security employees had begun implementing the campaign since last week and that any girl found in violation of the rule would be penalized. They also said that they had been warned that all violations would be documented and filed. They were also expected to abide by the instructions which authorities say promote modesty in dress and appearance.


November:23:2014 - 09:01 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

While the need for women to work in Saudi Arabia is apparent, not all Saudis are comfortable with the idea, particularly if it involves women working outside the home or — gasp! — working with unrelated males.

Saudi Gazette reports that at least women’s working in hotels is becoming more acceptable. The broader society is no longer (or at least, not as much) jumping to conclusions about those women’s morality. Not only does this make it easier for women to take up the jobs, but hoteliers report that women make better employees, less likely to change jobs.

Stigma of Saudi women working in hotels gradually disappearing
Saudi Gazette report

AL-KHOBAR – A group of Saudi women who have been working in the hotel industry said the stigma attached to women in this field is disappearing, Al-Hayat daily reported.

Until a few years ago, women in such jobs were frowned upon by many members of society. As a result, few women worked in the hotel industry because of fears that they would find it difficult to get married as most men disapproved of marrying hotel employees, especially receptionists.

However, the past four years have seen a gradual shift in the negative views associated with hotel industry jobs, thanks to the Ministry of Labor’s laws requiring hotels to hire more women.

Foaz Al-Zahrani, director of marketing for a hotel in Dammam, said women working in the hospitality industry are viewed with more respect today as they have shown to the world they can be trustworthy and professional. “No doubt the ministry’s regulations have helped in changing the negative view on us,” Al-Zahrani said.


November:23:2014 - 08:48 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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.

Prince handed death sentence for murder

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.

Violations: Saudi Binladin denied labor services


November:20:2014 - 08:27 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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.”


November:20:2014 - 08:10 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

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.

Kingdom expands its border zone with Iraq

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.


November:19:2014 - 07:50 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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:

UNDP ranking: Saudi Arabia makes remarkable progress

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.


November:17:2014 - 07:14 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

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.


November:16:2014 - 09:08 | Comments Off | Permalink

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.


November:16:2014 - 09:01 | Comments Off | Permalink

the harder they fall.

Arab News reports that the flag flying from the world’s tallest flagpole, located in Jeddah, took a tumble in the face of a sandstorm.

flag falls_0

Sandstorm brings down flag from world’s tallest flagpole

The giant Saudi flag hoisted onto the world’s tallest flagpole was brought down by powerful winds amid a sandstorm in Jeddah on Friday afternoon.

Pictures of the flag that was ripped off the pole were posted on social media by passersby. The flagpole, however, did not seem to be damaged.

Hoisted on Sept. 23, 2014, during the country’s 84th National Day, the flag is 49.5 meters long, 33 meters wide, 1,635 square meters and weighs 570 kilograms.

The 170-meter-high flagpole is located at the 26,000-square-meter King Abdullah Square on the intersection of Andalus Road and King Abdullah Road in Jeddah.


November:15:2014 - 07:16 | Comments Off | Permalink

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.

Permanent residency for expat mothers of Saudis

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.


November:13:2014 - 08:15 | Comments Off | Permalink

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.

error attack meant to sow discord brings Saudis closer together
Fahad Nazer

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.


November:13:2014 - 07:52 | Comments Off | Permalink
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