#SG reports that the Saudi government has made possession of a government ID a requirement for women to obtain passports. The purpose is to continue the effort to give women an independent identity, separate from that of their spouses or families.
The government is also going forward with its requirement for biometric identification for both sexes for obtaining a passport and other government services.
JEDDAH — Saudi women who do not have national identity cards will no longer issued with new passports, the Directorate General of Passports announced. It also said their passports will not be renewed. The directorate asked all Saudi men and women to register their fingerprints electronically with the Interior Ministry or they will not be allowed to use its services. Director General of Passports Maj. Gen. Solaiman Al-Yahya said starting May 1, no passports will be issued or renewed for Saudi men or women if they are not fingerprinted.
The problem of female orphans lacking mahrams, male guardians, as noted earlier this week, is being addressed, Saudi Gazette reports.
Female social workers could be used as guardians of the female students studying abroad, a spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs, says. It’s not made clear who would pay for this, but I assume it would come out of the budget for the scholarship program. Here again, costs are doubled because of Saudi distrust in women and a hyper cautious concern for their moral well being. Instead of the money being spent to educate female students, it’s being spent on preserving an outdated social ethic.
Women social workers can be mahrams for orphans
Saudi Gazette report
AL-KHOBAR — The assistant deputy minister of social affairs said women social workers at the protection home could act as a mahram (a man whom the woman cannot marry) for orphaned women if they are sent abroad on scholarships.
During the first symposium of women university students at protection homes, Lateefah Abunyan said the Ministry of Social Affairs treats orphans as families in society and whatever applies to families also applies to orphans.
This comes as many orphaned women complained that they are deprived of the opportunity to be sent on scholarships abroad because they do not have mahrams to accompany them.
Abunyan added this condition is according to regulations that aim to protect women and there are many orphaned women who have traveled abroad with their families or husbands.
Being an orphan in Saudi Arabia isn’t a fun thing. Strict interpretation of the Quran leads Saudis (and other Muslims) to have very restricted views of adoption — though fostering is acceptable. Saudis also have a view that women must be accompanied by male protectors or guardians to ensure their moral and physical safety.
The two precepts clash when it comes to female orphans who would like to take part in Saudi Arabia’s foreign scholarship program. The program, you see, requires female students to be accompanied by brothers, husbands, or some other responsible male. Single, female orphans are unable to meet the requirement.
As a result, Saudi Gazette reports, these women are being forced to find someone to marry in order to carry out their studies. The Kingdom may be paying tuition, but this is a pretty high price to demand from the student. And never mind that orphans are considered poor marriage material!
Mahram rule shatters dreams of orphan girls
Saudi Gazette report
MAKKAH — Many Saudi orphan girls see no way to continue their higher studies by taking advantage of the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program due to their inability to meet the condition of mahram (male guardian). Some of them resort to marriage as the only way in front of them to overcome this hurdle.
Reacting to this issue, a senior woman official in the Ministry of Social Affairs said the ministry was exploring the prospect of allowing orphan girls to benefit from the scholarship program without a mahram, Makkah daily reported.
Muna Abdul Qader, an orphan girl, said the condition that a woman can travel only in the company of a mahram has forced several girls to get married to take advantage of the foreign scholarship program.
If Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has its way, sports, athletics and physical education will become part of the curriculum for girls, according to Arab News. The Council has recognized that a sound body is as important as a sound mind.
In its statement, though, it leaves enough conditions and qualifications that those bent on preventing the step will be able to delay it or make it prohibitively expensive for individual schools to implement. The Council could do better.
Shoura green light for girls’ physical education
JEDDAH: IRFAN MOHAMMED
The Shoura Council has approved the introduction of physical education for girls at public schools across the Kingdom.
Classes will be conducted according to Islamic principles and traditions, said sources.
The issue has been the subject of much debate, especially after some notable scholars, ruled that physical education, including swimming, was permissible as long as it was practiced in strict privacy.
The Ministry of Education had since allowed some private schools to teach sports to school girls.
The Ministry of Education will soon allow physical education classes for girls in public schools under qualified instructors, according to sources. The decision will be made after taking into account logistical issues, such as space, privacy and the availability of qualified female instructors.
When a woman sought to divorce her husband, the husband merely had to avoid going to court to evade the divorce. That will no longer be the case, Saudi Gazette reports, as a new law going into effect next week will authorize the courts to bring the husband to court — by force, if necessary.
Husbands refusing divorce to be dragged to courts
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Husbands who refuse to divorce their estranged wives will be brought to the court by force as part of new judicial rules to be effective early next week, Al-Watan reported on Tuesday quoting official judicial sources.
The sources said the new system will expedite the consideration of divorce lawsuits filed by wives against their husbands.
They said if the husbands refuse to divorce, pay alimony or give the wives custody over their children, they would be brought to the court by force. The sources said the Ministry of Justice has liaised with the Ministry of Interior to implement this system.
Saudi Gazette translates an article from the Arabic Al-Jazira daily in which the writer notes that according to Saudi Arabia’s Passport Department, there is no law or regulation that requires Saudi women to have their guardian’s permission to travel outside the country. Instead, “it’s left to the discretion of the passport officer.”
So, in addition to the ‘guardianship’ set-up where women are supposed to be represented by male relatives in certain formal situations, they also have to face self-appointed, unrelated guardians. This, the writer notes, is peculiar.
She notes, too, that while there is no law prohibiting Saudi women from driving, there are all sorts of extra-legal prohibitions on it. It is time, she says, for Saudi women to be treated like adults.
Can a Saudi woman travel without her guardian’s permission?
Rogaia Soliman Al-Huwairini | Al-Jazirah
The spokesman of the Passports Department (Jawazat) recently dropped a bombshell. He said in a recent statement that there are no written instructions which prevent Saudi women from traveling without the written consent of their male guardians. He added, moreover, that the only existing regulations are those that prevent people under 21, regardless of their nationality, from traveling abroad without the approval of their parents.
The spokesman explained that preventing Saudi women from traveling abroad is left to the discretion of the passport officer at the point of departure from the Kingdom. The officer will evaluate the woman’s appearance and age before deciding whether or not to allow her to travel. Therefore, each Saudi woman now has two male guardians: one is their normal guardian (father, husband, brother or son) and the second is the passport officer.
The Riyadh Municipality has broken ground for its metro rail system, Al Arabiya TV reports. The system, with 176km of rails, is not expected to tempt Saudis away from their cars, but it might reduce some traffic congestion. It will, assuming the lines are laid out correctly, provide transportation for low-income residents. The article does not note whether there will be train cars designated for women only, but that’s most likely to occur.
Saudi Arabia has begun construction work on its long awaited first metro rail system in the capital Riyadh.
The multi-billion project will involve six rail lines extending 176 kilometers and carrying electric, driverless trains, in what Saudi officials project to be the world’s largest public transport system.
Prince Khalid bin Bandar, the Riyadh emir, attended a groundbreaking ceremony in the capital on Thursday to mark the first day of construction work.
…Saudi Arabia awarded $22.5 billion in contracts to three foreign-led consortia for the design and construction of the system.
Saudi women are arguing for a larger role in soccer, Saudi Gazette reports. Instead of being stuck on the sidelines in positions like sports medicine, they want to be on the pitch, kicking the ball around.
There are already a few, very low key women’s football clubs, but women want more, including recognition that they, too, can be athletes. While they would love to get the kind of support men’s football does, they’d be happy if they can first just obtain the ability to participate and compete.
Eying a goal — Saudi young women dream of playing football
Saudi Gazette report
THE appointment of Arwa Mutabagani to the Board of Directors of the Saudi Equestrian Federation (SEF) has encouraged Saudi sportswomen to try and enter other sports federations in the Kingdom. One of the sports on top of the list is the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF). Experts say if women can penetrate the male-dominated body that administers the country’s club competitions and national teams, official permits to play football and setting up sports facilities for women will soon follow, Al-Madinah daily reported.
Currently, women are allowed to participate in the secondary committees of the federation such as sports medicine, ethics and information and statistics committees, but they have no presence in the primary committees of the federation. Female sports journalist Hana Allouni said the lack of a female presence in the basic committees shows that women are not familiar with the rules and regulations of football.
She also pointed out the importance of Saudi sportswomen’s presence under the General Presidency for Youth Welfare (GPYW) in affiliated committees concerned with women’s sports or Women’s Sports Administration.
The Washington Post runs a piece from the Associated Press about how artists are nudging the redlines in Saudi Arabia. Often working with quiet support from the ruling family, they comment on society and religion in ways that speak to people, even if their art ends up being banned in the Kingdom. Whether it’s the debate about preservation or modernity, the limits put upon women by social strictures, or even about how religion can be used as a trap, the artists are speaking up and out.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — When Ahmed Mater visited Mecca in 2010 something felt off. Dozens of cranes were eating away at the mosque to make way for a larger complex surrounding the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure to which observant Muslims pray toward five times a day that also draws millions of pilgrims annually from around the world.
The changes were irrevocably transforming the city’s landscape. So Mater, a practicing physician and modern artist, took pictures. He titled his project “Desert of Pharan” in a nod to Mecca’s ancient name.
The kingdom’s modern art scene has become a platform for Saudi artists to voice their frustration about the country’s most sensitive issues without coming into friction with the country’s rulers, reaching the public in new ways and allowing individual points of view in a country where dominant ultraconservative norms have long prevailed.
The 2014 Winter Olympics are over, but the 2016 Summer Olympics are just around the corner. The International Olympics Committee head is in Riyadh, working with the Presidency of Youth Welfare and reminding them that they’ve time to line up a team of female athletes. Saudi Gazette reports:
RIYADH — IOC President Thomas Bach offered his support Wednesday for increasing the participation of female athletes from Saudi Arabia in the Olympics.
Bach held talks in Riyadh with Prince Nawaf Bin Faisal Bin Fahd, President of Youth Welfare.
The International Olympic Committee said the two discussed a strategy for sports development in the Kingdom through 2020.
“President Bach promised full support for the plan, which also included proposals to increase women’s participation in the Olympic Games and in sport in general,” the IOC said in a statement.
After prolonged negotiations with the IOC, Saudi Arabia sent women to the Olympics for the first time in 2012, with two female athletes competing at the London Games.
Up until now, Saudi men facing alimony payments following divorce could — and sometimes did — just ignore the court order. There was no real mechanism to force them to do what the courts had decreed.
That’s coming to and end, Saudi Gazette reports, with a new regulation that allows for up to half of a man’s salary to be deducted from his salary. Exactly how the money will be intercepted or withdrawn is not made clear in the article, but police will now be told to arrest offenders as well. The regulation also includes enforcement of custody and child visitation rulings by the courts.
‘Alimony can be taken off from man’s salary’
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — All law enforcement departments within courts all over the country can deduct half the salary of any man who has been ordered by a court of law to pay alimony to his wife and children, Al-Riyad daily reported.
The order will be enforced and the man will have to pay even if he is deeply in debt or has loans to pay off, said Sheikh Khalid Al-Dawood, director of the Law Enforcement Department at the Ministry of Justice.
Alimony orders are subject to immediate enforcement and are always given priority over other orders because divorced wives and their children might suffer if they are not implemented quickly, he added.
Court orders regarding child custody and visitation are effective immediately as well and sometimes the ministry’s officials use the help of the police to implement them, Al-Dawood said.
Saudi Gazette reports on two moves being taken by the Saudi government to find new jobs for women. One excludes men from jobs they could previously hold; the second opens a door for women into jobs in which they’d been previously unwelcomed.
As it had earlier with lingerie shops, the Saudi government is going to be phasing men out of the selling of cosmetics, perfumes, shoes, and other accessories, including maternity wear. Sales jobs, held primarily by male foreign workers, are now going to be reserved for women.
No men to sell perfumes, cosmetics to female customers
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH – The Ministry of Labor started on Sunday the implementation of the third phase of the feminization of shops selling women’s accessories.
This phase includes shops selling female perfumes, Jalabiyas (traditional dresses), bags, shoes, socks, clothes and fabrics for women as well as shops selling mother-care products (baby stuff are excluded), and pharmacies in malls selling beauty products and accessories.
By October 2016, the ministry plans to achieve its goal to employ women in all stores selling women’s accessories.
The government is also going to allow women into the profession of paramedicine, permitting them to work in emergency medical services and ambulance care. Given both that Saudi society frowns upon members of the one sex dealing with the bodies of those of the other sex and that women are just as likely to need emergency medical care, this makes excellent sense. Special training will be given to nurses and other medical specialists to bring them up to professional standards.
KSA to appoint 100 women as paramedics
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH – Saudi Arabia will appoint 100 Saudi females as the first batch of paramedics by the end of this year, according to Al-Riyadh newspaper on Sunday.
The new paramedics who are receiving training will be assigned to locations restricted to men. This move comes with several deaths that occurred because male paramedics could not freely enter the accident scenes such as schools for girls. In Riyadh, a university student died recently because the guards delayed the entry of male paramedics to the campus.
The batch comprises female nurses and other specialists will get emergency medicine diploma before starting their work, General Director of Women Section and the Red Crescent Dr Muneera Al-Mazro told the newspaper. “We have 3,000 volunteers who will join the program in the future,” she said.
Meanwhile, Arab News reports, there’s a move to have Saudi women appointed to cabinet-level jobs, too. According to the story, Hannan Al-Ahmedi, a female member of the Shoura Council, says women have shown their competence. It’s time for the government to show its support: