Archaeogenetics is the attempt to trace ancient genealogical information through the use of genetic material. This is done through comparing either the entire genetic make-up of individuals or, more commonly, the genes they receive specifically from their fathers or mothers. Arab News reports that a new study conducted in Saudi Arabia traces Saudi origins to East Africa, with the most-recent common ancestor leaving there some 150-170K years ago, based on the testing of mitochondrial DNA, that is, following the line of mothers.
In itself, this does not much but to confirm an ‘Out of Africa’ descent. That is not surprising. The genetic mapping, though, is useful for follow-on studies into particular combinations of genes and their potential effects on the health of both individuals and the population.
Results of study on Saudi genetic features released
Riyadh: Md Rasooldeen
King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC) announced in a statement on Sunday the details of the first Saudi human genome study on a section of the local population.
“This project aims to discover the Saudi genome characteristics and features compared to other ethnic groups,” said Dr. Bandar Al-Knawy, CEO of the National Guard Health Affairs (NGHA).
He revealed that the Saudi genome project is the first genomic map for Arabs in the Middle East and the Islamic world. The project was executed at the medical genomics research department in KAIMRC, and was operated by a research team consisting of scientists, medical technologists and clinicians. Al-Knawy described the medical genomics research laboratories at KAIMRC as one of the most distinguished genome centers in the Kingdom, containing state-of-the-art technology.
The official explained that the genome mapping gives accurate features for genetics information.
The project revealed that Saudis have more than 1.7 million genetics flag (SNP) not reported before. In addition, the mitochondrial genome showed that Saudis belong to L0a group. This group belongs to the old tribes who lived 150-170,000 years ago. The mitochondrial genome was deposited in the national center for biotechnology information.
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.
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.
Hugging, apparently, is an ‘exotic practice’ in Saudi Arabia. A practice that can get one arrested, if done in public and with unrelated people. Al Arabiya TV reports that three men were arrested in Riyadh and Madinah by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for offering free hugs to passersby, as part of the international Free Hugs Campaign.
Given Saudi social mores, I can’t say I’m surprised….
boy was arrested in Saudi Arabia on Friday after taking part in the “Free Hugs” campaign that has seen some Saudi men take to the streets to offer up a hug to passers-by.
Arrested in the city of Madina, the boy, who was identified as a minor by the police, was holding a banner inscribed with the slogan “Free hugs” and was allegedly offering hugs to people near a local hospital.
Police told Al-Hayat daily newspaper that another man promoting the campaign evaded arrest.
Also, two men were arrested in Riyadh on Thursday for offering free hugs to passers-by in the capital.
Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrested the two men in Riyadh for violating local laws and engaging in “exotic practices,” al-Hayat newspaper reported. They were asked to sign a pledge that they would not partake in the campaign again, according to the newspaper.
According to Saudi Gazette, Saudi government workers are a bunch of slackers. Leaving work early, excessive breaks, unauthorized absences… they just don’t seem to like sitting behind their desks.
The reasons are many, the article states. Low salaries, lack of incentives, lack of supervision and lack of punishment are all recognized. Then, too, there is the need for male workers (and nearly all government employees are male) to take time off to drive the women and children in their families around for things like doctor’s appointments, shopping, and all the other things that must be done but that women cannot do because of the ban on their driving.
69 percent of govt workers are absent sans excuse
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — There is an increase in the number of government workers leaving work before they complete their contracted working hours, according to a study.
Workers sometimes leave early or take breaks of up to three hours, according to a study conducted by the Institute of Public Administration (IPA).
In the survey of 182 government institutions, 69 percent of workers have gone absent from work without a valid excuse.
The study also showed that 59 percent of workers leave work before they complete their working hours.
According to the research, 68 percent of workers regularly take three-hour breaks.
Saudi Arabia is a country of night owls. Largely due to the intense heat that prevails during daylight hours, Saudis have time-shifted their lives. Things close down during the hottest part of the day only to re-open as the sun starts to set. It is after dark that most social activity — and a large amount of economic activity — take place. Keeping shops open to midnight or beyond certainly provides convenience for the late-nighters, but it comes at a cost. Young Saudis, particularly women, just aren’t interested in jobs that keep them working long into the night.
The Ministry of Labor is considering new regulations that would close retail establishments no later than 9 PM, Saudi Gazette reports. Whether Saudis would accept a reduction in their nighttime entertainment — and shopping is very much an entertainment in the Kingdom — is another matter. It’s all well and good for those Saudis who would prefer to work reasonable hours, but perhaps not so good for those who find nighttime the only time they can do their shopping.
An argument could certainly be made that air conditioning has made the traditional daily patterns obsolete. But getting society to shift its activities for purely functional reasons may be a hard sell.
Close shops by 9 p.m. – Study recommends
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH – The Ministry of Labor has forwarded to higher authorities a study that recommended closing retail shops by 9:00 p.m. A decision to this effect is expected to be issued soon, Mansour Al-Shethri, chairman of the trustee board of Riyadh Center for Small- and Medium-scale Business Development was quoted as saying by the Arabic language daily Al-Riyadh on Sunday.
The study has recommended that shops should remain open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. with prayer breaks in between. Al-Shethri, who is also a member of the board of directors of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), said the early closure of shops will help attract Saudi youths to open and run retail outlets.
The majority of small- and medium-scale businesses are retailers with expatriate workers controlling the jobs in this sector. In Riyadh alone, there are over 35,000 retail shops, making it the city with the largest number of retailers all over the Kingdom. Riyadh also registered the highest percentage of the increase in the number of retailers on an annual basis at 16% while in advanced countries the number of retailers increases by only 2% per annum.
Arab News reports that Rajaa Al-Sanea, author of Girls of Riyadh, has been honored by the University of Illinois, where she is an assistant professor, for her work in stem cell research and neurology. Being a successful author as well as a successful scientist is no mean accomplishment.
‘Girls of Riyadh’ author honored in US for stem cell research
JEDDAH: ROB L. WAGNER
Rajaa Al-Sanea, the Saudi author of “Girls of Riyadh,” or “Banat Al-Riyadh,” which sparked controversy in 2005 for its frank depiction of Saudi women’s lives, has been honored for her research in stem cell science in the US.
Al-Sanea, 31, is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. The university honored her last week for significant achievements. She received the award for distinctive research in stem cells and her work in neurology. The university also recognized her literary efforts, singling out “Girls of Riyadh,” which had sold 3 million copies and was translated into 40 languages.
Young Saudi men and women are having a go at each other, Saudi Gazette reports, and the battlefield is Twitter.
According to the report, young Saudis are taking to Twitter to hash out social issues like polygamy and women’s driving. The tone of the arguments — they can’t really be called debates — is seen as generally low. Insulting others seems to score as many ‘points’ as rational argument. Given the level of profundity transmissible in 144 characters, this does not surprise me.
A # mini-battlefield between Saudi Women & men
Shahd Alhamdan | Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Saudi men and women are using Twitter as a battlefield ground to attack each other through hashtags (the symbol #) Saudi men are usually described as infidels and control freaks when it comes to their wives while men accuse women of being too demanding and spend a lot of money on shopping.
By creating hashtags such as “how to marry another woman” and “polygamy” some men express their opinions of how to punish a woman by marrying a second wife from a different nationality for example. While many women in some of these hashtags encourage Saudi single women of marrying from another nationality where men are more sensitive to their wives’ feelings and treat them nicely.
Saudi Gazette interviewed several women and men to understand their point of view on this mini Twitter war.
Saudi traditions do not support the idea of women working outside the home. Traditions — and social approval — however, run into a wall when it comes to the fact that many Saudi women must support themselves and their families. Whether due to a husband’s death, a divorce, or being orphaned, women in Saudi Arabia must find a way to earn an income.
Arab News reports that women, when faced with necessity, are willing to go against the cultural rules. Rather than complying with society’s ‘rule-makers’, they will find a way to feed themselves and their children. This is not surprising. What is surprising is that Saudi society still frowns upon women accepting responsibility for their lives.
Saudi women break taboos with unconventional jobs
JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS
Financial hardship and social circumstances have forced many Saudi women to accept jobs that they would have rejected in the past for traditional reasons.
“After my divorce, I stayed at my parent’s house with my five children,” said Um Nawal, a 30-year-old divorced mother. Her father told her to give up her children if she wanted to live in the family house.
“I refused, left the house and rented a place of my own. A friend told me about a job as a saleswoman at a women’s shop,” she said.
Um Nawal said, “I really needed income for my children to live a decent life. I accepted, but was embarrassed at first. I have since become the director of the branch.”
An interesting article in Saudi Gazette. The writer, Somayya Jabarti, interviews three Saudi women who drive, not as part of some campaign, but as a matter of daily life. The women note that it is a matter of necessity for them to drive, not a political statement. Not all Saudis can afford to hire expat drivers. Even with a driver, a family’s needs can go far beyond what one mortal being can accomplish. The women are not out there ‘looking for action’, but to meet the daily requirements of their families.
‘Let all of us put our faith and confidence in Allah and drive’
Somayya Jabarti | Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — The Saudi Twittersphere was abuzz yesterday, the climactic moment of the October 26th women’s driving campaign, but offline the city streets’ tempo was almost like any other Saturday morning — business as usual. Almost.
While there was one uploaded video on YouTube of a Saudi woman openly driving in Riyadh yesterday, other women here stated they were on the streets and behind the wheel on this day like any other day.
Three of these women spoke to and shared proof of their driving with Saudi Gazette on the condition that their names are withheld in response to the wishes of their families and spouses. Their aim for coming forward was to serve the cause and only the cause: that women are able and keen to drive in the Kingdom.
On the issue of women’s driving, one group has come up with a reason why they should not: taxi drivers. They see, correctly, that if women are permitted to drive, the demand for taxis will fall precipitously. That reason, however, is not sufficient. Life does not guarantee anyone the job he wants. The income of several thousand taxi drivers does not balance the needs of millions of Saudi women.
Agence France Presse, in addition to Saudi media, are all reporting that Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior is slamming on the brakes when it comes to the activities planned today to support the right of Saudi women to drive in the Kingdom. The Ministry, it is reported, has even called individual activists to warn them that the full weight of the law will be applied to them.
Which raises an interesting question… Which law? There are no actual laws on the books that prohibit women from driving. Religious authorities say there is no Quranic prohibition. So just which law is it that women drivers would be violating? The Ministry comes up with vague statements about ‘causing social discord’. If that were a law universally applied in Saudi Arabia, the country would be paralyzed.
Saudi Arabia was braced for possible protests Saturday after women activists declared an “open driving campaign” against the deeply conservative kingdom’s ban on women behind the wheel.
Activists had originally planned a “drive-in” Saturday but cancelled it after threats of legal action, instead declaring an open-ended campaign in the only country that forbids women from driving.
“Out of caution and respect for the interior ministry’s warnings… we are asking women not to drive tomorrow and to change the initiative from an October 26 campaign to an open driving campaign,” activist Najla al-Hariri told AFP Friday.
Several women said they had received telephone calls from the ministry, which warned of measures against activists who chose to participate and asked them to promise not to drive on Saturday.
“It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support” of this cause, ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told AFP
CNN International is reporting that some women are choosing to ignore the Ministry’s admonitions:
UPDATE: The New York Times reports that some Saudi women went ahead with their protest, getting behind the wheel and driving. Some also made videos of it. No arrests or detentions are reported.
UPDATE: According to Al-Jazeera TV (via Yahoo.com’s Maktoob portal), some 60 women across the country took part in the effort. It reports there were no arrests made.
On of the arguments made in Saudi Arabia against women’s driving is that it would leave the women vulnerable to harassment. That’s likely true.
The problem, however, lies not with the victims of harassment, but with the perpetrators. Saudi males that cannot give unrelated women the same level of respect that they are to give their mothers and sisters are the problem, not the women they annoy. Saudi males do harass women, exemplified in the story running in all the Saudi papers to day about a group of men caught on video — which was promptly posted on YouTube — harassing a group of women at a mall in Dhahran.
Dhahran harassment incident sparks outrage
Jeddah/Dhahran: Abdullah Al-Bargi & Saeed Al-Asmar
A group of young women were repeatedly harassed Tuesday by men at a Dhahran mall, triggering an angry wave of reaction across the country against it.
The two-minute video shows a group of five young women wearing black abayas and headscarves being harassed by a countless number of young men at the Mall of Dhahran.
The men were making funny moves at their victims and verbally abusing them during the terrifying and intimidating chase to the parking lot of the mall. One woman tried to fight back by kicking one of her attackers after he had grabbed her hands in an attempt to hold her tight.
An op-ed piece in Arab News points the finger of blame accurately: on the miscreants who seem to believe that women are fair game, as in targets for their hunts: