Arab News reports that seven Saudi students have won eight medals at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The competition is among high school students. Saudi success is a good sign that long-needed changes in education are starting to take effect, at least at some schools. It is noteworthy, too, to point out the success of female students.

Saudi students win 8 medals at world event

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia achieved yet another accolade in scientific research at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF-2015) in Pittsburgh, US.

As many as 1,700 students from 75 countries around the world took part in the event. The KSA team won eight awards in various research areas. Abdul Jabbar Al-Hamoud from the Eastern Province won the first place in the field of botany, while two girl students — Rafal Bouqis and Ranad Bouqis — from the Makkah region won the fourth place in molecular and cellular biology.

Abdul Aziz Al Shahrani of Asir education also stood fourth in the field of medical science, while Lulua Ziyad Al-Shiha from Riyadh won the fourth place in botany.

Another Saudi, Noura Alfdag from Eastern Province secured the fourth slot in mathematics.

A special award was given to Maria Al-Kurdi from Riyadh in chemistry. Al-Hamoud was also adjudged best among the top five winners in botany, and also won a special award qualifying him to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden.

A complete list of award winners and the titles of their projects can be found at the link below. Talk about making one feel like a slacker!

Intel ISEF 2015 Grand Award winners

May:20:2015 - 11:00 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia will conduct its next municipal elections on December 12, Arab News reports. The Municipal Election Committee has also established a timetable for voter and candidate registration. These elections — which are the first to include women as both voters and candidates (if any) — will permit 12 days for campaigning.

Civic poll on Dec. 12

JEDDAH: The third municipal election, which will see for the first time women participating as voters and candidates, will be held between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Dec. 12. The results will be out the following day.

“The Municipal Election Committee has set a timeframe for the polls, including the timings for registration of voters and candidates,” said Jedaie bin Nahar Al-Qahtani, spokesman of the election panel.

The whole election process, including campaign, would take three months. Registration of voters will be done between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. from Aug. 22 to Sept. 14, he said Registration of candidates will be from Aug. 30 to Sept. 17, the spokesman said.

May:18:2015 - 09:55 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia has no minimum age at which a woman can marry. Many Saudis think this needs correction, that minors need to be protected, and that the country does need to specify a minimum age for marriage.

Saudi Gazette, reprinting an AFP story, reports that Spain — the European country that used to have the lowest age — is raising the minimum from 14 years to 16. That is roughly the target Saudis are seeking. By showing that the world is closing in on a range of ages, the paper is encouraging the government to follow along.

Spain to raise marriage age from 14 to 16

MADRID — Spain is moving to raise the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 16 in a bid to boost protection of minors and bring the country in line with its European Union neighbors. The legislation was approved by the lower house of Parliament last month and was sent to the Senate on Friday for debate and likely approval over the coming months. Spanish law allows boys and girls to marry at 14 with permission from a judge. Without such consent, they must wait until they are 18. Spain has one of Europe’s lowest minimum ages for marriage in the EU, with most members setting it at 16.

May:09:2015 - 06:07 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Watan pointing out that Saudi actresses, faced with a dearth of acting opportunities in the Kingdom, are finding ways to perform. Some travel to other countries to take up their careers. Increasingly, they’re also turning to YouTube as a showcase for their performances.

The article goes on to note that tribal politics are being raised as a way to denigrate the women’s choices. Apparently, the daughters of the mighty tribes don’t do that sort of thing. Or so they say.

Why are some Saudi actresses appearing on YouTube?
Abdulmajeed Al-Zahrani | Al-Watan

Lujain Omran, the Saudi host of “Good Morning Arabs,” recently talked about an unusual subject. The rising star focused on Saudi actresses who have resorted to YouTube to showcase their skills. The report focused exclusively on these Saudi women.

Of course, Saudi and Gulf TV shows have recently featured Saudi women who have taken up acting as a profession. Some of the actresses mentioned in the report included Maryam Al-Ghamdi, Nirmeen Mohsin, Marwa Muhammad and Aseel Omran to mention but a few. But the strange thing is the appearance of many young Saudi women on YouTube.

May:09:2015 - 06:01 | Comments Off | Permalink

The apparent Saudi allergy to holding menial, blue-collar jobs has several sources, a piece in Arab News reports. And it starts from the fact that Saudi children aren’t expected to do chores around the home, leaving them instead to cheap expat workers. From that, disdain toward manual labor grows until it’s seen as simply beneath one’s dignity, is an impediment to marriage, and leads to a cycle of disrespect from employers. Government efforts to change attitudes and to make blue-collar work more appealing are in place, but not yet successful on a large scale. Attitudes toward manual labor are shared across the gender divide.

Why young Saudis turn down blue-collar jobs
RIYADH: Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr.

Despite the “Jobs on Air” television program’s success in looking for employment opportunities, many young Saudis refuse to accept blue-collar jobs.

“Based on a survey, there are at least five reasons why young Saudi males turn down menial jobs,” said Mohsin Shaikh Al-Hassan, program host. The program — which has found at least 8,500 jobs for young Saudi males and females since it went on air four months ago — is broadcast on Al Danah television channel from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. every Tuesday.

Al-Hassan said that one reason why young Saudis refuse to accept menial jobs is because of the family. “Saudi families did not train their children while small to do chores at home. They provided everything the child needed. That’s why children don’t want to accept menial jobs when they grow up,” he said.

April:26:2015 - 06:44 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

The Saudi government is facing a conundrum when dealing with temporary marriages (Nikah Misyar, for Sunni Muslims). While there are multiple fatwas authorizing such marriages as permitted under Shariah law, it is against Saudi Arabia’s public policy. The government acts to discourage it — as with this article from Saudi Gazette — but appears to be unable or unwilling to directly counter religious statements. Whether moral suasion overcomes biological drives and convenience, with a religious blessing, will be an interesting thing to watch.

Grappling with the surge in temporary marriages
Saudi Gazette report

THE Saudi Charitable Society for the Welfare of Saudi Families Abroad (Awaser) has warned Saudi citizens against engaging in any temporary marriage contracts abroad.

Speaking to Al-Riyadh newspaper, Tawfiq Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem, chairman of the board of directors, said the society works with the ministries of social affairs and foreign affairs as well as Saudi missions abroad to crack down on Saudis who enter temporary marriages.

“There should be legislation and extensive media coverage of such marriages arranged by brokers outside the country. Saudi men should realize the consequences of these marriages.

Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, these types of marriages have spread and are out of control. They have been called tourist, summer and common-law marriages and they all have one common thing: they’re temporary and the disengagement ends with a divorce,” Al-Suwailem said.

April:18:2015 - 11:22 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz badly report a vote in Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council. The headline says that the Council voted against the appointment of women as ambassadors. Actually, the Council said that the nomination of ambassadors was outside its competence: it is up to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not the Council to make such nominations and appointments. It was within the Council’s remit, however, to deny Saudi diplomats a pay raise.

Shoura rejects women ambassadors

RIYADH – The Shoura Council on Tuesday rejected a proposal to appoint women in the post of ambassadors.

The foreign affairs committee at the council turned down the recommendation moved by a member Lubna Al-Ansari in this regard. She proposed that women shall be appointed in key positions in the Kingdom’s administrative, financial and technical fields as well as in diplomatic missions abroad.

The committee report noted that it is a policy matter that can be decided by the higher authorities. It also drew attention to the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs enjoys jurisdiction to appoint women in key positions, including that of ambassador, and it will make appointments in key positions after taking into account of the qualifications and capabilities of the officials. The council also rejected another proposal to increase salary of diplomats and other officials working at Saudi missions abroad. — Okaz/Saudi Gazette

April:08:2015 - 08:21 | Comments Off | Permalink

Following a change in law created family courts and that granted divorced women rights of guardianship over their children, among other things, the courts have been flooded with cases. Saudi Gazette reports that 84,000 cases have been filed in the seven months since the courts were established. Disputes over alimony and child custody seem to make up the largest number of cases.

Family courts looking into 84,000 alimony and custody lawsuits
Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Nearly 84,000 lawsuits concerning alimony and child custody have been filed since family courts were established in the Kingdom about seven months ago, the Justice Ministry announced.

It said 43,000 of these cases pertained to alimony claims and 41,000 were regarding child custody disputes between parents.

Riyadh, with 1,122 cases, topped all other cities in alimony lawsuits followed by Jeddah, which had 768 cases and then Makkah with 394 cases.
Riyadh also topped other cities in child custody cases with 1,046, followed by Jeddah’s 764 cases and Makkah with 473 cases.

A source at the Jeddah Family Affairs Court said most family lawsuits involved men who refused to pay alimony to their ex-wives or prevented them from visiting their children.

March:24:2015 - 08:39 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

In many conservative Muslim states, men do not talk to women other than their relatives. They may not even shake hands with them. Foreign male diplomats are taught to wait to see if a woman extends her hand for a shake before extending their own. Female diplomats are taught to not even bother if the interlocutor is male.

Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Riyadh in which the writer — a Saudi woman — points out to the patent unfairness and illegality of the way government officials (and others) refuse to deal directly with women, insisting that only males enter their offices (or office buildings). Some refuse to speak with women even on the phone. Or how some doctors will speak only to males in discussing medical concerns of patients… even if the woman is the patient.

It’s truly a backward approach to life and one the Saudis are going to have to come to terms with if they’re not going to continue leaving themselves open to complaints and criticisms like those made by the Swedish Foreign Minister.

‘Sorry, I don’t talk to women’
Dr. Hatoon Ajwad Al-Fassi | Al-Riyadh

I added the word “sorry” to the title of this article even though government officials do not normally bother to use this word. I have previously written regarding how women are not allowed to enter government buildings and are forced to stand outside on the street. I now intend to discuss how government officials treat women once they manage to enter government offices.

I know of a woman who went to a hospital with her husband. The hospital’s management subsequently asked her to leave because women are not allowed to stay the night with their husbands. Only male family members can do so. This woman asked the consultant to keep her posted on her husband’s health. He, however, refused to speak to her in person or over the phone, and said he would only talk with male family members. He insisted on dealing with her like this even though what he was doing was against the rights of patients.

Another example is that of a mother who called her son’s school to ask how well he was doing. The teacher refused to talk to her and said he would only to talk to the child’s father. What if this woman were widowed or divorced?

March:20:2015 - 09:48 | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Saudi businesswomen are finding a place in Riyadh, with over 72,000 of them owning their own companies.

72,494 women-owned businesses in Riyadh
Hazim Al-Mutairi | Okaz/Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — According to the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the number of registered businesses owned by women in the city reached 72,494.

The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Women’s Committee, the British Embassy and the British Cultural Council organized the Women and Entrepreneurship Forum where foreign embassies and other committees at the chamber engaged in dialogue on the future and opportunities of women businesses in Riyadh.

March:19:2015 - 08:58 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News reports that Saudis are getting married at a slower rate and older ages. While the article focuses on women, it notes that men, too, are delaying marriage until they can afford it. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but there’s concern that this delay may affect the reproduction rate as women pass their most fertile years.

Poor job prospects and unemployment, coupled with the grotesque costs involved in marriage ceremonies are cited as major causes for the delays.

Number of unmarried women sharply rising, say experts

As delaying the age of marriage for both young men and women in the Kingdom has become more common, experts say the number of unmarried women has increased in recent years.

The number has grown 15 times in comparison to 1995, according to official statistics. The Kingdom is thus in second place among countries in which the percentage of single people has increased over the past two decades.

Delaying the age of marriage and the growing number of single women are undoubtedly closely linked, experts say. While many young people choose to delay marriage until they are socially and psychologically ready, many women find themselves in situations where their chances of marriage have significantly narrowed.

Among the several reasons that lead to a delay in marriage are the higher costs of living and greater financial responsibilities, says economist Dr. Salem Bajajah. Many young men are unable to afford property and meet household costs and so choose to work longer and accumulate more money.

March:15:2015 - 17:55 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News reports that Saudi society is starting to look at names, naming, and the way some parents take out their emotions through giving their children obnoxious names. While it often seems that Saudis are working from a limited list of names — so few names show up so often — there are actually many. Some are family names; others come from various periods of Islamic history. But some are given to children because they’re born the wrong sex (i.e., female) or because their fathers, who are usually responsible for naming, are acting out some personal drama.

The article says that the Saudi government is seeking to make it easy for people to change awkward or embarrassing names or those that would leave them open to mockery and ridicule.

Naming babies under scrutiny

The names of newborns in Saudi Arabia has changed greatly in recent years due to increased cultural openness and the spread of knowledge within society. Unusual or rare names have been reduced due to the work of authorities across the Kingdom who have enacted regulations to curb exotic or strange names.

The most circulated names in the Kingdom include Mohammad, Fahd, Abdullah, Abdulrahman, Turki, Bandar, Omar, Ali, Fatima, Aisha, Nora, Hessa, Sheikha, and Maha.

Parents are no longer calling their children a variety of odd names, including Rashash (a gun machine), Zaqam (to do with the mouth) and Najar for boys, as well as Faziah (one who is afraid) and Mureibah (fearful) for girls.

Nowadays parents can find dictionaries for names in most bookshops and libraries in order to help them choose good names that suit their preferences.

March:13:2015 - 08:48 | Comments Off | Permalink
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