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…
A Saudi imam is among those visiting Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, as part of a Holocaust Awareness program, Arab News reports. I wish it could have been a few hundred. Holocaust denial is a problem among Saudis; they simply don’t believe it happened and are willing to accept any ‘proof’ that it didn’t no matter how bad or biased the source. Having clerics visit the site — as well as the various museums that describe Jewish life in Poland before the Nazi conquest and implementation of labor and death camps — would certainly help to open their eyes to a bit of history they might politically prefer not to know.
Interfaith harmony: Imams to visit Auschwitz
WARSAW: ARAB NEWS
A Saudi preacher is among 14 Muslim scholars from across the globe who will visit the former Nazi Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland next week as part of a Holocaust awareness and anti-genocide program, organizers said yesterday.
“This is an opportunity for imams who are influential in their communities to look at the Holocaust first hand and to go to Auschwitz, to see what that kind of hatred led to,” Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told AFP yesterday.
“It’s to make sure that civilization doesn’t fail again.”
Other visiting imams are from Bosnia, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Turkey and the US. They will also visit a new museum in the Polish capital Warsaw focusing on centuries of Jewish life before the Holocaust, John C. Taylor from the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom told AFP.
Arab News reports that another case of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) has been identified in the Eastern Province city of Al-Ahsa. This brings the worldwide number of victims to 40, 20 of whom have died of it.
JEDDAH: Another case of novel coronavirus infection in the eastern part of the kingdom was confirmed by the Ministry of Health on Saturday.
“One case of coronavirus has been recorded in the Eastern region, and he is now under the medical health care receiving the proper treatment,” the MOH said in a brief statement posted on its website.
The new discovery brings to 31 the total number of coronavirus infections in the Kingdom, mostly in the eastern town of Al-Ahsa, since the SARS-like virus first emerged in September 2012.
Known as novel coronavirus, or nCoV, the new virus is from the same family as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in Asia in 2003.
Most of the infections were in Al-Ahsa and a few were reported in Jeddah and Riyadh, said the MOH.
Saudi Gazette reports that while the Saudi Ministry of Health is, of course, concerned, it believes it is on top of the situation and does not see the need to close schools.
Al Arabiya TV runs a Reuters report on computer attacks aimed at networks operated by the government of Saudi Arabia. The attack described appears to be a DoS — Denial-of-Service attack. In this, foreign computers constantly attempt to connect with the network, flooding its ability to respond and essentially locking up the network.
The article declines to identify the attackers. I think we can safely assume that it is not the Chinese government as China is a major importer of Saudi oil. On the other hand, hackers in Syria have been very active of late, attacking The Financial Times in the UK as well as the Associated Press. I think that in the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, this is a very likely source of the attack. Not proved, of course, just very likely.
Saudi Arabia says hackers sabotage government websites
Reuters, Riyadh -
Several government websites in Saudi Arabia were sabotaged in a series of heavy cyber-attacks from abroad in recent days, disabling them briefly until the attacks were repelled, the government said.
An investigation traced the “coordinated and simultaneous attacks” to hundreds of Internet protocol addresses in a number of countries, an unnamed source at the Saudi Interior Ministry told state news agency SPA.
The interior ministry website crashed on Wednesday after it received a “huge amount” of service requests, but was back online less than two hours later after the “necessary technical drills” were performed to counter the attack, the source said.
The report made no mention of a possible motive.
Arab News runs a Reuters story reporting on an observation by the World Health Organization that the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) now found in Saudi Arabia is capable of infecting health care workers. As there is no vaccine, this means that special steps toward prophylaxis will be required to preserve the health of those workers, the front line of medical care.
WHO: 2 Al-Ahsa health workers among coronavirus patients
Kate Kelland | Reuters
LONDON: Two health workers in Saudi Arabia have become infected with a potentially fatal new SARS-like virus after catching it from patients in their care — the first evidence of such transmission within a hospital, the World Health Organization said.
The new virus, known as novel coronavirus, or nCoV, is from the same family of viruses as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in Asia in 2003.
“This is the first time health care workers have been diagnosed with (novel coronavirus) infection after exposure to patients,” the Geneva-based UN health agency said in a disease outbreak update late on Wednesday.
The health workers are a 45-year-old man, who became ill on May 2 and is currently in a critical condition, and a 43-year-old woman with a coexisting health condition, who fell ill on May 8 and is in a stable condition, the WHO said.
France has also reported a likely case of transmission within a hospital, but this was from one patient to another patient who shared the same room for two days.
‘Islamist’ is a term used as a shorthand way of referring to Muslim extremists. The term never really had a great deal of accuracy, but now it has even less. Writing at Al Arabiya, Adbulrahman al-Rashed points to the difficulties Islamist groups and governments are having with other Islamist groups. If the one is to be called ‘extremist’, then the other must be ‘extreme extremist’.
The situation has come about in both Tunisia and Egypt where the perennial “I’m more Muslim than you!” campaigns are in full throat. Governments are discovering that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing and as a result are cracking down on groups they view as taking things too far, into the realm of terrorism. How they behave will have an effect on how willing other governments — including Saudi Arabia’s — will be to give them financial or political support.
Islamists vs. Islamists in the Arab world
“If you are fools, try stopping us,” is the title of a campaign led by an extremist Islamist group in Tunisia. By fools, the group is referring to the Islamic Ennahda party and its government.
The paradox is that Ennahda Islamists doubted the presence of terrorist groups. They condemn the prevention of preaching campaigns and charity activities under the excuse that they are Islamic acts. But history repeats itself. The Islamist Ennahda government is currently the one setting the prohibitions.
What is prohibited today is the Ansar al-Sharia group. Its members are being deterred with the removal of tents that were set up for spreading their religious campaigns and distributing the Salafi movement’s leaflets.
The interior ministry has prohibited “all organizations, people or political parties from carrying out preaching activities in public places without a having a prior permit.”
Ansar al-Sharia described Ennahda leaders, like Sheikh Ghanouchi, as “tyrants dressed with the guise of Islam.” The group also warningly said: “[We] remind you that our youths who displayed heroism in defending Islam in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq, Somalia and the Levant will never hesitate to make sacrifices for the sake of their religion in the land of Kairouan in Tunisia.”
Rather than the price of oil rising unrelentingly on the back of shrinking supplies, the discovery and exploitation of new oil sources in the US and elsewhere is having quite another effect. The BBC reports that this new oil will shift the balance of power around the world.
A steeper-than-expected rise in US shale oil reserves is about to change the global balance of power between new and existing producers, a report says.
Over the next five years, the US will account for a third of new oil supplies, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The US will change from the world’s leading importer of oil to a net exporter.
Demand for oil from Middle-East oil producers is set to slow as a result.
Saudi ARAMCO takes a somewhat more sanguine view, as reported in Al Arabiya. I think this is correct, too, at least for Saudi Arabia. Over the past decade, Saudi oil markets have shifted more toward China and the rest of Asia, areas that are undergoing explosive growth and rising demand. The Saudis, though, may find themselves in fiercer competition with other states that will now become oil-exporters rather than importers. I think this will affect the OPEC ‘hawks’, those that argue for — and structurally depend on — high oil prices.
Of course, even the new producers and exporters are going to want certain prices. They will need them, actually, because ‘fracking’ and other new technologies aren’t cheap and will never meet the current low lifting prices found in the Arab Gulf States. Saudi Arabia will likely do well simply through its own economic factors, though perhaps not as well as in a world of scarce oil supplies.
Saudi Arabia embraces U.S. shale production
Al Arabiya -
Saudi Arabia welcomes and encourages U.S. shale production rates, chief executive of Saudi Aramco told the Financial Times.
Khalid al-Falih, head of the kingdom’s national oil company, said the production revolution will reassure consumers about the reliability of oil supplies, and help ease fears about excessive reliance on the Middle East, reported the newspaper.
“Oil is going to be the fuel of choice, in terms of its overall performance, for an extended period of time, and we need to manage it, we need to invest in it,” said al-Falih.
According to the Financial Times, the shale oil boom has raised U.S. crude production by almost 50 percent since 2008, but Saudi Aramco –the holder of the world’s largest conventional oil reserves—believes that the U.S. production will not take away its market in the long term.
The horrific case of the family of a young man paralyzed in the course of a crime calling for his assailant to be equally paralyzed as a matter of justice has been resolved through the payment of SR 1 million in diyya, “blood money”. Saudi Gazette reports that a Saudi philanthropist has raised the funds demanded by the family and that the assailant will be released after having spent 10 years in jail for his crime.
Man facing eye-for-an-eye punishment to be freed soon
Saudi Gazette report
AL-AHSA — In a few days, Ali Al-Khwahir, a young man who spent 10 years in prison after stabbing his friend and paralyzing him, will be freed now that the SR1 million blood money has been paid to the victim thanks to philanthropists in Al-Ahsa.
Al-Khwahir’s act deprived Muhammad Al-Hazeem of mobility and the ability to have children. The blood money was paid in full to the victim after a group of philanthropists and businessmen in Al-Ahsa governorate came up with the amount.
Al-Khwahir’s mother has never stopped praying to Allah that her son will be released from prison. She did not know whether to be happy or cry after she learned that her son would be released very soon. She thanked Al-Hayat daily for publishing her son’s story.
Al-Hayat met Al-Khwahir inside the prison. He said: “I am born again. All this time in prison I’ve spent has been marked with hope sometimes and too much fear at other times. I told myself I would accept any fate Allah ordains.” He is planning to complete his college education despite the difficulties facing him as a person with a criminal record.
It might be called ‘organic’ in its development. Another term might be ‘chaotic’. In any event, the rules and regulations pertaining to government operations and maintenance in Saudi Arabia are not at present organized or unified. Each government ministry and department has created its own rules about how it is to operate. The result has been less than satisfactory.
Now, Saudi Gazette reports, there’re discussions about how to get all the parts moving in consonant order. One recommendation seems to be moving toward the creation of a Saudi version of the American General Services Administration (GSA), a unitary government bureau that standardizes and oversees all operations and contracts dealing with government infrastructure.
Unified operation and maintenance contract for govt bodies compulsory
Fatima Muhammad | Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — The operation and maintenance sector is ready to welcome a large number of young Saudis, Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mansour Bin Miteb has said.
New advanced technologies, he said, have to be used to enhance the performance of workers in the maintenance sector. The minister added that a sufficient budget has been allocated for this purpose.
Prince Mansour was speaking after inaugurating here the 11th International Operation and Maintenance Conference and Exhibition in the Arab Countries.
The ministry, he said, has also worked on a number of studies related to operation and maintenance.
According to Zohair Al-Sarraj, a member of the committee, operation and maintenance in the government sector is based on “personal endeavors.” There is an absence of a clear set of criteria for maintenance and system of operation for government bodies, said an official at a newly established government-run committee for operation and maintenance.
The spread of the Novel Coronavirus in Saudi Arabia has people worried. Al Arabiya TV characterizes popular response as ‘panic’, though its article on the issue doesn’t exactly support that portrayal. If there is panic, it appears to be on the part of the media as they rush to meet deadlines.
Al Arabiya TV and Saudi Gazette accounts say that four new cases have come to the attention of medical authorities who, the World Health Organization (WHO) says, are doing a good job of disease surveillance and reporting. Arab News, in its account, seems to have gone to press before the new cases were reported. Al Arabiya does accompany its story with a photo of people apparently checking out of the hospital where earlier cases, including fatalities, were reported. That doesn’t strike me as ‘panic’, but rather a pretty natural desire to get out of a place where the disease was known to have existed.
Saudi media are consistent in reporting that the new virus, though related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), it is not SARS.
Panic grips Saudi Arabia as new cases of coronavirus confirmed
Al Arabiya with Agencies -
Four new cases of the SARS-like novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, state media reported late on Monday, citing the health ministry.
The health ministry said one of the four new cases had been treated and the patient had been released from hospital, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
On Sunday, a wave of panic hit the kingdom as the health ministry said it had had a total of 24 confirmed cases since the disease was identified last year, of whom 15 had died. In its latest outbreak in its Eastern Province, it said it had had 15 confirmed cases, of whom nine had died.
Among those was a nine-year-old girl who died a few hours after arriving at hospital with a strong fever.
Another fatality was Haidar Ghanem, a disabled 21-year-old man who had a “strong fever” for a week, according to his father Mokhtar. He died last Thursday, four days after being admitted to hospital after falling unconscious.
American TV broadcaster ABC reports that it’s unlikely that a vaccine against the Novel Coronavirus will be developed. Not only would the effort take tens to hundreds of millions of dollars, but it would also take years. Instead, at least for the present, the WHO is recommending that those identified with the disease be isolated to prevent the spread of the disease — as was done during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak — and patients treated directly.
Thomas Hegghammer, of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, offers a look back at the May, 2003 bombings of three residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He cites ten lessons that have been learned as a result of that bombing, ranging from the limited ability of terrorist groups to destabilize a country to the effectiveness of narrowly-targeted responses to terrorism. The Asharq Alawsat article is worth reading in full.
The Riyadh Compound Bombings: Ten Years, and Ten Lessons, Later
Stanford, Asharq Al-Awsat—Ten years ago yesterday, the Saudi capital, Riyadh, was rocked by three near-simultaneous suicide bombings at housing compounds for expatriates. Over 30 people died and 160 were injured in what was, and remains, the deadliest terrorist attack in the kingdom’s history. The bombing came as a shock to most Saudis and robbed the country of its relative innocence as far as internal violence was concerned. After decades of calm, Saudi Arabia suddenly became the scene of a dramatic and protracted terrorist campaign that would claim many victims and worry many an oil investor before Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was finally crushed in 2006.
It is hard to overestimate the political impact of the Riyadh bombings. These caused a major shift in Saudi attitudes toward Islamist extremism and a complete overhaul of the Saudi internal security apparatus. The terrorism campaign—and the Saudi response to it—also did much to change Western perceptions of Saudi society, many of which, in retrospect, were biased and flawed. Finally, the campaign backfired against Al-Qaeda, leading to its demise as an organization in the kingdom. In short, the learning curve was steep for everyone involved. Specifically, the experience taught us ten important things about terrorism and Saudi Arabia.
First, we learned that terrorist campaigns need not have deep, structural causes. In the summer of 2003, many observers attributed the violence to a fundamental malaise in Saudi society, derived from some combination of economic sclerosis, lack of political participation, and religious indoctrination. However, as I showed in my book, Jihad in Saudi Arabia, the causes were mostly exogenous: the terrorists had radicalized and trained abroad, and the timing was dictated by events in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Like many terrorist campaigns, this one was the result of developments within an organization.