Al Arabiya TV runs an article on domestic terrorism in Saudi Arabia. Oddly, the presentation (there’s a video on the webpage) only starts with 2003 and the May bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh. Nor is it fully inclusive. There’s no mention, for example, of the killing of three French nationals near Madain Saleh in 2007.
A comprehensive history would start at least as early as 1979 with the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by ultra-fundamentalists. It would also include various bombings and shootings that took place in the 1980s and 1990s. I’m not sure just what purpose this piece is intended to meet.
A history of domestic terrorism in Saudi Arabia
Salma El Shahed | Al Arabiya News
The two deadly suicide attacks in Saudi, which claimed the lives of dozens of worshippers in the kingdom’s eastern province in May, mark the latest in a series of coordinated attacks launched in 2003 by the Al-Qaeda militant group.
The report is part of a series by Al Arabiya News Channel on terrorism in Saudi Arabia.
In 2003, three car bombs were detonated near three residential compounds in Riyadh housing Saudis and expats, killing 20 people and injuring 200 others. Following the attack, the Saudi Ministry of Interior launched a major operation hunting down the suspects, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is unhappy with the complaints of various governments and NGOs over the Saudi Supreme Court’s confirmation of the sentence given to dissident Raif Badawi. It sees it all as carping interference with internal Saudi affairs and points to the independence of the judiciary, Saudi Gazette reports.
People, organizations, and country governments are, however, free to make their opinions known. Much of the world’s opinion is that the sentence (not to mention the “crime”) is not in line with basic human rights and is excessive, even if you grant that some law was substantively broken.
Badawi case: Ministry slams outside meddling
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH – An official source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday condemned statements issued by some countries and international organizations involving Saudi citizen Raif Badawi.
These statements are unilateral as no statement has been issued about him by the judiciary or any official authority in the state, the Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying.
The source added that the judiciary in Saudi Arabia is independent and the Kingdom does not accept interference in its judiciary or its internal affairs by any party.
The criminal court sentenced Badawi to 1,000 lashes, 50 to be administered “very harshly,” in public, once a week for 20 weeks. In addition, he is to serve 10 years in prison and pay a fine of 1 million riyals.
Last year, Badawi was found guilty of insulting Islamic values, “promoting liberal thought” and “going beyond the realm of obedience” by suggesting the Kingdom should become more democratic.
Saudi media are reporting — with some trepidation — on the amount of money being remitted to the home countries of foreign workers. Arab News runs an Agence France Presse story stating the US $100 billion are being sent from the GCC, with $44 billion of that coming from Saudi Arabia. The overall figure represents 6.2% of the combined GDP of the Gulf countries.
The Kuwaiti economic report upon which the stories are based says that the lack of investment opportunity for expats, coupled with their inability to gain citizenship in the countries in which they are working, means that the money must leave the region if it’s not going to sit around in mattresses. The articles all suggest that the level of remittances is a very bad thing, but don’t come out to explain exactly why.
(AFP) KUWAIT CITY: Foreigners working in the Arab states of the Gulf sent more than $100 billion in remittances to their home countries last year, an economic report showed.
The figure was twice as high as remittances in 2010, an indication of strong growth, the head of economic research at Kuwait Financial Center (Markaz), Raghu Mandagoathur, said in the report.
The remittances are estimated at 6.2 percent of the combined GDP of the six GCC states of $1.6 trillion, the report said, citing IMF and World Bank figures.
In comparison, foreigners in the US and Britain sent home just 0.7 percent and 0.8 percent of GDP, respectively, it said.
Saudi Arabia topped the list with its estimated 10 million expats sending home $44 billion, followed by UAE with 29 billion.
Remittances from Kuwait and Qatar were $12 billion and $9.5 billion, respectively, while smaller transfers were made out of Oman and Bahrain, the report said.
Around 25 million expats live in the Gulf Cooperation Council states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Saudi women in the Eastern Province seem eager to exercise their new political potential, Saudi Gazette reports. Over 80 women have put themselves forward as candidates for the Dammam municipal elections to be held in December of this year. These elections are the first in which women may vote and run as candidates.
80 women to run for EP city council
Saudi Gazette report
DAMMAM — There are over 80 women running for the Eastern Province city council elections in August with at least 10 female candidates contesting places on each municipal committee, a social activist told Al-Hayat.
Fowziyah Al-Hani of the “Baladi” campaign, which works to increase women’s representation in the city council, said female participation in the Shoura Council has improved Saudi society.
She believed more women in the city council would help societal development as well. She said: “I believe the Saudi woman will be a complementary addition to the city councils in the Kingdom.
“A lot of women are apprehensive about nominating themselves. They fear their agendas and plans would be stolen by other candidates if they were publicized.”
She added women candidates would always be under the spotlight in the election and their private lives exposed. “It is financially and emotionally exhausting to campaign and challenge social norms.
While it’s far from a done deal, Arab News reports, Saudi Arabia’s Passport Department, in consultation with various ministries, is considering the idea of issuing women passports without the explicit permission of their parents or guardians. Already, the government has permitted women to travel within the country without written permission, so this would be an expansion of women’s rights and a bit less control, treating women as adults in the way most of the world does.
JEDDAH: The Passport Department is currently drafting regulations that would see women travel without the permission of their guardians.
Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yahya, director general of the department in Riyadh, said the rules would be based on the reasons for travel, not age. The procedures to allow women to travel without permission include the interior, justice and social affairs ministries, and other bodies, he said.
He added that the passport department complies with court decisions that allow women to travel abroad, or get passports issued and renewed without the approval of their parents or guardians. These were in line with laws in “advanced countries,” he said.
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed rails against the way religion is being used as a weapon of mass destruction in the Middle East. He tries to pin the blame on Iran and its regional surrogates, but I think he’s forgetting his history.
Religion has been a popular tool used to mobilize the masses for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We need only look at Afghanistan in the 1980s to see how government — including the US and Saudi Arabia — were willing to enlist religion as a weapon against the “godless Communists.”
Now, religion is being used to wage sectarian war and, of course, that’s a bad thing. But it was also a bad thing when it was used as a club against Israelis as Jews, as a stick with which to beat Baha’is, as a cudgel in the separation of India and Pakistan. The use of religion as a weapon is amazingly foolish because it’s a weapon that cannot be controlled, no matter what the manipulators think. Loosing non-rational dragons is and always will be a tactic that will turn on its masters.
The long-term fallout of religious warfare
We are going through a gigantic, chaotic war in the Middle East. It is worse than anything the region witnessed even during the two world wars. All kinds of weapons are being used, from primitive knives to the most advanced military hardware such as drones.
However, the most dangerous weapon of all is religion, because it is capable of mobilizing communities and controlling armies of young people willing to die, and because it is similar to a nuclear bomb: its toxic fallout will last long after the end of the war. Many were killed by radiation caused by the nuclear bombs years after they were dropped on Japanese cities in the Second World War. This is also the case with sectarian wars: their consequences will linger for decades.
Citizens are dragged into civil wars after centuries of coexistence because they are mesmerized by propaganda. If you want to understand your opponent, put yourself in their shoes. Ever since the failure of Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian government in the Syrian war, and the ever-worsening situation in Iraq, these three players have been keen on spreading sectarian bacteria to the Gulf states, which are modern and comprise a variety of social components.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has done the same, focusing its hate speech against Shi’ites. Uncivilized, religious-oriented people have been dragged into sectarian clashes; clerics, intellectuals and a large audience have fallen for this trick. They started accusing each other of reinterpreting history and settling scores. That is what Iran, the Syrian regime and ISIS want.
Arab News reports that Saudi defense forces shot down a SCUD missile launched from a Houthi-held area of northern Yemen that was aimed at or near the Khamis Musayt military base. Two US-made Patriot missiles were used. The RSAF then destroyed the launch site.
JEDDAH: Saudi troops shot down a Scud missile fired into the kingdom before dawn Saturday from Yemen, the coalition command said.
Troops used a Patriot missile battery to intercept the missile at 2:45 a.m. Saturday (2345 GMT) over Abha province, said the command in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
No casualties were reported in the attack, which followed a ground offensive by Yemeni militants targeting the Saudi border,
“At 02:45 am on Saturday, the militias of the Houthis and ousted Ali Abdullah Saleh fired a Scud missile toward the city of Khamis Mushayt. Thanks to Allah, it was intercepted by the Royal Saudi Defense Forces by two Patriot missiles,” the statement said.
It added that coalition air forces destroyed the rocket launcher whose location was identified south of Sa’ada.
Saudi traffic police continue to crack down on young joyriders and stunt drivers, Saudi Gazette reports. In addition to arresting the drivers and impounding their cars — 122 to date — they’re also arresting those crowding to watch the drivers. This strikes me as probably the most effective way to curtail the practice. If they’re not gathering social approval, there’s less incentive to behave like a himar. Well, there’s still YouTube…
Scores of joyriders detained in Riyadh
Mishal Al-Otaibi | Saudi Gazette
RIYADH – Criminal investigation teams from the Traffic Department in Riyadh have arrested at least 53 joyriders and scores of spectators watching them during the school examination period.
Those detained for joyriding included 33 students, 15 employees and five unemployed individuals.
Of 144 people arrested for watching and wowing the joyriders, 87 were students, 43 were employees and 14 unemployed.
Police also impounded 122 cars whose owners were either joyriders or were crowding the streets watching their stunts.
Among the detainees, three people were wanted in criminal cases registered at various police stations and three were wanted for causing hit-and-run accidents.
The problems with the Saudi system of recruiting, hiring, and retaining domestic servants is fraught with problems. The abuse of those servants receives wide coverage. What doesn’t receive such wide coverage in international media is the cost of the failures of the program on the Saudis employing them.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al Riyadh noting that run-away servants are costing their employers a lot of money, SR 2 billion (US $592 million), in fact.
Servants don’t run away only because they’re being abused. They also jump their contracts because they can earn more by being hired by other Saudis. There’s little to no monitoring of these employees and their contracts.
The article also laments the high — and rising — fees paid in recruitment as well as in the fees charged when one legally tries to change sponsorship.
Saudi families have lost SR2b because of runaway domestic workers
Aliya Al-Shalhoub | Al Riyadh
Saudis are pinning their hopes on the Council of Economy and Development under the chairmanship of Prince Muhammad Bin Salman who is known for his decisive action and decisions. Reports show that Saudis have lost SR2 billion due to 97,000 runaway drivers and housemaids. These domestic workers usually leave their sponsors with the help of gangs who help them find illegal jobs.
The other important issue which is very sad is the high recruitment prices imposed by recruitment offices with what amounts to the complete absence of any type of monitoring by the authorities. These are not new problems; they started small and got bigger. Today, the majority of Saudis complain about the harm caused by these two issues. It has become necessary to resolve them.
Why do the recruitment fees of expatriate workers in other Gulf countries not exceed SR5,000 while in the Kingdom that sum can reach SR30,000 even though similar conditions exist in all the countries involved?
What’s up with Kansas? A state typically noted for mid-western American values (read: conservative Christian) is honoring Abdul-Jalil al-Arabash, a former student at Wichita State University, who was killed while preventing a suicide bomber from entering a Shi’ite mosque in Dammam. Al Arabiya TV reports that the commemoration was undertaken by the state legislature.
Officials in the midwestern U.S. state of Kansas stood for a minute of silence to pay tribute to a Kansas-educated Saudi man who stopped an ISIS bomber from entering a mosque in a suicide attack in the Gulf country last week.
Abdul-Jalil al-Arbash died when the suicide bomber blew himself up after being denied entrance into the Imam Hussein mosque in Dammam.
According to Al Arabiya News Channel, the officials welcomed around 300 Saudi students, who are currently studying at the State University of Witchita – from which al-Arbash graduated- to give them a certificate honoring the hero.
Arbash was an engineering student at the university.
Speaking to Al Arabiya News Channel, Said al-Ghamedi, one Saudi undergraduate studying at the university, said that “the honoring certificate was an initiative taken by the state legislature after they heard about Arbash’s heroic act.”
Arab News carries a Reuters story about the outbreak of MERS virus in South Korea. Thirty five cases are reported, with two deaths, along with 1,600 people under quarantine. Hundreds of schools in the country have been closed and border checks for the disease are being called for. The vector for the outbreak seems to have been one or more travelers from an unnamed Middle Eastern country.
Alarm spreads as South Korea reports more MERS cases
Ju-min Park | Reuters
SEOUL: Alarm over an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea spread on Thursday with North Korea calling for border checks while hundreds more schools closed in the South and authorities reported five new cases.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has demanded that everything be done to halt the outbreak which began two weeks ago, brought into the country by a South Korean man returning from a business trip to the Middle East.
Two people have died in South Korea. With 35 cases, South Korea has the most infections outside the Middle East where the disease first appeared in 2012, and where most of the 440 fatalities have been.
About 1,600 people have been quarantined in South Korea, most of them at home but some in medical institutions, a health ministry official said.
In a speech to kick off an anti-corruption conference, Saudi King Salman insisted that even the king is not above the law, Asharq Alawsat reports. A citizen can file a suit against any member of the government. Whether a judge would have the temerity to rule against the monarch is another question, however.
Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Any Saudi citizen can file a lawsuit against the King, Crown Prince, or any member of the royal family, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz said, comparing the situation in the Kingdom to other countries where heads of state have immunity.
In a major speech to senior officers on Wednesday on the issue of combating corruption in the public and private sectors, King Salman said: “I say now that there are heads of state in other countries that have immunity from lawsuits. In our country, any citizen can bring a lawsuit against the King, or Crown Prince, or any member of the royal family.”
“The rights of citizens are far more important than my own rights,” he added.
King Salman made the televised speech in Jeddah at a major counter-corruption conference which was attended by senior Saudi officials and ministers.
“This country has been established on the foundations of the Qu’ran and the Sunnah. This state is based on the belief that the greatest warrior of corruption is the application of Islamic law. Our constitution is the holy Qu’ran and the Sunnah. We live in security and stability in this country. If anyone sees any injustice against any citizen, tribe, town or anything, come and tell us. Our doors are open to you,” he added.