In Saudi Arabia, many believe they simply need domestic servants — maids, housekeepers, nannies, drivers. The problem is that many cannot actually afford them. The result is that servants go unpaid, sometimes for years.

Now, reports Arab News, the government is stepping in, in the name of transparency, with new regulations.

If a family has less than SR15,000 (US $4,000) monthly income, they’re going to be ineligible to hire servants. Domestic workers will be paid a minimum wage of SR2,000 (US $533) per month. Recruitment offices will be required to publish both the would-be servant’s nationality and professions. In this way, women qualified to serve as house-cleaners do not end up as nannies for newborns.

It’s an improvement. Restricting the number of those able to hire drivers, though, is going to negatively affect Saudi women. On the other hand, it will increase pressure to permit Saudi women to drive.

Salary below SR15,000 per month? Forget hiring housemaid or driver!
JEDDAH: IBRAHIM NAFFEE

In a major move to streamline the recruitment of domestic labor from foreign countries, a top official has said that Saudis and expatriates should be drawing salaries exceeding SR15,000 per month in order to be eligible to recruit housemaids or drivers.

The Head of the Recruitment Committee in the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Yehya Al-Maqboul pointed to the domestic labor exporting countries having laid down requirements for their nationals prior to sending them to work in the Kingdom.

“This condition will ensure the rights of domestic workers in light of rising rents and cost of living. It will also reduce the delays in paying domestics their monthly salaries which will exceed SR2000,” Al-Maqboul said.


December:01:2014 - 08:16 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Jazirah in which the writer worries the issue of jinns and the ridicule the belief in them occasions in foreign media. He’s troubled that social media report on all sorts of jinn behavior, but notes that because they are cited as real in the Quran, they must be real. The comments to the article demonstrate that belief in them is very widespread within Islamic communities around the world, and why not, as they are given reality by the very word of God?

This is, of course, awkward in a world where modern science and medicine tend to attribute the manifestations and behaviors of jinns not to external beings whom have never been investigated scientifically, but instead tend to look toward internal issues on the part of the observer.

Until there are a few dozen scientific experiments done on jinns in laboratories, belief in them will have to remain a matter of faith. Ridicule over what no one other than a believer can apprehend is just something that will have to be borne.

The problem becomes acute, however, when people are condemned to death by Saudi courts for dealing with jinns. Causes unknown to science are problematic for non-believers. Instead of legitimate cause, they see irrational behavior and violation of basic human rights.

Saudis are stuck in a hard place, between what they are told they must believe as the word of God and what few other than Muslims accept as fact.

Saudis and the jinn
Fahd Bin Jleid | Al-Jazirah

THE international and Arab media last week published a story and photograph of a boy who is said to be Saudi. The boy’s father had taken the photograph and on seeing it several days later, discovered a smiling and naked jinn next to his son.

“And say, ‘O my Lord! I seek refuge with thee from the suggestions of the Evil Ones. And I seek refuge with Thee O my Lord! Lest they should come near me.’” (Holy Qur’an verses 23:97-98).

Science is still incapable of detecting and monitoring jinns. Some non-Muslim scientists deny the existence of jinns. Yet, some of us claim to have successfully photographed them with digital cameras?

The way the Western media portrays Saudis’ belief in jinns is a very disturbing; something needs to be done to prevent further mockery.

It is we who are responsible for this negative media coverage because it is the local media that is obsessed with publishing sensational news stories.


November:30:2014 - 11:15 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Only 12% of those going through Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program — Munasaha — for those arrested for terrorism-related crimes go back to their ways, the Ministry of Interior says. This is quite a low rate compared to other criminal rehabilitation programs internationally. In the US, overall criminal recidivism rates are around 60%; in the UK, around 50%.

If the figure provided in this Arab News report is accurate, it may mean that a majority of those going through the program were those only marginally involved in terrorism, but who were swept up in various anti-terror campaigns. Or, it just might be that it is an effective program, designed specifically to address those factors that lead Saudis toward extremism.

12% of rehab terrorists relapse

Twelve percent of those who had participated in government-run rehabilitation programs for terrorism have relapsed and returned to terror-related activities, a Ministry of Interior official has revealed.

Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said officials at the Prince Muhammad bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care are now trying to determine the causes for these failures.

However, he said the program has been largely successful. Over the past two years more than 2,500 people had participated in the programs, with 80 percent not returning to terrorist activities, he said.

Al-Turki rejected the notion that the program itself caused some to relapse and take part in terror-related activities in the Kingdom. “Without the program, thousands of those who were released would have been exploited by terrorist organizations,” he said.


November:28:2014 - 11:13 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies held sway in yesterday’s meeting of OPEC: there will be no drop in oil production in order to force prices higher. Saudi Gazette carries this Reuter’s report:

Gulf producers win case for no OPEC output cut

VIENNA (Reuters) — Gulf oil producers on Thursday won the case for keeping OPEC output unchanged, overriding calls from poorer members of the exporters’ group for action to halt a slide in crude prices.

Benchmark Brent crude oil fell $3 to its lowest since September 2010, at under $75 a barrel, on expectations that huge global oversupply will build up in coming months. OPEC also decided to meet next on June 5, 2015.

“It was a great decision,” Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said as he emerged smiling after around five hours of talks.

Asked whether OPEC had decided not to cut production and to roll over existing output policies, he replied: “That is right”.


November:28:2014 - 10:57 | Comments Off | Permalink

As OPEC meets in Vienna today, Saudi media are reporting that there will be no decrease in oil production and that the oil market will stabilize itself. With OPEC now controling less than 40% of international oil production, it no longer has the power to unilaterally set prices. The stabilization, though, will come at a price significantly lower than the peak prices seen a while ago and perhaps at just half of what the market bore earlier this year. Oil is currently selling for less than US $80/bbl.

As a result, Arab News reports, Saudi economists are recommending that budgets be planned around an oil price of $40-$50/bbl. That price, a third of peak prices of $145/bbl seen in 2008, will be difficult for some nations to endure. Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, will manage it, at least in the short- to medium-term due to extensive sovereign wealth funds that can be drawn upon to make up budget shortfalls.

Saudi budget based on $45 oil price ‘ideal’
JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR

Saudi economists expect oil prices to decline further in the coming years if producing countries inside and outside the OPEC fail to reach an agreement to stop the downward trend.

They have also advised the government to peg the oil price between $45 and $50 while preparing the national budget for 2015.

“The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries alone cannot determine market prices now because it controls only 40 percent of the market and there are several players with conflicting interests,” Ehsan Buhulaiga, a prominent economist, told Arab News.

He emphasized that the budget would not be affected as long as the price stays above $85 per barrel, adding that the country’s huge reserves would offset the budget.

“The lack of solidarity and vision has weakened the OPEC,” he observed.

OPEC ministers are expected to reach a consensus during their meeting in Vienna on Thursday. Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi believes the market would stabilize itself.


November:27:2014 - 11:36 | Comments Off | Permalink

Asharq Alawsat reports on the planned establishment of a GCC-wide police force, designed to share information across borders. The group will focus on drug trafficking, money laundering, computer and financial crimes, and general cross-border criminality.

As long as the group focuses on mutually and clearly defined crimes, this seems like a natural step to be taking. If it starts getting involved in “crimes” that are really just a matter of political opposition, though, it could get ugly.

GCC approves launch of “Gulf Interpol”

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) interior ministers have issued guidance on establishing a joint Gulf police force, set to be based in Abu Dhabi, to boost security cooperation among member states. The joint GCC police force has been dubbed a “Gulf Interpol” and will seek to promote GCC efforts to combat cross-border criminal activity in the region.

Under the chairmanship of Kuwaiti Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, GCC interior ministers held their 33rd general meeting in Kuwait City on Wednesday to discuss regional security issues, including the implementation of a joint police force.

In his inaugural speech at the conference, the Kuwaiti Interior Minister said: “We need to lay down a clear-cut strategy for combating all crimes, particularly drug trafficking and money laundering through a concerted effort.”

“The security services and civil society in each country have to join forces in the fight against such crimes as narcotic addiction, money laundering, cyber-crime and, credit card crimes. No country can address this challenge of organized crime alone,” he added.


November:27:2014 - 11:15 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News runs a story on a report from Vision of Humanity that says 82% of the victim of terrorism are to be found in Muslim countries. The perpetrators are primarily Muslim.

Most of the 18,000 people killed were in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Somalia. Deaths in the rest of the world account for only 16.5% of the total.

82% of terror victims are in 5 Muslim countries

A staggering 82 percent of terror-related deaths occurred in five Muslim countries, namely Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria, in 2013, according to a report published by the Vision of Humanity Foundation.

There has been a substantial increase in the number of terrorist attacks in 2013, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

Almost 18,000 people were killed that year, a 61-percent increase from the previous year, the foundation said.

The report pointed out that four organizations — Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and the Islamic State (IS) — were behind most of the terrorist attacks that year.

“About 90 percent of attacks took place in countries with gross human rights violations,” said the report.


November:26:2014 - 09:17 | Comments Off | Permalink

The Gulf Cooperation Council has agreed on a minimum set of contract terms for domestic servants across the six countries, Arab News reports. In addition to setting the hours of work and overtime compensation, the agreement notes that employees are to hold their own passports and will be permitted to live outside their place of work.

Minimum wages were not addressed in the agreement.

GCC to upgrade maids’ contracts

GCC labor ministers have agreed on minimum terms in the contracts of domestics to improve the widely criticized working conditions of over 2.4 million foreign maids, an official said.

The move comes as these ministers are to meet with their Asian counterparts in Kuwait City this week to discuss the conditions of foreign labor in the region.

The new contract entitles domestics to a weekly day off, annual leave and the right to live outside their employer’s house, the director general of Kuwait’s Public Manpower Authority, Jamal Al-Dossari, told AFP.

It also limits the working day to eight hours.


November:26:2014 - 08:30 | Comments Off | Permalink

Asharq Alawsat reports on the statement by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior that identified ISIS as the perpetrator of the murderous attack on a Shi’ite gathering in Al-Ahsa that killed seven. Direct orders for the attack were given by ISIS leadership, the Ministry claims.

ISIS ordered Ahsa attack: Saudi Interior Ministry

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has announced that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ordered the attack on a Shi’ite shrine in the small town of Dalwah in the country’s Al-Ahsa governorate earlier this month, which resulted in the deaths of seven Saudi citizens.

Three masked gunmen attacked worshipers at a Shi’ite Husseiniya (meeting house) in the east of the country earlier this month. Riyadh launched a nationwide counterterrorist operation following the attack to track down those responsible, arresting a total of 77 people in successive raids across the country.

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced on Monday that the attack on Dalwah was directly ordered by ISIS, and that the terrorist cell’s leader—as well as three other members of the group—have direct links to the terrorist group that is spreading throughout Iraq and Syria.

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said that the unnamed head of the terrorist cell had received specific orders from abroad including the target and timing of the attack.

“ISIS is working to destroy everything that it can to incite fitna and chaos in society and destroy the stability of the Kingdom by targeting innocent citizens, as well as religious figures, government officials and government and security infrastructure,” he said.

“Fitna,” an Arabic term meaning “sedition” or “civil strife,” is often associated with particular religious connotations or conflicts between different religious groups or sects. The attack on Al-Ahsa targeted Saudi Shi’ites, with many observers warning this could set off sectarian violence between Saudi citizens. However, the attack was roundly condemned by Saudi Sunni and Shi’ite religious leaders, who have called for steadfastness and unity in the face of such attacks.

Mshari Al-Zaydi comments on the attack and how it has resulted in a strengthening of national sentiment rather than providing a divisive wedge aimed to split Sunnis from Shi’as within the country. Given the large number of the attackers who had already been arrested for terroristic activities, he suggests that the government may wish to re-evaluate its current approach to dealing with terrorist. Recidivism rates for any rehabilitation program tend to be high, but in the case of terrorism, the costs can be inordinately high.

ISIS and Al-Ahsa
Mshari Al-Zaydi

The long-awaited statement from the Saudi Interior Ministry on the attack on the village of Dalwah in the country’s Al-Ahsa province has finally been issued, shedding more light on this horrific crime.

Before we go into this, let me just say that this dangerous crime targeting innocent people in Dalwah sought to incite sectarian conflict in Saudi Arabia. However, it actually ended up having the opposite effect. In the aftermath of the incident we saw popular and official alignment under the banner of national solidarity and the protection of civil peace.

Some well-known figures who have made a habit of sectarian incitement tried via social media to muddy the waters and put forward a false picture of what happened, speculating that this was not a political or terrorist crime, but that it contained personal dimensions. These so-called “preachers” and media figures are like the intellectual writers who appeared during the cultural Sahwa (Islamic Awakening) period in the late 1980s, who thought that what they were doing would make things better, but ultimately had the opposite effect.

It was always clear that the terrorist attack on the village of Dalwah in Al-Ahsa had all the hallmarks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is something that I said openly at the time, when others would preface talk about this crime by saying, “if it turns out to be a terrorist attack in the first place.” This is nonsense; for if it wasn’t ISIS, then who do they think was responsible? The Japanese Red Army? Basque Separatists?


November:26:2014 - 08:20 | Comments Off | Permalink

In its wrap-up article on the weekly Council of Minister meeting, Saudi Gazette reports that the Saudi government is going to set up a Supreme Commission for the development of the country’s Eastern Province. This is a move that, had it been made 50 years ago — or any time in between — would have helped alleviate tensions between the predominantly Shi’a region and the central government.

Infrastructure development in the region — except those involved in oil production and shipping — have lagged behind those of most other regions of the country. And the Shi’ite population noticed. And complained.

Of course, the devil is in the details. This move, if it is to have the effect of making second-class citizens believe they are actually of the same class as the ruling majority, has to be real, with real money and intent behind it. Time will tell, but even acknowledging that things have to change is a marked step forward.

Supreme Commission for EP development approved
Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH – The Council of Ministers on Monday approved establishment of a Supreme Commission for the development of the Eastern Province.

Minister of Haj and acting Minister of Culture and Information Bandar Hajjar said that the objective of the commission is to contribute to the overall development of the region and fulfillment of its requirements for public utility facilities and services. The commission shall have a board, headed by emir of the region. It will have a separate budget, the minister said.


November:25:2014 - 07:33 | Comments Off | Permalink

This post just notes a strange little quirk in Saudi media practice.

A Saudi retail company had several of its branches shut down by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry following complaints about a fraudulent “discount” sale wherein products had their prices marked up, then an advertised discount applied.

Saudi Gazette reported on the event, but chose to not publish the name of the company, referring to it only as a “mega” company:

Discount scam: Mega firm’s retail outlets closed down

The report from Arab News, on the other hand, did cite the company’s name, if not in the headline, then in the first sentence of the first paragraph:

Popular store apologizes to its customers

Saudi custom is to not publish the names of those people or companies that are accused of wrong-doing. Is that custom breaking down? I think it would be a good thing if it did as it would offer much greater transparency about exactly what is going on in the country.


November:23:2014 - 09:53 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, is noted for having said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” It seems that the sentiment applies when it comes to Saudis and abayas, according to this report from Arab News.

Dammam University, in the Eastern Province city of that name, appears to have issues with non-black abayas. The claim is that colored abayas detract from the dignity of the university. M’kay… I guess it could be analogized to a ban on wearing shorts and flip-flops at an American university, not that any but a religiously-affiliated university would seek to impose such a ban. But all universities in Saudi Arabia are religiously-affiliated, in one way or another.

I do find it peculiar, though, that though “modesty” is being imposed by head-to-toe coverings, the actual color of the coverings matters. Does a blue or green abaya conceal less than a black one? This might be an interesting research project for one studying physics or optics or human psychology.

Campaign against colorful abayas

Dammam University has launched a campaign against colorful abayas after a number of girls were caught without the customary black outer covering mandatory in educational institutions.

Supervisors at Dammam University confirmed that the campaign against the wearing of colored abayas had begun in all their colleges. They pointed out that although colored abayas are easily available in the market, female students are required to abide by the rule of wearing black as a sign of respect to the educational environment.

Female students also said that supervisors and security employees had begun implementing the campaign since last week and that any girl found in violation of the rule would be penalized. They also said that they had been warned that all violations would be documented and filed. They were also expected to abide by the instructions which authorities say promote modesty in dress and appearance.


November:23:2014 - 09:01 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink
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