Burmese refugees to receive job training

Updated 27 March 2013

Burmese refugees to receive job training

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal yesterday distributed free residency permits (iqamas) to the first applicants of the Burmese community in a historic move to legalize the status of nearly 500,000 refugees in the Kingdom.
“This is one of the beautiful moments in my life,” said Prince Khaled while addressing a ceremony at Kudai near Makkah. He thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for issuing his instructions to correct the residency status of a huge group of expatriates who have been living in the Kingdom for several years.
“It was one of the first proposals I presented to King Abdullah after becoming the governor of Makkah,” Prince Khaled said to the applause of the large gathering including OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Burmese community leaders. “King Abdullah ordered the formation of a ministerial committee for the development of disorganized residential districts in Makkah to improve the situation of Burmese Muslims living in those districts,” he said.
“This is one of the unique experiments in the world,” the governor said, adding that the Kingdom has taken drastic measures to tackle the problem. “We are not just building new homes to develop these districts. We also rehabilitate some 400,000 to 500,000 people living there,” he pointed out.
Prince Khaled said the government would provide Burmese community members with health care, social services, education and develop their residential areas as part of a comprehensive program. “We’ll also train them to get jobs,” he pointed out.
Under the Labor Ministry’s Nitaqat (naturalization) program, the employment of four Burmese is equal to one foreigner. This incentive was given to encourage private companies to employ more Burmese to meet their labor requirements. “You cannot see such a comprehensive rehabilitation program anywhere in the world,” the governor said.
“This is an unprecedented incident in the world,” said Mohammed Tayeb, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s office in the Makkah region, while commending the government’s efforts to issue four-year iqamas to Burmese citizens free of charge and provide them with educational, health and social services.
Mohammed Rauf Rafi, secretary-general of European Rohingya Council in the Kingdom, said there are about 350,000 Burmese Muslims in Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah. Saudi authorities intend to issue iqamas to all Burmese within four to six months. He disclosed plans to open a media center for the Rohingyas at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 57 min 55 sec ago

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.

The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.