Saudis see end to discrimination

Updated 21 May 2013
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Saudis see end to discrimination

Saudis say they are finding more jobs and less discrimination as expatriate workers grapple with the three-month grace period and business owners are suddenly more eager to hire citizens.
“I do feel bad for those who had to leave their jobs because they are working illegally, but I have to say that because of this decision I am now employed in a job that I have been seeking for years,” said Sarah Muhsin, high school teacher. “I have been applying to private schools for the job of an English teachers but my applications have been rejected by many because I am Saudi and I don’t have an American or British accent.”
Muhsin said that her bachelor’s degree in English literature made no impression on human resources officers charged with hiring, but after the royal decree, her phone started ringing from school officials offering her a job.
Muhsin is among thousands of young Saudis who say they were passed over for jobs in favor of expatriates. They say they were stereotyped as lazy and unreliable, and ultimately too expensive to hire.
Discrimination is a fact of life for Saudi job candidates. Good looks and presentable clothing is essential for salesmen working in known shops.
“I have been seeking to work at well-known clothing stores in Jeddah, but one of the employers was clear when he said that they are only looking for good looking Syrians or Lebanese,” said Rakan Shawli. “The Labor Ministry’s decision will help me get over this problem and find me a job in these shops I want to work for.”
Nawaf Baghdadi, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student, said he wanted to work in car workshops part-time but was rejected. “It is known that certain nationalities work in workshops and I wanted to learn and work at the same time in the same field but that was impossible because the employer said he will not jeopardize his company’s work for a Saudi who wants to play around,” he said.
Abdulmalek Saleh, 19, wanted to work as a waiter at one of the coffee shops in Jeddah.
“It is deeply disturbing to know you cannot find a simple job as a waiter in your own country because of stereotyping,” Saleh said. “Many think Saudis are hot heads and cannot control their temper in front of diners and this was one of the reasons why I was denied a job at a café here.”
It took Salwa Ameen, Saudi beautician, five years to find a job where she had to first work as a freelancer to gain experience. “Everywhere I went they made excuses and said I didn’t have experience and working on my own did not qualify for experience,” Ameen said.
Saudis need more practice and more experience before entering the job market, according to Dania Khafaji, founder of Spa to Go.
“It is known that Saudis prefer working behind office desks and in leading positions, but we do not find many of them working in salons as hairdressers or nail artists,” Khafaji said. “I would love to train Saudi women and teach them the techniques to be professional beauticians. The problem may be that they would leave the job if they receive a better offer and I would end up training Saudis and wasting time with people who want to work with bigger names.”


World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

A Saudi woman and her friends celebrate her first time driving on a main street of Alkhobar city in eastern Saudi Arabia on her way to Bahrain on June 24, 2018. (AFP / HUSSAIN RADWAN)
Updated 25 June 2018
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World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

  • As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips
  • The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet 

JEDDAH: The world awoke on Sunday to images and video footage many thought they would never see — newly empowered Saudi women taking the wheel and driving their cars.

As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips, while some police officers among the large number out on the streets distributed roses to the first-time drivers.

The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet.

“I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and the spirit to dream,” she said.

In a tribute to Saudi female drivers, the Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji released a special video of a song she performed live in Riyadh at a concert last December “Today women in Saudi Arabia can legally drive their cars,” she said. “Congratulations on this achievement, this one’s for you!”

Back home in Saudi Arabia, the atmosphere was euphoric. “It’s a beautiful day,” businesswoman Samah Algosaibi said as she cruised around the city of Alkhobar. 

“Today we are here,” she said from the driver’s seat. “Yesterday we sat there,” she said, pointing to the back.

“I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated,” said Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena, one of the first women to drive in the Kingdom.

She told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”

Almaeena urged all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.

“But I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”