Saudi charities face funding crisis over terror fears



JEDDAH: KHADIJA HABEEB

Published — Friday 24 May 2013

Last update 24 May 2013 7:51 am

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Credible Saudi charities are facing a funding crisis because of recent measures aimed at clamping down on terrorists using charities as fronts to raise funds and launder money.
A number of charity workers here are now concerned that their work in the community will suffer as wary donors hold on to their cash, and charities are limited in what they can take from donors.
Mohammad Al-Samri, an administrator at a charity in Makkah, said that projects have suffered because of a lack of money and not the "weakness of its professional staff."
She said the measures taken around donations have made many charity workers apprehensive.
Another worker at a local charity, who preferred to remain anonymous, said her organization has workers who are not convinced they are doing the right work. In addition, many charity workers have full-time jobs.
She said that charities in Saudi Arabia face two major challenges: funding and finding ways to institutionalize their work.
She said the red tape involved has seen many charities unable to receive donations.
Security expert Maj. Gen. Yahya Zaydi said the government had to introduce various control measures to root out "predators" who were taking advantage of charities to commit criminal acts.
“When the government organized this sector it was for security reasons because many of the donations that were collected in a haphazard manner went to individuals who were not eligible and most of it was going to be used against society and to non-peaceful ends,” he said.
“A reversal to the former situation is not right and doesn’t serve the objectives of the charitable sector,” he added.
He said the collection of donations should be made through clear channels so it would not be exploited and taken abroad for non-peaceful purposes. He said the disorganized manner in which money was collected had threatened the safety of local and international communities.
The Interior Ministry warned on more than one occasion through the media that fundraising has to go through the proper official channels.
Ahmad Al-Fadil, who has worked with charities for 16 years, agreed that there should be controls over how money is raised and spent.
He said the charity sector should "be organized and monitored" which includes assessing those working at these organizations. He said charities should be an integral part of Saudi society and be separated from those involved in "resistance and Jihad.”
Al-Fadil said charities must be used to contribute to the development and growth of society and must get proper funding.
He said charities could be used to provide important services. For example, if someone commits a felony, the person could do his or her community work at these charities.
Media can also be encouraged to give free advertising space all year for these bodies, he added.
He said the government should consider introducing a levy on companies to help revitalize the sector, provide qualified staff to lead these establishments or even send international specialists to train workers.
Al-Samri said charities should treat donors with respect. Their dealings should also be handled in a confidential manner.

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