Women on cloud nine as travel notification halted

Updated 05 February 2014
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Women on cloud nine as travel notification halted

Saudi women have applauded the decision taken by authorities to suspend the electronic system to notify male guardians about the departure and arrival of their female dependents.
They said the system should have been abrogated long ago, as “it is demeaning to women and restricts their freedom.”
“The system has been suspended due to some observations and it will undergo amendment,” said Lt. Col. Ahmad Al-Laheedan, spokesperson of the Passports Department in comments published on Monday. He indicated that the system could be reintroduced, adding new options.
“In the past, the system included all the names that were registered. However, in the next phase, it will be optional. The amendments seek to enhance the system to make it better and fulfill all its objectives,” Al-Laheedan said.
“The notification process should have never been introduced in the first place because it is humiliating for women,” said Sabria S. Jawhar, a Saudi columnist and assistant professor of applied linguistics at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences.
“Women like myself who may have open permission from their guardian to travel find the issue particularly ridiculous because our guardians are notified of our every move as if we are children that need to be tethered to become responsible adults,” Jawhar told Arab News. “We are responsible adults but are treated as immature or less responsible.”
Jawhar opposed the move to introduce the system with modifications. “I hope this is a step toward canceling the whole system. We are born Muslim and we know the principles of our religion. There is no need for anyone, including the government, to monitor our behavior,” she said.
Under the system adopted by the Passports Department, an SMS is sent to the male guardian to alert him whenever a female member of his family or a child crosses the Kingdom’s border.
Maha Akeel, managing editor of the OIC Journal, also welcomed the move, saying the system was a big insult to women. “All Saudi women travel abroad with the permission of their parents or husbands. The system gives the impression that women require constant monitoring. It also shows that women cannot be trusted,” she told Arab News.
Some Saudis, however, approved the system and considered it as a wise use of modern technology to help families keep track of the across-the-border movements of their womenfolk and young children.
They also hailed it as a positive step toward eliminating bureaucratic paperwork that required guardians to sign permission forms.
“Without such a system, a woman or a child would be free to come and go and travel abroad without her or his family knowing about it,” one Saudi blogger wrote. “If such is the case, we will find many of our women and children going abroad without our knowledge,” he said.
Suhair Adel rejected the system, saying it was humiliating for women. “This is total confusion,” she posted on Al-Sharq’s website. “What is the difference between men and women at this point? Should it be possible for my brother, who is 10 years my junior, to be informed about my cross-border movements while I know nothing about his whereabouts? There is obvious chaos in the application of the law,” she said.
Budoor Al-Saleh said that it was not acceptable to equate women and children. “Why are you pushing us in the same category as children? Men should, in this case, be also included in the scheme,” she said. Salwa, another blogger, said that since the aim of the notification system is to provide a good service for families, men should also be included to augment the advantages.
“I am sure that many problems would be solved if women were aware of their husbands’ cross-border movements as well,” Salwa said. “In fact, women would benefit from the system much more than men. So please include men and alert their wives about their international departures and arrivals,” she said.
A young man who identified himself as an overseas student said that the system had spoiled the surprise he and his sister had planned. “My sister and I are students abroad and one day, we wanted to surprise our family by arriving into Saudi Arabia without telling them,” he said. “However, the plan fell through after they were alerted via SMS that we had arrived in the Kingdom. We were truly disappointed.”


India and Saudi Arabia take bilateral relationship to new heights

Updated 21 February 2019
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India and Saudi Arabia take bilateral relationship to new heights

  • Indian PM Narendra Modi heralds Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit on a day that delivers a strategic partnership

NEW DELHI: India and Saudi Arabia have taken their bilateral relationship to new heights with a decision to set up a Strategic Partnership Council and hold a summit meeting every two years.

The move was agreed during discussions between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday that yielded five memorandums of understanding in investment, tourism, housing, and information and broadcasting. 

The Saudi crown prince also announced a $100 billion investment in India in areas including energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing. 

Saudi Arabia is also investing in the IT industry, and India can help the Kingdom expand and strengthen its “IT footprint,” he said.

Meanwhile, New Delhi announced e-visa facilities for Saudi citizens to promote trade and tourism. 

The two leaders spoke one-on-one before the start of delegation-level talks. The Saudi crown prince’s visit has “given a new momentum to our age-old relationship,” Modi said in a joint press conference after the meeting.

Modi told the media that Saudi Arabia has agreed to become part of the International Solar Alliance, a group of “solar resource-rich countries” initiated by India to promote solar energy.

The “time has come to convert our energy relationship into a strategic partnership,” he said. “The biggest refinery in the world and Saudi participation in India’s strategic petroleum reserve elevate our relationship from a mere buyer-and-seller relationship.”

Speaking at the joint press conference, the Saudi crown prince agreed. “We are now diversifying our interests in petrochemicals and building storage capacities. We want to cooperate with India, and this will give a new momentum to our relationship,” he said.

The crown prince said that the tie between India and Saudi Arabia goes back in history and “flows in our blood.”

Recalling the visit of Modi to Riyadh in 2016, he said that “since then we have made great strides, and Saudi Arabia has made the investment of $44 million.”

Earlier in the day, the crown prince met with the media at the presidential palace. “The relationship between India and Saudi Arabia is in our DNA,” he explained. “Today, we want to be sure that the relationship is maintained and improved for the sake of both countries, and with the leadership of Mr. President and the Prime Minister, we can create good things for both countries.”

The crown prince expressed his admiration for Modi. “He is the elder brother and I am his younger brother.”

On the sidelines of yesterday’s talks, 400 business leaders from India and Saudi Arabia gathered in the capital under the banner of the Saudi India Forum to discuss opportunities for business cooperation.

“India and Saudi Arabia are undergoing a paradigm shift, and both countries need to cooperate strategically to realize the potential of the change,” said Dr. Faisal Al-Sugair, head of the Saudi Center for International Strategic Partnerships, in his inaugural address. 

“We want Indian companies to become strategic partners in Saudi Arabia’s march to realize (the) 2030 Vision.”

Yousef Al-Benyan, of the Saudi petrochemical company Sabic, said that “both India and Saudi Arabia are undergoing transformation, and at this stage we can do so many things together to realize the potential of the young generation.”

Azim Premji, of the Indian IT company Wipro, underlined the importance of “using India’s IT know-how” to access the knowledge and service industry in the country.

Indian foreign policy experts see the crown prince’s tour as a landmark development. “Mohammed bin Salman’s visit marks a paradigm shift in the relationship between New Delhi and Riyadh,” said Dr. Zakir Hussain, a New Delhi-based foreign policy expert. 

“The visit reveals  a mature partnership, and underscores the importance both countries place on each other’s growth and prosperity,” he said.