Premarital drug test ‘useless’

Updated 30 January 2014
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Premarital drug test ‘useless’

The drug addiction test initiated by the Health Ministry for prospective brides and grooms has proved useless as it fails to gauge addiction levels and thus determine marriage eligibility, a top official has said.
Mohammed Al-Saeedi, the Health Ministry’s director-general for Combating Chronic and Hereditary Diseases, said the test, made mandatory following reports of widespread drug use among Saudi youth, does not effectively address addiction.
“Conclusions about the test were reached by scientific committees and government departments,” he said.
Saudis account for over 54 percent of drug users in the Kingdom and drug addiction among women has increased by 20 percent during the past few years, according to a report. It states that 55 percent of drug addicts are between 19 and 30.
“This is a cause for major concern. The ministry has found that addicts tend to abstain from taking drugs prior to getting married so they can pass drug tests. Once married, however, they return to their drug addiction,” said Al-Saeedi.
He pointed out that the program was launched by the ministry in 2005.
More than 2.5 million addiction tests have been carried out so far within the framework of this initiative, he said.
He said that members of the public have responded favorably to the test, but that it fails to account for the loophole that many have resorted to using in order to pass the test.
Al-Saeedi said that the program is being run in 130 centers, 91 labs and 80 check-up clinics and is manned by 1,120 health care specialists.
“The program was founded as a preventive mechanism against chronic and hereditary diseases, which bear a heavy financial and emotional cost, ” he said.
“However, the program is succeeding in its mission with peoples’ cooperation,” said Al-Saeedi.
A study conducted by the Ministry of Interior indicated the existence of 204,000 male and female drug addicts in the Kingdom. Female addicts account for 20 percent of these cases.


Meet Saudi Arabia’s artist to the kings

Saudi painter Hisham Binjabi’s stunning creations have become the choice of kings. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 26 sec ago
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Meet Saudi Arabia’s artist to the kings

  • From the age of three, Hisham Binjabi has never lost his appetite for art

JEDDAH: When it comes to royal connections, Saudi painter Hisham Binjabi can truly claim to have made it an art form.

During a lifetime at the easel, the unassuming Jeddah-based artist’s stunning creations have become the choice of kings.

And it all began at the age of just 14, when Binjabi painted a portrait of King Faisal and ended up presenting it in person to the late king of Saudi Arabia.

Further commissions were to follow, which resulted in Binjabi producing works of art not only for the Saudi royal family, but royalty in other countries too.

Today he owns two galleries in Jeddah from where he exhibits artwork and sculptures from around the world. 

Binjabi revealed his incredible story to Arab News while at work painting on canvas at a recent Jeddah book fair.

Hisham Binjabi made works of art not only for the Saudi royal family, but royalty in other countries too. (Photos/Supplied)

From the age of three, when he painted the walls of his family home in black, Binjabi has never lost his appetite for art. His talent was recognized at school where he was known as the “boy who paints,” and although he chose to major in science, a teacher spotted his artistic skills and taught him the basics of mixing colors.

Binjabi said: “After that I started to practice, and whenever I didn’t need to attend a class, I would escape to the painting room. As I became stronger with the use of colors, my teacher suggested I pick a subject to paint and I chose to do a portrait of King Faisal.”

After framing his picture, Binjabi was spotted carrying his creation down the street by the then-minister of education, who was so taken by it that he invited the teenager to present it to King Faisal himself. 

On the right track

The young artist continued to paint in his home and later studied English literature at King Abdul Aziz University, where again his talents were spotted. 

The dean of the university asked him to produce a painting to display in a tent, and this time the subject was to be camels.

During a visit to the campus, the then-King Khaled saw the painting and asked to meet the artist. “Before I knew it, I was standing in front of King Khaled,” said Binjabi. 

“The king asked me why I had painted camels, and I told him that camels were the friends of Bedouin people.”

The king invited Binjabi to go to Riyadh and attend the first ever Janadriyah Festival, and from then on his works became highly prized by royalty. The then-Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz asked him to produce a painting of his guests, a French prince and Sheikh Zayed of the UAE, watching camels through binoculars. 

As a result, Binjabi was invited to stay at Sheikh Zayed’s palace in Abu Dhabi, where he spent four months painting a family portrait for the leader.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was to be another of Binjabi’s distinguished clients, and even while studying for a Master’s degree in Lebanon, he painted for the king of Lebanon.

He said: “It did get overwhelming. I never asked to be associated with royalty, it just happened. Something in my heart kept pushing me along and telling me I was on the right track.”

Today he still represents the Kingdom in many different countries. 

“My life is full of stories about art which I find inspirational,” Binjabi added.