‘Allow youth in’: Campaigners against rejecting young men at restaurants demand

Campaigners against rejecting young men at restaurants are demanding that men should be allowed in. (AFP)
Updated 12 May 2017
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‘Allow youth in’: Campaigners against rejecting young men at restaurants demand

JEDDAH: A group of young men are campaigning for their right to unwind and dine at local restaurants and cafes on the weekend, without facing the “Families Only” sign.
An Arabic slogan that translates as “allow youth in” is what Mohammad Bahareth and his 20 co-members of the Makkah Youth Council are calling for to counter blocking young men from public places without a legal reference.
“Restaurants who are open for families only need a statement from the municipality to prove (they are allowed to do so),” Bahareth, founder of “allow youth in”, told Arab News.
“We’re taking the initiative to keep track and report these violations to the municipality,” he said.
The group hopes the campaign will help loosen the restrictions against young men who are looking to spend an evening at a restaurant with friends on weekends.
“According to the municipality, restaurants and cafes are only allowed to open part of the singles’ section for families on busy days like weekends and holidays. But they are not allowed to take over the whole section and close it,” Bahareth said.
Among the violations that the group has spotted is sticking an A4 sheet of paper with the phrase “Families Only” on top of the official “Singles Section” sign.
Rejecting youth creates frustration among young people, so “they resort to bad habits,” said 33-year-old Bahareth. He added that when young men are not allowed to enter public places “they feel rejected by their society.”
He said the issue makes them go to places that are always open to single men like fast food chains that contribute to unhealthy diets, or shisha places where they learn bad habits like smoking.
“I believe once this issue is resolved, activities like wall vandalism and car drifting will become limited. These acts are reactions to being rejected,” Bahareth said.
Restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia are divided into two sections: One for single males, and another for families.
In 2012, men unaccompanied by women were allowed to enter shopping malls after being banned from entering these “family only” areas.
More than half of the Saudi population is under the age of 25.


We have a story to share with the Saudi people, says new US official in Riyadh

Cultural and educational exchange programs between Saudi Arabia and the United States help build stronger ties. (AN photo)
Updated 2 min 5 sec ago
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We have a story to share with the Saudi people, says new US official in Riyadh

  • We have a story to tell and a story to share in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi people. We are pleased that so many Saudis want to study in the United States: US Public Affairs Counselor in KSA

RIYADH: Cultural and educational exchange programs between Saudi Arabia and the United States “help build stronger ties between the two countries and bring them closer together,” according to Brian Shott, the new US Public Affairs Counselor in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at a reception to welcome him at the US embassy in Riyadh on September 18, he said: “One of the main things we do is we try to share aspects of the United States and of American culture, but we also learn from Saudis and Saudi culture.” 

In her opening speech, the embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Martina Strong also highlighted the enduring relationship between the two countries, saying: “Tonight is a celebration, a celebration of a friendship that has extended over many, many decades.”

Shott, who previously served in Morocco, Cairo and Baghdad, will be in Saudi Arabia for the next two years, during which he will promote educational and cultural exchanges.

“There are some real opportunities here and we have been fortunate enough to be able take advantage of partnerships with Saudi organizations and Saudi agencies, whether it is the General Authority for Culture or the Ministry of Education,” he said.

“We have a story to tell and a story to share in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi people. We are pleased that so many Saudis want to study in the United States.”

Meanwhile, the reception also served as a farewell to Robin Yeager, the cultural attache in Riyadh. She said that it had been a “very dynamic time to be in Saudi Arabia. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be here at a time when I get to know first-hand the future that Saudis are trying to build.”

The night that women were were given the right to drive, she said she went out and saw the “thrill on their faces.” To assist with empowerment and other progressive policies, embassy staff work on social issues and provide leadership training for women’s groups, she said.

“It is beautiful because they take something that an American expert talks to them about and they turn it into the Saudi way to approach it,” she added. “It’s not that we are changing things; it’s that we are giving them tools, so they can build what they want to build.”