King Salman issues directives to cater for humanitarian cases in Qatar blockade

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. (SPA)
Updated 12 June 2017

King Salman issues directives to cater for humanitarian cases in Qatar blockade

JEDDAH: A new directive has been issued by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman that requires the humanitarian needs of families made up of Saudi and Qatari nationals be taken into consideration.
And it is a move that has been mirrored in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.
On the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s official Twitter account a statement was posted confirming the “deep ties” between Saudi and Qatari people.
“The Qatari people are a genuine extension of their brothers in [the] Kingdom of Saudi Arabia... King Salman addresses the humanitarian cases of Saudi-Qatari joint families, the people of Qatar are in King Salman’s heart,” the statement said.
The statement added that the Ministry of Interior has set up the hotline — +966 112 409111 — to receive cases and take appropriate action.

Meanwhile, the UAE and Bahrain have taken similar measures and ordered that the humanitarian needs of citizens married to Qatari nationals also be taken into account.
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has instructed the authorities to address cases of Emirati-Qatari families. And like Saudi, special helplines have been set up: +971 800 2626 for the UAE and in Bahrain the number is +973 1739 9821.
An official UAE source quoted by the state news agency “WAM” said these measures “were in line with the statement issued by the UAE, that severed ties with the State of Qatar for the pretexts mentioned in the resolution and its procedures.”
Meanwhile, Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an official statement that said further to “severing diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar, and the measures taken as a result of its continued hostile behaviour against the Kingdom of Bahrain.
“A Royal Order was issued by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to take into account the humanitarian situation of Bahraini-Qatari families in appreciation of the brotherly Qatari people who represent a natural extension of their brothers in the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

The latest announcements mean restrictions will be eased for Qatari’s married to citizens of the three countries.
Qatari nationals living in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain were previously ordered to leave within 14 days after the three countries severed ties with Qatar last Monday, suspending land, sea and air travel links.


Saudi women gear up to take the wheel at midnight

Updated 1 min 21 sec ago

Saudi women gear up to take the wheel at midnight

  • The lifting of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was announced on September 2017

Women who have their licenses are counting the minutes to midnight in Saudi Arabia after eagerly awaiting this moment since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion. “They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver an ymore.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”