Saudi Arabia accuses Qatar of using Twitter to stoke dissent

According to a study, 32 percent of the fake accounts come from Qatar, 28 percent from Lebanon, 24 percent from Turkey and 12 percent from Iraq.
Updated 07 July 2017
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Saudi Arabia accuses Qatar of using Twitter to stoke dissent

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia, which is part of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), on Thursday accused Doha of being behind over 23,000 Twitter accounts trying to stoke dissent in Saudi Arabia.
“We found over 23,000 Twitter accounts driven by Qatar, some of them linked to accounts calling for ‘revolution’ in Saudi Arabia,” Information Minister Awwad Saleh Al-Awwad told AFP during a visit to Paris.
They included the @mujtahidd account, which claims to have the inside track on the Saudi royal household and has over 1.8 million followers, he said.
The account, which has backed Qatar, claimed that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE had set out to overthrow Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani but decided against it after coming under pressure from the US, an ally of both Riyadh and Doha.
Al-Awwad accused a London-based Saudi dissident, Saad Al-Faqih, of being behind the account, “together with Qatar.”
Some of the accounts identified by Riyadh as being Qatari proxies were behind calls for protests by the jobless on April 21, he said.
According to one study, 32 percent of the fake accounts come from Qatar, 28 percent from Lebanon, 24 percent from Turkey and 12 percent from Iraq.
The study found links, in the forms of re-tweets and likes, between these accounts and others that call for revolution, stir public opinion or spread rumors about Saudi Arabia, said Saud Al-Qahtani, adviser to the Saudi Royal Court and general supervisor of the Center for Studies and Information Affairs.
Al-Qahtani added that 82 percent of these accounts use false pseudonyms, and about 18 percent of the others cannot be verified.
Recently, the Gulf Association for Rights and Freedoms appealed to two international rights organizations for an urgent intervention over Qatar’s move to ban expat workers taking their annual leave.
The association has sent an “urgent appeal” to the International Labour Organization and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, asking them to “intervene urgently regarding the grave violation” the Qatari government is committing against citizens and expats, according to the UAE state news agency WAM.
Approximately 2.2 million expats work in Qatar, the majority from countries in Asia.
The ban on Qatari nationals and expat workers taking annual leave may endanger their working conditions, according to Mohammed Hayef, the rights association’s spokesperson.
Hayef warned that such a decision is likely to increase rates of serious and fatal work accidents, “due to depriving workers and placing them under harsh working conditions and physical, psychological and social pressures.”
Qatar’s decision “contradicts the conventions of the International Labour Organization and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and violates the basic human right to enjoy annual leave,” Hayef said.
“By this unjust decision, Qatar has violated the most important universal and humanitarian provision in the International Labour Organization’s constitution,” which clearly condemns working conditions “involving injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled.”
Hayef referred to construction workers on the 2022 FIFA World Cup project, who are also negatively affected by the ban.
According to a previous report, more than 1,200 construction workers died while building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“One human rights agency estimates more than 4,000 construction workers will die building World Cup-related infrastructure,” the previous report said.


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 35 min 49 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“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 any more.”
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.”

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