Saudi teen dancing to ‘Macarena’ in traffic arrested

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Video grab of the Saudi teen dancing in the streets of Jeddah.
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Video grab of the Saudi teen dancing in the streets of Jeddah.
Updated 22 August 2017
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Saudi teen dancing to ‘Macarena’ in traffic arrested

JEDDAH: Saudi authorities arrested a teen after appearing in a viral video clip dancing to the 1990’s viral Los del Rio hit “Macarena” in the middle of the city’s famous Tahlia Street.
According to Sabq, the official spokesman for Makkah police, Col. Atti bin Attia Al-Qurashi, said the teen’s conduct is considered “a disruption of traffic and violation of public morality.”
Al-Qurashi confirmed that the police in Jeddah, in coordination with Makkah patrols, managed to arrest the 14-year-old after analyzing the video clip and gathering the necessary security information. Authorities will hear his statements before referring him to the Public Prosecution.
Twitter has been abuzz with the debate over a 40-second video of the incident as tweeps took to the social media platform to air their conflicting views on the widely circulated, unusual scene.
Some viewers condemned his “discourteous” act and demanded that he be punished. “Does he know that school is nearing? Or is he one of those spoiled kids going to private schools?” said one commenter who added that this is the best news he received about his arrest so he does not influence other teens. “The photographer should also be held,” another suggested.
Others pointed out that he is a child who is doing what many children at his age should be doing — having fun. “Not everything should be solved through police and public prosecution,” one tweep said. “He is just a kid who wanted to enjoy his time. Don’t make a big fuss about it.”

Other Twitter users went as far as to call him a “hero,” something that people need in their lives.

“Some people were indoctrinated to denounce everything joyful. The kid is really a hero because he dared to spread joy in the presence of all those wretched people,” said Tariq who encouraged the teen to “dance away,” and not care about the downers.

There are many theories surrounding the reason behind his off-the-cuff dance routine. Several people suggested that he could be involved in some sort of a challenge with a friend, while others said this could be the result of a long summer holiday, leading youngsters to find inventive ways to keep themselves entertained.
The viral clip brought up, once again, the issue of the apparent absence of religious police on Saudi streets, and many social media users attacked the government’s newest entertainment body, the General Entertainment Authority, over its organization of various music and dance activities which, they say, may have influenced the teen’s conduct.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”