Women allowed into stadium as Saudi Arabia promotes national pride — part of reform push

Saudi families sit in a stadium to attend an event in Riyadh on Saturday commemorating Kingdom’s 87th National Day. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2017
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Women allowed into stadium as Saudi Arabia promotes national pride — part of reform push

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is celebrating the 87th anniversary of its founding this weekend with an unprecedented array of concerts and performances, including allowing women into King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh for a Saturday evening operetta — a first in the conservative Islamic Kingdom.
The festivities are part of a government bid to boost national pride and improve the quality of life for Saudis.
Also on offer is a concert in the Red Sea city of Jeddah featuring 11 Arab musicians, plus fireworks, air acrobatics and traditional folk dance shows.
The events are the latest entertainment sponsored by the government as part of the Vision 2030 reform program launched two years ago to diversify the economy away from oil, create whole new sectors to employ young citizens and open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles.
Saudi rulers are also starting to reform areas once the exclusive domain of the clergy, such as education and the law, and have promoted elements of national identity that have no religious component, or pre-date Islam.
They have increased National Day celebrations that were previously attacked by clerics as undermining religious feeling, and are promoting heritage sites, like Nabatean rock temples, once seen as embarrassing in the land of Islam.
Saudi flags and green billboards, often bearing the face of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, have gone up across Riyadh this week, and at night skyscrapers are flooded in green light — the national color.
Companies from telecoms operators to furniture stores have launched patriotic-themed marketing campaigns offering discounts for the holiday weekend.
The General Entertainment Authority (GEA), the government agency organizing the National Day festivities, expects some 1.5 million Saudis to attend events in 17 cities over four days.
Vision 2030 reforms are intended to capture up to a quarter of the $20 billion currently spent overseas by Saudis, who are accustomed to traveling abroad to see shows and visit amusement parks in nearby tourist hub Dubai or further afield. This weekend’s events, though, are free to the public.


US highlights Saudi Arabia’s key role in global fight against terrorism

Saudi Arabia has continued to maintain a strong anti-terrorism relationship with the US. (SPA)
Updated 55 sec ago
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US highlights Saudi Arabia’s key role in global fight against terrorism

  • The US State Department pointed out that the Kingdom has achieved a high level of accuracy in its counterterrorism operations

WASHINGTON: The US State Department has praised Saudi Arabia for its efforts to combat terrorism, describing the Kingdom as an active and key member in the global coalition to defeat Daesh.
“Saudi Arabia has continued to maintain a strong anti-terrorism relationship with the United States and has supported the strengthening of bilateral cooperation between the two countries,” the State Department noted in its annual report on the global state of terrorism. It also highlighted the joint strategic vision between the two countries and a number of new initiatives to counter terrorist messages and disrupt the financing of terrorism launched last year during US president Donald-Trump’s visit to the Kingdom.
The report said Saudi Arabia has implemented systems to follow UN Security Council sanctions on groups and individuals linked to Daesh and Al Qaeda, and has expanded existing counterterrorism programs and projects to rehabilitate terrorist fighters who leave extremist groups. It has also adopted laws to counter the financing of terrorist groups.
The State Department pointed out that the Kingdom has achieved a high level of accuracy in its counterterrorism operations, and has carried out a number of arrests and disrupted active terrorist cells throughout the country.
The report referred to terrorist plans that were thwarted in the Kingdom, noting the efforts being made in legislation, law enforcement and border security, as well as the country’s positive contribution as a member of the Financial Action Task Force for the Middle East and North Africa, a regional body that imposes financial sanctions on individuals and groups that help to fund terrorism.
"The Kingdom has maintained strict control over the banking sector and tightened sanctions on the financing of terrorism," the report said.
It also pointed out that the Kingdom provided 100 million euros ($117 million) to fight terrorism in the Sahel countries in Africa, as the Kingdom is a founding member of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.