A Saudi Arabian first: Spokeswoman at Kingdom’s US Embassy

Fatimah Baeshen
Updated 19 October 2017
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A Saudi Arabian first: Spokeswoman at Kingdom’s US Embassy

WASHINGTON: As Saudi Arabia feverishly portrays itself as ready to join the ranks of modern, tolerant societies, the Kingdom has turned to a once-unlikely messenger — one of its daughters — to make its case to the West.
On Fatimah Baeshen’s first day as the Saudi Embassy in Washington’s official spokeswoman, a royal decree was issued to lift a ban on women driving, starting next summer.
Baeshen, the first woman to hold embassy post, is no stranger to life behind the wheel of a car. The Saudi-born Baeshen spent years living, working and studying in the US, affording an easy fluency in the routines of American life that many Westerners see as irreconcilable with the country she represents.
“I’m a byproduct of the longstanding Saudi-US relationship,” Baeshen said in an Associated Press interview. “For years, Saudi students have been coming to the US to study. There are several Saudis that are like me, that are very comfortable and are able to fluidly go back and forth between cultures.”
For Saudi Arabia, Baeshen’s appointment reflects an opportunity to try to revise a narrative that is sharply at odds with the kingdom’s ambitious plan to transform itself for the future. In addition to sweeping economic changes, “Vision 2030” calls for easing social restrictions as a younger generation prepares to take the helm.
The Kingdom’s economic overhaul also means bringing more Saudi women into the workforce, with an eye toward creating more two-income households and weaning Saudis off of reliance on government perks. The official plan calls for increasing female participation from 22 percent to 30 percent.
“Women across the board deal with different issues, regardless of where they are,” Baeshen told the AP. She said the driving issue shouldn’t obscure the fact that Saudi women have been productive members of society for decades. “The myopic focus of this element I think deters the larger perception of what Saudi women have really been able to contribute.”
After attending the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she wrote a thesis on Islamic financial regulation in secular markets while a graduate student at the University of Chicago. She worked in the Saudi Ministry of Labor and at the World Bank before joining the embassy.
As a director at the Arabia Foundation, she wrote in Time Magazine earlier this year: “The change-through-confrontation approach is counterproductive to achieving our collective goal; force is too often met with the strongest of cultural resistance.”
“Empowerment is about access, choice and control. Saudi Arabia has made tangible strides in the spheres of access and choice,” Baeshen said. “There are elements to be improved with respect to control.”


Turkey and US strongly deny sharing 'any audio recording'

Updated 19 October 2018
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Turkey and US strongly deny sharing 'any audio recording'

  • Secretary of State says report he had listened to a recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s death was false
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also denied sharing any audio recordings with US officials

LONDON: Turkey and the United States denied on Friday that Ankara had shared with Washington an audio recording related to the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said an ABC News report, citing an unnamed source, that he had listened to a recording of Khashoggi’s death while in Istanbul on Wednesday was false. 

Pompeo, who also visited Saudi Arabia this week, said he had neither seen nor heard such a recording.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also denied sharing any audio recordings with US officials.

“It is out of the question for Turkey to give Pompeo or any other US official any audio recording,” Cavusoglu said during a visit to Tirana, Albania. “It is out of the question for us to share with any country this or that information.”

“Of course, as a result of the investigation so far, Turkey does have some information and evidence," he said. "We will share them with the world when they become fully clear because the whole world, understandably, wants to know what happened to Khashoggi and how it happened.”

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who lived in the US, disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to complete paperwork related to his divorce. 

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are carrying out a joint investigation into the disappearance.

On Thursday, Turkey called on the public to ignore any information claiming to be leaked from the case.

Since Khashoggi’s disappearance there has been a flurry of stories claiming to be based on leaks from the probe.

Pompeo said on Thursday they had given Saudi Arabia more time to complete the investigation to make sure they have a complete understanding of the facts.