Saudi Arabia pledges $20m for Rohingya refugees

KSRelief officials visit Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to assess their needs. (SPA)
Updated 24 October 2017
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Saudi Arabia pledges $20m for Rohingya refugees

GENEVA: Saudi Arabia pledged $20 million in aid to Rohingya refugees at Monday’s Rohingya Refugee Crisis Pledging Conference in Geneva.
The conference was co-hosted by the EU and Kuwait, and organized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
It reportedly aimed to raise $434 million to provide life-saving assistance to more than 1 million displaced people who have fled violence in Myanmar in the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.
Dr. Yahya Alshammari, director of Public Partnerships and International Relations at the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief), said the Kingdom’s donation would help “alleviate the pain and suffering of the Rohingya minority, especially the most vulnerable groups like women and children.”
He called on the UN and all peace-loving countries around the world to pressure the government of Myanmar to respect its commitment to human rights, end the forced displacement of the Rohingya, and allow refugees a safe and dignified return to their homes.
Alshammari said that Saudi Arabia was among the first countries to intervene in the current crisis by sending a team from KSRelief to support refugees in Bangladesh and by collaborating with IOM to provide urgently needed aid.
But, he added, the Kingdom has a long history of supporting the Rohingya, donating $66 million over the past 10 years, and welcoming more than 300,000 Rohingya in the last 40 years, which he claimed made Saudi second only to Bangladesh in the number of Rohingya refugees taken in.
“Since its unification by King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia has always been keen on supporting needy communities and countries and providing them with aid,” Alshammari said.
“The Kingdom has become a leading global supporter of humanitarian and development work, and the Rohingya crisis has received the attention and generous support of Saudi Arabia throughout history.
“Rohingyas in Saudi Arabia receive free education and free health care and none of them lives in refugee camps,” he added.
He also commended Bangladesh for receiving around 600,000 refugees from Rakhine State in the last two months.

Education aid
In Riyadh, the King Abdullah International Foundation for Charity and Humanitarian Works announced the launch of an $11.5 million initiative — in partnership with UNICEF and the Islamic Development Bank Group — that will help educate more than 76,000 Rohingya children in refugee camps over the next five years, at least.
Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, executive chairman of the foundation, stressed that education is a fundamental right of all children.
“Investment in minds, through education and training, is a long-term investment that will empower communities to find effective solutions to reduce poverty and help build a better future for everyone in a world of understanding and tolerance,” he said.


‘Because I can’: ride-hailing app welcomes Saudi women drivers

Updated 42 min 9 sec ago
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‘Because I can’: ride-hailing app welcomes Saudi women drivers

  • The Dubai-based ride-hailing app, along with global behemoth Uber, say they would begin to hire women
  • Seventy percent of Careem’s customers in Saudi Arabia are women

RIYADH: Reem Farahat waited for a ride request. Her phone pinged. “I’ve already cried twice,” she said, heading out to work as one of Saudi Arabia’s first female drivers for Careem.
The Dubai-based ride-hailing app, along with global behemoth Uber, reacted to Saudi King Salman’s September announcement of an end to the Kingdom’s ban on female motorists by saying it would begin to hire women.
On Sunday, when the king’s decree took effect, nearly a dozen Careem “captainahs” — all Saudi women — were ready to pick up riders.
“This morning, when I got in the car, I felt the tears coming,” Reem said as she stocked her car with chilled water bottles for her riders.
“I pulled the car over and cried. I could not believe that we now drive... It’s a dream. I thought it would be totally normal, I’d just get in the car and go. I was surprised by my own reaction.”
She took a long pause.
“I didn’t expect it,” she said. “I’m doing this because I can. Because someone has to start.”
Seventy percent of Careem’s customers in Saudi Arabia are women, according to company statistics, a figure largely attributable to the Kingdom’s now-obsolete ban on women driving.
Uber puts its equivalent figure closer to 80 percent.
At Careem’s offices on Sunday, staff gathered to celebrate the women’s first day on the job.
Farahat’s first ride request came just hours after the ban was officially lifted.
“This is my first ride. I’m excited. I’m excited to know who I’m picking up, what their reaction is going to be,” she said.
The driver — who also works with her father as a quality control consultant, is training in life coaching, and scuba dives with her sister off the Red Sea city of Jeddah — picked up Leila Ashry from a local cafe.
Walking toward the car, Leila spotted Reem, did a little jump of joy on the sidewalk, and was already chatting as she opened the door.
“Oh my god I can’t believe it’s you. I can’t believe you’re here. I can’t believe I’m here,” Leila said.
“I’ve been tweeting to my friends that my ride is coming and it’s a woman! And you’re so pretty! And I can sit in the front now — wait, can I actually sit in the front next to you?“
Some 2,000 women have signed up to get their Careem licenses since September, said Abdulla Elyas, co-founder and CPO — “chief people officer” — of the ride-hailing app. They are all Saudi women, from their 20s to their 50s.
Uber also plans to introduce women drivers to their service this autumn.
“They come from completely different backgrounds,” Elyas told AFP.
“We have women who have degrees, a master’s degree. We have women who have no degree at all. We have women who want to do this full time. We have women who want to do this part time (for) an additional income, who are already working.”
Most of those who had been licensed by Sunday, like Reem, had permits from foreign countries, enabling them to skip driving courses and take the final exam for a Saudi license.
The “captainahs” can pick up any customer, man or woman.
Both the driver and rider have the right to end the ride at any point.
Leila, a young medical student with a pixie cut and bright smile, says she would still choose a woman.
“This automatically feels a lot safer... being a female and dealing with sexism on a day-to-day basis. There’s just something about it that feels wonderful. But it’s not only that. It’s also women joining the workforce,” she said.
Sitting in the front passenger seat, she recalled previous rides with male drivers.
“Before, sometimes they would stare at me from the mirror,” she said.
“It’s just like that thing we share with women, where we just automatically understand what it’s like to be in that position where you feel their eyes on you but you can’t say anything, you can’t do anything against it.”
She turned to chat to Reem, and sang a riff from a West Side Story tune before saying: “If you can do it, then I can do it.”
“See? That’s what I was talking about,” Reem said. “It’s that ripple effect.”