Time for Saudi women to be more vocal about their rights

Dima Talal Al-Sharif, a Saudi lawyer at the Law Firm of Majed Garoub.
Updated 08 March 2018
0

Time for Saudi women to be more vocal about their rights

JEDDAH: Often classified as oppressed, persecuted and crushed by the ultra-conservative, male-dominant society, Saudi women must take a stand against the misconceptions and false stereotypes many have of them.
Times have changed in the Kingdom, and Saudi women are gaining more and more rights — something much of the world is still ignorant about.
Many people around the world have been fed wrong ideas about Saudi Arabia’s 32 million population, of which nearly half are women, according to a Step Feed report citing the Saudi General Authority for Statistics.
Women in the Kingdom can and do open their own bank accounts without the need for a male guardian’s permission, contrary to several false reports by renowned media outlets.
Women do have the authority over their own bodies and health as elective surgeries or medical treatments can be freely sought without permission from a male guardian.
“The Law of Practicing Healthcare Professions in Saudi Arabia states in article 19 that the competent patient has the right to decide on the surgery, it means that it applies for both genders,” Dima Talal Al-Sharif, a lawyer at the Law Firm of Majed Garoub in Jeddah, told Arab News.
Since the historical royal decree on September 26 last year allowing women to drive, obtaining a driver’s license does not require a guardian’s consent. “Saudi women are allowed to get a driver's license without permission from a legal guardian,” said Al-Sharif.
Since 2006, Saudi women have been able to apply for their own personal identification cards too, she added.
“As per the King’s instructions, Saudi women will be allowed to issue and renew their own passports without the guardian's permission very soon, in addition to studying abroad and traveling without their guardian's permission,” according to Al-Sharif.
“Some Saudi families allow their daughters to travel abroad without a male companion, be it for tourism or treatment,” said Riham Al-Saadi, 27, a Saudi national who has traveled to several countries without her male guardians. Al-Sharif agreed, saying that some Saudi families allow their daughters to travel alone through the electronic travel permission.
Saudi female lawyers can also plead in Saudi courtrooms, a change that came about after 2013 when the first female trainee advocate was registered, achieving a significant victory for women who were subsequently allowed to practice as lawyers.
Jeddah-based attorney Bayan Zahran became the first Saudi woman to open a law firm in January 2014.
Al-Sharif also pointed out that women have the right to issue a power of attorney by themselves.
Women are also allowed to start their own businesses without the need for a male guardian’s permission, be it a husband, father, brother or even son, explained the lawyer citing the Ministry of Commerce and Investment.
As for renting apartments and cars, Al-Sharif said, “King Salman ordered all women’s procedures to be facilitated since having their own national ID. So she has the right to rent an apartment or even a car. However, most rental offices ignore this and never apply it and require a male guardian’s [permission].”
Applying for a job is another basic right that Saudi women enjoy without the interference of a male guardian.
Claiming that women cannot mix with the opposite gender is not entirely true. While it applies in some workplaces, men and women do interact in public place like malls, restaurants and universities, where female students in Saudi universities have male instructors in classes.
Saudi courts sometimes also grant mothers custody of their children in cases where the father is found ineligible, Al-Sharif added.
Wearing a full-length black abaya is not mandatory in the country either. Women still can wear colorful robes without headscarves in some big cities like Jeddah and Riyadh. Medicine students and nurses publicly move around the hospital grounds wearing a white lab coat.
Al-Saadi said one of the biggest misconceptions she has heard about Saudi women is that they are not allowed to leave the house and they only “cook and obey men”.
“This is very wrong. Thankfully, we are living our lives to the fullest, and all these wrong ideas about us do not exist on the ground.”
A documentary about women in Saudi Arabia would be a good way to educate people, she suggested. “A documentary that shows our lives, how we are happily living. I think this is the fastest way to correct the misconceptions about us.”
Al-Sharif, the lawyer, believes that some of the misconceptions come from women's own lack of awareness of their rights.
In July 2016, an app called “Know Your Rights” was launched by Saudi lawyer Nasreen Alissa, to help spread awareness among her peers.The media plays a major role in marketing inaccurate information and claims too, said Al-Sharif.
“The solution to raise women’s awareness of their rights can be the media itself, through the proper coverage of women's empowerment and the correction of the inaccurate information.”
Her advice to Saudi women is to be more vocal about their rights.
“As a Saudi woman, it’s your turn now to look for rights and to make sure that such rights are known and applied.”


Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures

Ad-Dir’iyah, seen in the distance, is the original home of the royal family and the country’s first capital, from 1744 to 1818. (Reuters)
Updated 11 December 2018
0

Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures

  • Of the many Saudi UNESCO World Heritage Sites declared over the past decade, Al-Turaif is the newest (and oldest) kid in town

JEDDAH: In an increasingly accessible country with no shortage of cultural hidden gems, Saudi Arabia is in a unique position to develop and showcase its most fascinating heritage sites, from the architectural to the archeological.
Five national treasures have already been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2008, including Al-Ahsa oasis, Al-Hijr archaeological site (Madain Salih), Historic Jeddah and the rock art at Hail.
The fifth site, recognized by UNESCO in 2010, is Al-Turaif Historical District, the remains of a settlement that dates back to the 15th century. Located in the north-western outskirts of the capital, Riyadh, it is one of the Kingdom’s oldest heritage sites, though its potential was only recognized relatively recently.
It is set against the backdrop of the historic Ad-Dir’iyah oasis, a place that is dear to the hearts of the Saudi people and has a special place in the history of the Kingdom, as the original home of the royal family and the country’s first capital, from 1744 to 1818.
The surviving mud-brick structures, in the Najdi architectural style, overlook the oasis and palm gardens of Wadi Hanifa. They include historic palaces, monuments and administrative buildings used by the First Saudi State, such as Salwa Palace, the home of the ruling family at the time, and Saad bin Saud Palace.
When Ad-Dir’iyah was established as the capital, under the rule of Imam Mohammed bin Saud, the founder of the first Saudi State, tribes from across the desert flocked to the city, which expanded to accommodate them.
The city’s borders ran along the edges of the valley, and the mud-brick walls were designed to cope with the harsh desert weather, including summer temperatures hat can reach more than 55 C. With a valley below, vast farm lands and palm trees covering most of the region, the city thrived and flourished.
During Imam Mohammed’s rule, Ad-Dir’iyah became one of the most important cities in Najd, thanks to its position on the trade routes from east to west, the military strength of Al-Saud family, and its importance to pilgrims, granting them protection and accommodation during their journeys.
Now, Al-Turaif district is undergoing a major renovation project to preserve the historically important structures and showcase them as a reminder of the place and time from which the Kingdom’s founding fathers emerged.
This is just one of many projects planned or underway to safeguard Saudi Arabia’s national treasures and develop them as major tourist attractions. As part of the ongoing process, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage last week added 19 archaeological sites to the National Antiquities Register, which aims to develop and preserve Saudi’s heritage sites.
Ad Dir’iyah has long been considered one of the nation’s greatest treasures. In the run-up to the celebrations in 1999 for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, at the time the governor of Riyadh, ordered the formation of a committee to develop Ad-Dir’iyah, following a request by Prince Sultan bin Salman, the president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. The main aim was to preserve the historic mud-brick buildings and monuments of Al-Turaif, as part of a wider program to develop the Historic Ad Dir’iyah site.
The SCTH has launched many projects across the country as part of an ongoing overall effort to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the top tourism destinations in the Middle East.
In 2010, Al-Turaif District became a registered World Heritage site after a number of development projects were carried out in preparation for its inclusion. The development program, drawn up by the Riyadh Development Authority in corporation with the SCTH and Ad Dir’iyah Governate, focused on the historic and political and cultural value of the city.
Ad-Dir’iyah Salwa Palace Museum and the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Mosque are among the major buildings being developed and preserved. There are four other attractions in the area: a Social Life Museum, a Military Museum, an Arabian Horse Museum and a Trade and Monetary Museum.
Another main attraction is Al-Bujairi Park, a modern development project that includes a spacious park, cafes, restaurants and an art gallery that is popular with international tourists and locals thanks to its relaxing atmosphere away from the city’s hustle and bustle. It serves as the main recreational attraction of Historical Ad Dir’iyah between Al-Bujairi and Al-Turaif Quarter also has steep rock formations, passageways and water creeks, making it a unique location in the capital.
On December 9, 2018, after the GCC Summit in Riyadh, King Salman attended the opening ceremony of Al-Turaif Historical District Development Project in the presence of GCC dignitaries and leading Saudi officials and guests. The project will help transform the Ad-Dir’iyah area into an international and national tourism and cultural hub.
“Al-Turaif has been transformed into an open museum with the restoration and documentation of its archaeological sites,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Emir of Riyadh and chairman of Riyadh Development Authority.
As a key focus of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, tourism is seen as one of the most important sectors that can contribute to job creation in the Kingdom.
It currently employs more than 900,000 Saudis, a number that is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.