Saudi Arabia pledges $200m to support Islamic endowment and international relief programs in Palestine

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Saudi King Receives Palestinian President Abbas. AN Photo ( Essa Doubisi )
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Saudi Arabia’s King received Arab leaders and heads of delegations participating in the 29th Arab League Summit at the King Abdulaziz International Cultural Center in Dhahran on Sunday. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia’s King received Arab leaders and heads of delegations participating in the 29th Arab League Summit at the King Abdulaziz International Cultural Center in Dhahran on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 15 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia pledges $200m to support Islamic endowment and international relief programs in Palestine

  • King Salman announces $150m to maintain Islamic heritage in East Jerusalem
  • Arab member states reiterate rejection of US decision to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Dhahran: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday a $150 million donation to the maintenance of Islamic heritage, namely the religious administration that oversees Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque— one of Islam’s holiest sites at the start of an Arab summit.

The Kingdom announced another $50 million for programs run by the UN relief agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) after the US slashed its aid.

King Abdullah II of Jordan opened the 29th Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran, stressing the need for a two-state solution and condemning the US’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman also condemned the move and reiterated the Kingdom's rejection of the US decision, while emphasizing the need to have East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

Saudi Arabia, which takes over the rotating chair of the Arab summit from Jordan, announced that the current gathering would be named the “Quds (Jerusalem) Summit,” a reference to US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel which Arab states condemned.

"We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem," Salman said. "East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories."
The king said he had named this year's meeting "the Jerusalem summit so that the entire world knows Palestine and its people remain at the heart of Arab concerns".

However, the strongest criticism of the Trump administration came from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“The decisions have made the United States a party to the conflict and not a neutral mediator,” Abbas said at the summit.

Saudi King Salman told leaders from across the 22-member Arab League that Iran was to blame for instability and meddling in the region. He said Yemeni rebel Houthis, backed by Iran, had fired 116 missiles at the kingdom since Saudi Arabia went to war in Yemen three years ago to try and roll back Houthi gains there.“We renew our strong condemnation of terrorist acts carried out by Iran in the Arab region, and we reject its blatant interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries,” King Salman said in the eastern Saudi Arabian city, without giving specifics.

He called on the international community to take a strong stance against Iran’s aggression in the region, as well as the militias that are cutting off aid to war-torn Yemen.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said Assad’s government and “international players trying to achieve their own strategic political goals” bear responsibility for the crisis there.
“Regional interference in Arab affairs has reached an unprecedented degree. And first of these is the Iranian interference, the aim of which is not for the well-being of the Arabs or their interests,” he said.

Aboul Gheit added that major threats facing Arabs are all equally important and dangerous.

“Current challenges call for dialogue on priorities of Arab national security,” Aboul Gheit said.

He also said that the Syrian regime bears a great responsibility in the “collapse of its homeland and loss of dignity.”

Prior to the opening of the summit, King Salman received Arab leaders and heads of delegations participating in the 29th Arab League Summit at the King Abdulaziz International Cultural Center in Dhahran.
 


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”