Saudi anti-harassment law put to test

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With the Saudi anti-sexual harassment law put into effect, sexual offenders should not have to think many times before attacking their prey. (Shutterstock image)
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The alleged harasser in Alkhobar. (Screen grab from YouTube video)
Updated 13 May 2019
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Saudi anti-harassment law put to test

  • Videos that went viral on social media resulted in the arrest of two men in 24 hours

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s relatively new anti-harassment law was put to the test in the past week, with two separate incidents that were publicized online, resulting in the arrests of the offenders, both in their 20s, within a 24-hour period. 

The first took place on Wednesday night in Alkhobar, where a woman was sexually and verbally harassed as she was driving her car. 

The woman recorded the incident as the man threatened to open the car door if she did not get out. “I want you, get out,” he said as he made various lewd gestures. 


 

The woman posted the video on social media but has not officially filed a report. She reportedly wanted the video to go viral to push for the man’s arrest.

“The government didn’t disappoint,” she said, as the public prosecutor issued an order to arrest the man.

In Dammam, a woman was sexually assaulted from behind as she was leaving a grocery store on Saturday. The incident was captured on CCTV.

 


 

Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Saud Al-Moajab ordered the immediate arrest of the man after the incident was brought to his attention.

Police spokesman Col. Ziyad Al-Riqaiti did not identify the man, but said he was a Saudi in his 20s.

Social media lit up in reaction as the videos of both perpetrators were widely circulated. An overwhelming majority of Saudis expressed disdain, saying the perpetrators’ actions contradicted Islamic teachings. There were some who justified the acts of the perpetrators.

“Defamation, defamation, defamation. How will the likes of him deter from their ways if we don’t slander him?” @MAloamari tweeted. “The public prosecutor’s quick actions are praised by all in the community.”

@adnanalhassani said of the grocery store incident: “Thank God for CCTV cameras.”

@m7md1433 tweeted: “The most important thing is they brought him in. We’ll surely hear of the severe punishment shortly.”

@TARQ2012 tweeted: “Defamation is the best solution for harassers.” @abood7562 said of the harasser in Dammam: “Let them put an end to this aggressor. I wish that the most severe of penalties is applied.”

Two Saudi men, both in their 30s, were arrested for sexually harassing women in the eastern cities of Alkhobar and Dammam. (YouTube image)

Shoura Council member Noura Shaaban said: “We live in the reign of King Salman, who has ensured that women must work in a safe environment.”

She added: “He has issued laws to combat harassment. The Human Rights Commission commended the adoption of this system and its importance in maintaining the individual’s privacy and dignity, guaranteed by the provisions of Islamic law and regulations.”

Shaaban said: “We as women shall continue to exercise all our daily activities and errands with the support of our leadership.”

Al-Riqaiti said police throughout the Kingdom are keen to ensure the safety of all citizens and residents.

He issued a stern warning against anyone wishing to harm the security, safety and stability of Saudi society.

In a statement posted on its Twitter page, the public prosecution emphasized that sexual harassment is defined as words or actions that hint at sexuality, coming from one person to another, that harm the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way, including through the use of modern technology. 



The law provides for penalties of up to two years in prison and fines of up to SR100,000 ($26,664.5).

In 2017, a royal decree stated that “considering the dangers sexual harassment poses and its negative impact on the individual, the family and society along with its contradiction of Islamic principles, our customs and traditions,” the Interior Ministry “shall prepare a draft law to tackle sexual harassment.” The decree came days after the ban on women driving was lifted.

In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved legislation, drafted by the ministry and instructed by King Salman, that criminalized sexual harassment.

Decoder

Penalty for sexual harassment

Last year, Saudi Arabia brought in a law criminalizing sexual harassment. Offenders may be imprisoned for up to two years and/or fined up to SR100,000 ($26,664.5). If the crime is repeated, offenders face five years in prison and/or a fine of SR300,000.


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.