Massive Cabinet shake-up

Updated 31 January 2015
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Massive Cabinet shake-up

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman announced a massive Cabinet reshuffle on Thursday, appointing Azzam Al-Dakhil, new education minister, Ahmed bin Aqeel Al-Khateeb new health minister, Adel Al-Toraifi, minister of culture and information and Abdul Lateef bin Abdul Malik Al-Asheikh new minister of municipal and rural affairs.
King Salman, who ascended the throne on Friday, reappointed Prince Khaled Al-Faisal as governor of Makkah in place of Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah and Prince Faisal bin Bandar governor of Riyadh, replacing Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. He removed Prince Bandar bin Sultan from the position of the secretary-general for National Security Council and special envoy of the king.
Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani is the new justice minister, who replaces Mohammed Al-Eissa while Saleh bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh was reinstated Islamic affairs minister, replacing Sulaiman Abalkhail. He merged the higher education ministry with the Ministry of Education.
Other new ministers are: Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel, minister of telecommunications and information technology; Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qassabi minister of social affairs; Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Fadli, agriculture minister; Khaled bin Abdullah Al-Araj, minister of civil service; Saad bin Khaled Al-Jabari state minister; and Mohammed bin Abdul Malik Al-Asheikh, state minister.
Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, Labor Minister Adel Fakeih and Water and Electricity Minister Abdullah Al-Hussayen retained their positions.
Other Cabinet members are: Crown Prince Muqrin, deputy premier; Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, second deputy premier and minister of interior; Prince Mansour bin Miteb, state minister and adviser to the king; Prince Mohammed bin Salman, defense minister; and Matlab Al-Nafeesa, state minister; and Musaed Al-Aiban, state minister.
Housing Minister Shuwaish Al-Dhuwaihi, Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar, Economy and Planning Minister Muhammed Al-Jasser, Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Transport Minister Abdullah Al-Muqbil will remain in their positions. Other ministers who retained their positions were: State Minister for Shoura Affairs Mohammed bin Faisal Abusaq, and State Minister Essam bin Saad bin Saeed.
King Salman appointed Khaled bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Muhaisen as president of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha), replacing Mohammed Al-Sharief.
Intelligence chief Prince Khaled bin Bandar was relieved and Gen. Khaled bin Ali Al-Humaidan was named the new chief. Prince Khaled bin Bandar, Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaed and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Sattam have been named advisers to the king with the rank of minister.
King Salman dissolved a number of bodies such as the Higher Committee for Educational Policy, Higher Committee for Administrative Organization, Civil Service Council, the Higher Commission for King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology, Higher Education and Universities Council, Higher Council for Education, Higher Council for Petroleum and Mineral Affairs, Supreme Economic Council, National Security Council (NSC), Supreme Council for King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy, Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, and Supreme Council for the Affairs of the Handicapped.
Two new councils have been established: The Council for Political and Security Affairs and the Council for Economic and Development Affairs. The two councils will be closely linked with the Council of Ministers. The commission of experts will continue as one of the agencies of the Cabinet’s general secretariat.
The Council for Political and Security Affairs will have nine members and will be chaired by Prince Mohammed bin Naif.
The 22-member Council for Economic and Development Affairs will be chaired by Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
King Salman also reshuffled the general committee for Cabinet under the chairmanship of Musaed Al-Aiban.
Other major appointments were: Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, deputy minister of petroleum and minerals with the rank of minister; Prince Turki bin Saud, president of King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology with the rank of minister; Hazim bin Mustafa Zagzoug, head of the king’s private affairs; Fahd Abdullah Al-Samari, adviser at the Royal Court; Mohammed bin Sulaiman Al-Ajaji, head of experts commission at the Cabinet; Yahya bin Abdullah Al-Samaan, assistant president of the Shoura Council; Abdul Rahman Al-Hussayen, president of the Control and Investigation Board; Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Jadaan, president of Capital Market Authority; Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation replacing Prince Fahd bin Abdullah; Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah Al-Sanad, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, replacing Abdullatif Al-Asheikh; Nabeel bin Mohammed Al-Aamoudi, president of the Saudi Ports Authority, replacing Abdul Aziz Al-Tuwaijri; and Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al-Sultan, mayor of Riyadh. Mohammed bin Abdul Kareem Al-Eissa has been removed from his position as member of the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars, one decree said.


Motherly advice from Dr. Thoraya Obaid

Updated 21 March 2019
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Motherly advice from Dr. Thoraya Obaid

  • n an exclusive interview for Mother’s Day in the Arab world, the woman who paved the way for a new generation of Saudi women shares her life lessons
  • ‘Have faith in Allah, and believe in yourself and that you were created to bring good to the world,’ she advises

RIYADH: The first Saudi to head a UN agency, the first Saudi female to graduate from a US university on a government scholarship, one of 30 women to be appointed to the Shoura Council for the first time, one of 100 notable “Muslim Builders of World Civilization and Culture,” and editor of “The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.” These are just a few achievements on the remarkable CV of Dr. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. 

For years she politely declined media requests for interviews, saying it was time for the next generation to take the spotlight. But after a year of attempts by Arab News, she finally granted the newspaper an interview. 


 

As the Arab world marks Mother’s Day on March 21, Arab News decided it was a good occasion to sit down with Obaid, a mother of two girls, because she has been a role model to so many young Saudi women.

 

She has been an advocate for women’s rights worldwide, most notably as under-secretary-general and executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) from 2001 to 2010. 

But what most people do not know is how humble she is. “Please don’t call me Dr. Thoraya, call me auntie,” she said in a soft voice.

Early beginnings 

“I was 7 when I left for Cairo (to study at a boarding school). There were no girls’ schools in Saudi Arabia at the time, in September 1951, and my father had the same principles for his sons and daughter. He followed our Islamic teaching that advocated education for all,” she said.

“I started crying when he took me to the school in Cairo and told the teacher to take me away.”

Years later, she asked her father how he felt at that time. He told her: “I felt that if I let my fatherly emotions take over, I’d have bundled you up and taken you away.” 

But he decided against it, realizing that this moment would make or break her future, and he wanted to empower her through education.  

That moment, Obaid said, helped her cope anywhere in the world. 

She learned to make a new family through bonds with other students and teachers at the boarding school. 

She went on to get a PhD in English literature, with a minor in cultural anthropology, from Wayne State University in Detroit.

“My generation was focused on education,” she said. “You learn that education isn’t only for you, but also for you to serve others.” 

Working life

Obaid has lived and worked most of her life outside her country, in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the US. 

During her time with the UN, she travelled the world. After her meetings in various countries, she would insist on going to villages and poor urban areas where the UNFPA supported government projects, so she could meet the people there. 

“These are the real people that must be empowered to change their own lives, not the ones we meet in the ministries,” she said. “Unless you go and see the poor, the sick and the very basic human rights violations, you won’t know what the country is about, especially if you’re stuck in nice hotels.” 

Even though she sought to visit these impoverished areas, heart-wrenching scenes would always get to her. At the UN they called her the “crying executive director,” but she was not ashamed of her tears. 

In one African country, while checking maternal programs in the village, she encountered a sickly woman who was thrown out of her home by her husband. She told her story to Obaid, both of them with tears streaming down their cheeks. 

In South Africa, she visited the cell in which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 17 years. The guides were all former political prisoners, who said they kept the prison open in order to demonstrate that apartheid should not exist anymore. As she cried silently, she told them: “You know, there’s another apartheid happening again, in Palestine.” 

Life lessons

Obaid’s experiences taught her much about life. When it comes to family, she had this advice: “For young girls in families, don’t ask for everything and at the same time. Be selective, and have a strategic goal that you want to achieve in your life; focus on that.”

She said: “My most important request was going to university, a goal that’s now taken for granted by the young generation. So I tell girls to have a strategic objective in life. If you work toward it and achieve it, it will change your life.”

She advises daughters not to be inflexible with parents regarding their demands. “When you grow up, you’ll realize the issues weren’t worth it,” she said. “It’s even more obvious when you become a parent yourself.” 

Obaid, who worked hard to realize her dreams, added: “We, as human beings, don’t have unlimited energy, so direct your energy to what will make a difference in your life.” 

As for being Saudi, she said there is no place like home, adding: “I’ve lived 58 years out of my country and returned voluntarily. I’ve never really felt home except in my home, Saudi Arabia, with all its frustrations and complications.” 

It never crossed her mind to get another passport or residency permit, she said. “I learned that one’s dignity lies in their homeland. Wherever you go and however long you stay, you’ll always feel like an outsider. Even if you integrate in the community, you’re still an outsider,” she added. 

When asked what advice she would give youths, she said: “Have faith in Allah, and believe in yourself and that you were created to bring good to the world.”