Princess Reema: It’s time to focus on Saudi women’s capabilities, not their clothes

In this file photo, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud speaks at the Atlantic Council in Washington,DC. (AFP)
Updated 10 March 2018

Princess Reema: It’s time to focus on Saudi women’s capabilities, not their clothes

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is counting on the power of sport to help drive its nation to economic victory, according to Princess Reema bint Bandar.
“I am building an entire sports ecosystem: From the athletes, to the female ushers, and security guards, we’re going from the micro to the macro to the triple macro. Every sector in the country requires a down chain,” the princess told the Chatham House think-tank in London. 
“Sport impacts every industry sector across the board and it will draw in crowds globally.”
Since last October, the Princess has headed the Saudi Federation for Community Sports (SFCS) and is the vice president for Development and Planning at the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority. Princess Reema is the first woman in Saudi Arabia to head such a federation. As chief of SFCS she has the task of developing a sports ecosystem in the Kingdom, largely from scratch. 
She said: “From the staff who clean the machines, to the trainers, to the doctors, to the athletes, everything to do with sports must be included in the future planning of the country — that’s my job.”
This year has already seen significant sports advances in the Kingdom as restrictions on women watching and playing sport have been lifted. Females can now attend football matches, pump iron in gyms, partake in sports themselves, and girls can take physical education classes in school.
Since Princess Reema took up her role, she has played a part in helping to mobilize women’s sport. “I’ve encouraged women to go out on the streets and into the public parks to exercise. I’ve been telling women they don’t need permission to exercise in public, they don’t need permission to activate their own sports programs. And more and more they are doing it.”
Some National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 initiatives under Princess Reema’s extensive remit are: The promotion of sports and physical activities; improved return on investment in sports clubs and facilities; and enabling Saudi elite athletes to achieve high performance on a sustainable basis in different sports.
As well as targeting significantly improved performance at international sporting games, there is a heavy emphasis in the NTP initiatives on improving sports infrastructure and grassroots facilities through the addition of women’s sports facilities, and through local communities, where previously investment has been very limited generally.
Princess Reema said: “The choices that women have today are greater than yesterday and every day they will grow more.” 
She said she is working on licensing women’s gyms throughout the Kingdom. “The gyms have always been there but they were grey market and unregulated. We’ve created the formal structure for the licensing of women gyms and by putting them into the light we can regulate them,” she said.
The princess said the Kingdom now has 47 live gyms and she is targeting the licensing of 500 medium-sized gyms by June. She estimates that each gym will directly employ around eight people. “That’s already 4,000 jobs for women,” she said. “Then when you add the indirect jobs, such as trainers, the number goes up further.”
Wes Schwalje, COO of research firm Tahseen Consulting, agrees that the cultivation of Saudi Arabia’s sports will help boost jobs and grow the Kingdom’s economy. “Saudi Arabia has budgeted almost $600 million to build the foundations for a sports ecosystem by 2030. While this figure does not include infrastructure spending and just covers the next two years, it gives a sense of the magnitude of spending that is planned for sport,” he said.
“It is likely that $3 billion to $5 billion will be spent on developing a sports ecosystem by 2030. The sport will have a significant, positive impact on the Kingdom’s economy through its contribution to growth and jobs,” Schwalje added.
The COO said in the EU, for example, the sports sector (narrowly defined) makes up 1.13 percent of gross value add and 1.5 percent of employment on average. “If Saudi Arabia were to achieve a similar share of sport-related value add, that could mean an incremental $7 billion per year added to the gross domestic product and approximately 100,000 jobs,” he said. 
Schwalje said several other sport-related industries will also benefit from the growth of sports in the Kingdom, as part of a “multiplier effect.” 
“We would expect to see sizeable indirect impact in the food and hospitality sectors, construction, and media sectors,” he added.


US court orders Iran to pay $879 million to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

Updated 10 July 2020

US court orders Iran to pay $879 million to 1996 Khobar bombing survivors

  • The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material for the attack
  • The Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were housing US forces when it was bombed in 1996

DUBAI: A United States federal court held Iran responsible for the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia where US forces were housed, and ordered Tehran to pay $879 million to survivors. 

The Khobar Towers was a housing complex in the eastern city of Khobar, near the Abdulaziz Air Base and Saudi Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran, that housed American servicemen working on Operation Southern Watch.

A truck bomb was detonated on June 25, 1996, near an eight-story building of the housing complex, which killed 19 US Air Force personnel and a Saudi national and wounded 498 others.

The court ruled that the Iranian government directed and provided material support to Hezbollah who detonated the 5,000-pound truck bomb, a Chicago law firm press release said. The attackers reportedly smuggled the explosives used in the attack from Lebanon. 


The lawsuit was brought under the terrorism exception of the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act by the 14 injured US airmen and 21 of their immediate family members.

The defendants in the case were listed as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

 

 

“We will continue to seek to hold the Government of Iran accountable for this terrorist attack as long as is necessary,” said Adora Sauer, the lead attorney of MM LAW LLC.

US District Judge Beryl A. Howell found the defendants liable and awarded the plaintiffs $132 million for pain and suffering, as well as prejudgment interest, for a total compensatory damage award of $747 million and $132 million for punitive damages.


The court also said the plaintiffs are eligible for partial payments from the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates American victims of acts of international terrorism with funds obtained from fines and forfeitures levied against companies caught illegally laundering money for sanctioned countries and persons. 

The attorneys also intend to pursue enforcement of the judgments through litigation intended to seize Iranian assets.

“The physical and psychological toll on our families has been extremely high, but this judgment is welcome news. More than 20 years on, we want the world to remember the evil that Iran did at the Khobar Towers. Through the work of our attorneys, we intend to do just that,” said Glenn Christie, a retired Air Force staff sergeant crew chief who was severely injured in the bombing.


“The massive explosion took so much from their minds and bodies on the day of the attack in 1996 and every day and night since then. They can now live with that balance justice provides,” according to John Urquhart of the Urquhart Law Firm, who also represents the bombing victims.