Saudi women celebrate new freedoms on Saudi National Day 

Saudi women celebrate new freedoms on Saudi National Day 
Updated 23 September 2019

Saudi women celebrate new freedoms on Saudi National Day 

Saudi women celebrate new freedoms on Saudi National Day 
  • As the Kingdom’s ‘dark days’ recede into the past, Saudi women look to the future with optimism
  • Vision 2030 reforms and new laws empower and protect women, ushering in a new chapter in Saudi Arabia's history

RIYADH: Life for many young women in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s was an enjoyable mix of study, watching movies and looking forward to a normal, peaceful future in a growing society.

But as the decade drew to a close, an attempted terrorist overthrow and attack on the Holy Mosque in Makkah changed the lives of women and Saudi society as a whole.

Manal Aqeel, who later became an arts and crafts teacher in a government school, recalled: “We lived in peace, our children lived in peace. We knew our religion, we prayed, fasted, preformed Hajj and were kind to one another. I was in middle school when the attack happened on our Holy Kaaba and the aftermath was disastrous.

“Before the attack we would go out and live our daily lives normally. Our attire would consist of lightweight silk abayas wrapped around our waists to show off our colored skirts underneath.”

However, the seizure of the Holy Mosque by Juhayman Al-Otaibi and his militant followers in November 1979 sparked paranoia and fear among the Saudi population, and in the aftermath of the uprising people found themselves facing a rising tide of ultra-conservative restrictions in their daily lives.


Traditions run deep in Saudi society, with many families in the 1970s, left, and today integrating their cultural and religious beliefs in search of a moderate way of life. Below, Sara Murad, host of MBC’s “Good Morning Ya Arab,” represents a new wave of Saudi women.

Traditions run deep in Saudi society, with many families in the 1970s and today integrating their cultural and religious beliefs in search of a moderate way of life. 

“Our family gatherings before the attack consisted of all the family having dinner and enjoying our time like everyone else. But the incident changed our lives. An air of tension lingered in the air as there was surveillance. People started saying, this is halal, this is haram,” Aqeel said.

Within two years, her lightweight abaya was replaced by a full-length black garment that covered her head.

“I don’t know what it was that made women resort to this? Influence? Fear? But one thing for sure was even niqabs (clothing covering the face with slits for the eyes) weren’t acceptable.”  

After the events of 1979, conservatism intensified in Saudi Arabia as people adapted to a life filled with restraint and fear.  

“The days before Al-Otaibi were the best. We lived in security and safety, and enjoyed our lives without complications. We didn’t even lock our doors. It was a simple life,” Aqeel remembers.    




The 1970s opened new horizons for women in Saudi Arabia, allowing them to follow traditional roles or choose different career paths.

Women were TV anchors, radio presenters, actresses, teachers and more. With the oil boom, the country was flourishing. Before the terror attack, segregation was done out politeness and choice, not by force.

However, after 1979, Saudis adopted a more conservative approach to female clothing, with heavy, black abayas considered the only acceptable form of attire.

“My sister, beware of men wolves; cover yourself and you will not be harassed” was a familiar saying in the 1990s, leaving young women in fear of normal life.

Religious police encouraged the notion that women should be “hidden,” and neither heard nor seen in case their presence evoked deep desires which men could not control.

Saudi men also were left in a state of confusion, forced to look down on women as lesser beings, and with the right to control every aspect of their lives.

Fayga Redwan, a former school principal, recalls how her extended family stopped gathering on the beachfronts of Jeddah to relax with their children around, for fear of being confronted by the religious police.

“We all lived together in our big family home, my brothers and their wives and children. We would pack separate lunches as we had to segregate our picnics.  Women would sit together, while our husbands and brothers sat nearby. We weren’t afraid, but there was still a sense of uncertainty,” she said.

“People’s views changed, they were skeptical at all times. They were dark days, indeed.”

Mother-of-three Haya Saeed said that the 1990s were the toughest time for women. “By then the mutawa, or religious police, had greater influence and power. I remember how frightening it was just going to a shopping mall was because they would stop us and harass us,” she said.

“We couldn’t even go to a restaurant without a male guardian, and the religious police would go from table to table to make sure that there was no indecent mingling and that the male was either father or brother.”

However, over time, the restricted freedoms young women faced after the 1979 attack began to ease. Women were given more rights to hold higher managerial positions, education was a tool, and society began to realize that their role is vital to ensure progress.

The “dark days” began to fade, ushering in a new chapter in the nation’s history.

In 2005, the late King Abdullah launched the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) for both men and women.




Sara Murad, host of MBC’s “Good Morning Ya Arab,” represents a new wave of Saudi women.

The initiative was welcomed by many Saudi families, who encouraged their young daughters, sisters and wives to apply — a blow to the extremists who opposed the program.

In 2010, King Abdullah appointed women to the Shoura Council, a groundbreaking move that highlighted the importance of having women in high positions.

Then, on Sept. 26, 2017, King Salman ordered that women be allowed to drive cars, another major blow to the ultra-conservatives.

In light of Vision 2030, a strict anti-harassment law was introduced in June 2018 to protect women and allow them to enjoy their newly won freedoms.

Times have changed, indeed.

Under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom is regaining its former tolerance and moving ahead with lightning speed.

On Aug. 1, 2019 a decree signed by King Salman declared that Saudi women no longer require permission from a “male guardian” to travel or obtain a passport.




Young Saudi women joined social clubs throughout the Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s, with some clubs still in operation today.

“Life has changed so much now. This change is amazing and the new generation has more confidence,” said Latifa Al-Bazeay, a travel agent.

“There was a loss of nationalism after 1979, people wouldn’t even celebrate National Saudi Day. Now we see the difference,” she said.

“Saudis have always loved their country, but now their loyalty shines through. It is our duty to celebrate this day for its greatness,” she said.

The militant extremism of 1979 left an open wound that has only healed with the reign of King Salman and the crown prince.

“We will return to what we were,” the crown prince said — famous words that have been put into action, whether by eradicating extremism, fighting terrorism or empowering women. 


Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
  • The ministry renewed its stand with the country’s people, and supported all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia rejects Israeli plans to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and impose Israeli sovereignty over them, Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry stressed the country’s condemnation of any unilateral measures and violations of international legitimacy decisions. It also denounced anything that might undermine the chances of resuming the peace process to achieve security and stability in the region.

The ministry renewed its stand with the country’s people, and supported all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.

It has also shown its support in enabling the Palestinians to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has also condemened the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli authorities, stressing the need for them to assume responsibility in accordance with international law.


Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council
  • Imran Khan invites Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to visit Pakistan

JEDDAH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan have signed an agreement to establish the Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council.

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the council – a body created for streamlining bilateral cooperation between the two countries – to ‘remove hurdles’ to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019.

Representatives from both countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and chemical precursors, Saudi news agency SPA reported.

“Another MoU for financing eligible projects in the fields of energy, infrastructure, transportation, water, and communications between the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was signed as well,” Al-Arabiya TV reported separately.

The two leaders also witnessed the signing of agreements increasing cooperation on people sentenced to penalties depriving freedom, and on crime prevention.

Khan arrived in the Kingdom on Friday evening for a three-day visit on the invitation of the crown prince, who was present at Jeddah airport to receive him and the first lady. He is accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.

The crown prince and Pakistani leader held wide-ranging talks on bilateral, regional and international issues in Jeddah, a statement from Pakistan’s foreign office said.

“The two leaders reaffirmed the strong and historic bonds between the two countries rooted firmly in shared beliefs, common values, mutual trust and longstanding tradition of mutual support,” the statement said, and added that the two parties agreed to “further strengthen, deepen and diversify the existing bilateral political, economic, trade, defense and security ties.”

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“Special emphasis was laid on increasing Saudi investments in Pakistan, collaboration in the field of energy, and increased job opportunities for Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia,” the statement said.

Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis who remit billions of dollars back home every year.

On regional issues, Khan outlined his vision of a ‘peaceful neighborhood.’ He lauded the crown prince for efforts and initiatives aimed at reinforcing and promoting regional peace.

Khan highlighted the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir and stressed the importance of a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He also said Pakistan had made consistent efforts to support peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, the statement reported.

The Afghan question is important in the region against the backdrop of foreign troops pulling out of Pakistan’s neighboring country after a war that has lasted two decades, and that ends with the Taliban controlling huge swathes of the country.

During talks, issues related to the environment and climate change were discussed and the PM reportedly appreciated the crown prince’s ‘Green Saudi Arabia’ initiative.

Khan has reportedly also invited the crown prince to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience, the foreign office said.

On Friday, Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose official visit preluded Khan’s, held talks with the Saudi crown prince and reviewed bilateral ties.

He also discussed defense cooperation with the Saudi military chief of staff.


Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
Updated 08 May 2021

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
  • Energy, economy and welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the agenda of meetings
  • Remittances sent home from the Kingdom are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has long enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia, deeply rooted in their common faith, shared history and mutual support in times of crisis. More than 2 million Pakistanis work in the Kingdom, contributing to its prosperity and sending home billions in remittances. Trade, meanwhile, continues to blossom between the two nations.

With an eye to boosting their mutual cooperation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to begin a three-day official visit, with energy, economy and the welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the diplomatic agenda.

“We believe this is a very important visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia with respect to our historic bilateral relationship, trade and economic ties,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office, told Arab News.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman riding in a carriage during a welcome ceremony in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2019.  (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

“The two sides will discuss economy, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia, besides signing a number of agreements on energy and infrastructure related projects.”

Indeed, the Kingdom is an extremely important trade destination for Pakistan and both countries have been searching for ways to boost their partnership along with the volume of imports and exports.

At present, the trade volume between both countries stands at $3.6 billion, with imports from Saudi Arabia worth $3.2 billion and exports to the Kingdom worth $316.3 million, according to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

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“Our exports to Saudi Arabia have increased this year after our companies were allowed to export halal meat and livestock, and we are trying to further boost it,” Shahid Ahmed Leghari, chairman of the Pak-Saudi Business Council, told Arab News.

Pakistani companies had also started exporting spices and garments to the Kingdom, he said, but there is room for improvement. “We can boost our bilateral trade to $20 billion per annum if we are allowed to export rice, fruits, vegetables, wheat flour and dairy products to the Kingdom,” Leghari said.

Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia will help “open new business opportunities” for Pakistani businessmen and exporters, he added.

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the Supreme Coordination Council between the country and Saudi Arabia to “remove hurdles” to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019. 

During the crown prince’s 2019 visit, officials of both countries signed key memorandums of understanding worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing. 

Khan will be accompanied on his Saudi visit by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan walk along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Nur Khan Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

He will also meet Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary general of the World Muslim League; and the imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

Khan will also meet with members of Pakistan’s diaspora community in Jeddah during his stay in the port city. The Kingdom remains the largest source of overseas remittances to Pakistan, with Pakistani workers sending home $6.6 billion in the last fiscal year and $5.7 billion from July to March this fiscal year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

These remittances are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy, crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This visit is important because Pakistan is facing real financial challenges where we have to maintain our foreign exchange reserves,” Qamar Cheema, a Pakistani foreign-relations analyst, told Arab News.

“Pakistan is also facing challenges since the UAE visa (for Pakistanis) has not been resumed and at the same time the Pakistani diaspora is very much important. So, Pakistan wants its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to remain the same.”

Just weeks after Khan assumed office in August 2018, Saudi Arabia helped Pakistan stave off its looming balance of payments crisis by extending a $3 billion interest-free loan and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for the import of oil.

In exchange, “Pakistan wants to share its experiences with Saudi Arabia, making Saudi Arabia green. And Pakistan also wants to share its (military) experience to protect the security of Saudi Arabia,” said Cheema.

“We are going to nudge forward from where we left off back in 2019 when the crown prince came here.”

 

The Kingdom has often stood by Pakistan during difficult times, extending financial support during wars and natural disasters.

“Pakistan cannot forget the extensive Saudi financial support in the form of oil supply and cash during our difficult times, such as the earthquake in 2005 and flash floods in 2010 and 2011,” Javed Hafeez, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

The presence of Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in the Kingdom ahead of the prime minister’s visit indicates both countries are interested in “enhancing defense cooperation” and economic ties, he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan, and the prime minister’s visit will definitely help open new vistas of economic cooperation,” Hafeez said.

 


Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad
Updated 08 May 2021

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

RIYADH: A mosque named after Saudi Arabia's King Salman will be built at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said Saturday.

The planned mosque, which will be located at the university's campus, includes a prayer hall for men accommodating 4,000 worshipers and another for women accommodating 2000 worshipers, said the report.

King Salman. (SPA photo)

The project also contains a museum and a library each in the name of the King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Conferences Hall, an administrative area and a parking lot.

There will also be outdoor yards that can accommodate 6,000 people. 

SPA said King Salman has approved the plan.


Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings
Ordering online has pros and cons. (Supplied)
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings
  • Ordering online has pros and cons

RIYADH: Hordes of Saudis have ignored government warnings to avoid crowded public areas and flocked to the shops in the run-up to Eid Al-Fitr holidays.
Many would rather head to the malls than buy online despite concerns about the dangers of spreading the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Teacher Fawaz Abdulwahab told Arab News that although internet shopping was easier, he and his wife preferred to go to stores in person so that they could check the quality and size of products, especially shoes and clothes, before purchasing.
He said: “Some of my friends bought products off the internet and had problems such as delays in delivery, wrong sizes, and getting different products from those they had ordered.
“I’m not worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while shopping in crowded places, because I have already received a first dose of vaccine. Besides, I have been infected with the coronavirus.

‘I’m not worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while shopping in crowded places, because I have already received a first dose of vaccine.’

Fawaz Abdulwahab

“Also, many people have received the vaccine and are protected. Added to this, no one can enter a mall unless they have shown their status on the Tawakkalna app and had their temperature checked,” he added.
Saudi housewife, Haifa Dayed, said she liked to spruce up her house prior to Eid Al-Fitr and buy new candles and furniture items from her local market. If she could not find what she wanted in store, she would order online.
However, last year, due to the virus curfew and lockdowns, she had no choice but to order almost everything online.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Teacher Fawaz Abdulwahab said that although internet shopping was easier, he and his wife preferred to go to stores in person so that they could check the quality and size of products, especially shoes and clothes, before purchasing.

• Saudi housewife, Haifa Dayed, said she liked to spruce up her house prior to Eid Al-Fitr and buy new candles and furniture items from her local market. If she could not find what she wanted in store, she would order online.

“Ordering online has pros and cons. It saves you from the risk of getting COVID-19 but on the negative side there can be delays in delivery and wrong sizes. I use online shopping when I don’t find my size at the mall,” she added.
Although initially fearful of contracting the virus at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Dayed said she was no longer worried. “People now seem to be a lot more aware of the gravity of the situation and wear face masks all the time and use sanitizers at the mall.”
Saudi businessman Mohammed Al-Qahtani said that while online shopping had its advantages, physical shopping was more fun.
“When one orders online, the price is fixed, and you cannot bargain with the seller. When
the COVID-19 pandemic started, it was dangerous to go out to the mall but today after millions of people have been vaccinated and with precautionary measures in place, I think many people prefer to go out to the mall than order online,” he added.