TheFace: Shereen Abdulrahman Abulhassan, Saudi mountaineer

Shereen Abdulrahman Abulhassan with her niece and two of her sons. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Short Url
Updated 13 December 2019

TheFace: Shereen Abdulrahman Abulhassan, Saudi mountaineer

Shereen Abdulrahman Abulhassan I was an extremely fortunate child, born to parents who moved to Alkhobar as it was a developing city set to be a model across the Kingdom. I was lucky to grow up in an environment that encouraged learning and growth, and which allowed a child’s personality to develop, regardless of gender.

My parents never discriminated between their daughters and sons, even when customs and traditions limited women in the Kingdom and elsewhere. We were all allowed to practice our hobbies and pursue our passions with encouragement. My late mother was an avid reader, and my father continues to be a keen sportsman.

I went to Switzerland just after high school.

My parents sent me to study at the Institut Villa Pierrefeu, a school of etiquette, for one year.

After attending that Swiss finishing school, I received my bachelor’s in English literature from the University of Dammam, I got married and had five children, a daughter and four sons. 

For 20 years, I’ve devoted myself to raising my children until they grew self-reliant. A new stage was about to begin.

Taking up from my mother, I was an avid reader for years so I founded the Tent Book Club in 2011. After sending my children off to college, I entered a new phase in my life: Exploring the world and its coexistence of cultures that I had read about for years.

In 2016, I set off on a journey to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in northeast Tanzania. I found myself in a beautiful world where I could exercise in nature, by climbing to the peak of mountains.

In November 2017, I decided to establish the Rawasi Hiking Team. I was encouraged by the changes that were happening, and continue to be taking place in Saudi society for women. I formed a team, expecting that there would not be more than 20-25 people interested. We were largely targeting women, but to my surprise, in one month, 170 members from both genders joined, traveling twice a month to various areas around Riyadh, once every two months to a heritage site in the Kingdom and for two summers in a row, we traveled to Russia and Japan with funding from prominent female sponsors.

I was supported by my amazing husband, Abdullah Alamri, who was beside me every step of the way, encouraging and supporting me with every decision I made.

I challenge myself every time I set out, I want to reach the summit by any means. 

On my first trip to Kilimanjaro, I was struck with anxiety and fear after enduring freezing temperatures, I fell behind and was left alone with my guide. After checking my vitals and oxygen rate, he cleared me and helped me continue forward. I pushed on, until reaching the summit at sunrise. I felt a sudden strength channelled by my late mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time, I stood and admired the strength that pushed me toward the peak. My mother, a source of power, a strong woman who moved to a new city not knowing anyone until with time, became one of the most prominent women in the Eastern Province, loved and respected by all.

Strength derived from success on the peaks has helped me overcome all my fears, as the American author Ruth Gendler once said: “Fear has a big shadow but it is small in size.”

Dreams are limitless, whether you’re on top of a high mountain or on an arduous adventure, a mantra I encourage my friends and teammates to follow. 

 


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

Photo/Supplied
Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.