Life is sweet as Saudi children say goodbye to lockdown

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As the second phase of easing lockdown restrictions gets underway, people are cautiously getting back to familiar vacation routines, such as shopping and barbecues by the sea or in parks. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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As the second phase of easing lockdown restrictions gets underway, people are cautiously getting back to familiar vacation routines, such as shopping and barbecues by the sea or in parks. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 01 June 2020

Life is sweet as Saudi children say goodbye to lockdown

  • Entertainment centers and children’s play areas, as well as cinemas, will remain closed until June 20

JEDDAH: After more than two months in lockdown, families and children in Saudi Arabia are enjoying a return to normal activities as coronavirus restrictions are eased around the Kingdom.

But while some parents have lingering worries about their children’s health, for youngsters it is a different story.
Eight-year-old Sara Issam, of Makkah, told Arab News that she was excited to finally visit a nearby mini-market with her elder brother as she used to do every Eid. “I had to wear a face mask and be careful where I put my hands, but I was happy to buy all those sweets using my Eidiyah (money gifted to children in Eid),” she told Arab News.
From Sunday, children under 15 will be allowed entry to public areas, such as malls, restaurants and cafes.
However, entertainment centers and children’s play areas, as well as cinemas, will remain closed until June 20.

I want to go to the playground, the park, the toyshop and to play with my friends. I also want to go traveling.

Yahya

As the second phase of easing lockdown restrictions gets underway, people are cautiously getting back to familiar vacation routines, such as shopping, barbecues by the sea or in parks, exchanging family visits, traveling around the Kingdom and desert camping.
With children now allowed on family outings, some parents worry about safety, saying it will be difficult to keep them in quarantine if they fall ill.
However, three-year-old Yahya told Arab News that he was “sad to be kept at home” because of coronavirus and there are many places he missed.
“I want to go to the playground, the park, the toyshop and to play with my friends. I also want to go traveling,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• After more than two months in lockdown, families and children in Saudi Arabia are enjoying a return to normal activities.

• As the second phase of easing lockdown restrictions gets underway, people are cautiously getting back to familiar vacation routines.

• Some parents worry about safety, saying it will be difficult to keep them in quarantine if they fall ill.

Yahya’s mother, Rawan Najjar, from Jeddah, said: “I intend to take him out but with proper precautions and as long as I know that he understands what is going on.”  Other families say that as long as the current phase is experimental and under constant review, they will stay home.
For nine-year-old Ayham, from Jeddah, quarantine has been a happy experience.
“We played games together as a family, I also learned English and French on a mobile app, I fasted for the first time in Ramadan and learned to read the Qur’an,” he said.
“I also read the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ books, and another Arabic book, and chatted and studied with my friends through videoconferencing. But I missed swimming in the sea, going to the supermarket to buy food for the house and shopping for books.” Ayham’s mother, Haneen Maher, said that she is reluctant to take her children out.

As a mother, I fear for my children’s safety and worry about taking them to public places.

Haneen Maher

“I don’t think we should get too excited with easing the restrictions. As a mother, I fear for my children’s safety and worry about taking them to public places,” she told Arab News. Maher said that she would take her children out for fresh air, but only inside the family car.
“We went to Jeddah Corniche and to a public park with our snacks, but the children were not allowed to get out of the car. I know they want their freedom back,
but they understand the situation,” she said.
Musab Allan agrees, allowing his children out only in the early morning “in addition to visits to grandparents twice a month.”
Families with common or chronic health issues such as asthma are also cautious about leaving the house amid the pandemic.
Salma, 23, said: “I can see how bored my younger siblings are, but my mother insists nobody leave the house until coronavirus is no longer there. As a family with weak immune system history, this is the best option for us.”
Other parents looked for different options, avoiding closed areas such as malls and restaurants and, instead, visiting open spaces such as the Corniche and other natural locations.


New projects aim to share Saudi human-rights successes with the world

Updated 16 July 2020

New projects aim to share Saudi human-rights successes with the world

  • Initiatives aim to highlight historic reforms and promote more accurate international view of Kingdom’s efforts to improve human rights
  • Human Rights Commission also aims to enhance cooperation with organizations working in the field in other countries

RIYADH: The Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC) has launched three international initiatives to highlight the success of recent reforms implemented by the Kingdom, and enhance its cooperation with other organizations working in the field.

“(Saudi Arabia) has witnessed historic transformations and qualitative moves in human rights, as more than 70 reform decisions in the field were issued under the directives of King Salman and under the direct leadership and tireless follow-up of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Awwad Al-Awwad, the president of the HRC.

He described the reforms as a success story, and said the commission will work to highlight the achievements around the world.

At the forefront of this effort is the launch of the HRC’s International Communication Program, as part of which representatives of civil-society institutions will be invited to participate in commission meetings and international human-rights events. In addition, young national leaders will be trained to enhance the representation of the Kingdom in human-rights organizations worldwide.

The HRC considers that the program presents an important opportunity to educate and inform international partners and the public about the unprecedented steps Saudi Arabia is taking to meet international standards of human rights and its achievements to that end. It also provides a mechanism that will enable the country to develop its relationship with the international community and highlight developments and reforms.

Al-Awwad also announced the launch of the HRC International Platform, which will focus on sharing English-language information and data reflecting the progress made in safeguarding human rights in the Kingdom. This will include direct interaction with the public on social media.

The third new initiative is a monthly, English-language newsletter featuring information about the latest human-rights reforms and developments in Saudi Arabia, including efforts being made to promote and protect them. A mailing list has also been created that includes more than 500 prominent human-rights campaigners around the world. The newsletter and other HRC publications will be sent to them to enhance communication and interaction, and keep them informed of human-rights initiatives in the Kingdom.

Al-Awwad said that the new initiatives are designed to reveal the true state of human rights in the Kingdom, which has undergone unprecedented development at all levels in the past few years. They will also improve communication and encourage positive relationships with human-rights campaigners and organizations in other countries, he added, in an effort to correct misconceptions that have formed for many reasons, not least the absence until now of accurate information.

The HRC has already produced the first issue of its newsletter, which highlighted the Kingdom’s improved ranking in the latest edition of the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which was published in June. It praised the efforts being made by Saudi authorities to crack down on human trafficking through a series of reforms, the most recent of which was the launch of the national referral mechanism. This was strengthened by a Saudi-international training partnership, organized through the International Organization for Migration and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and a Saudi-US partnership to combat human trafficking.

The newsletter also reported on the Kingdom’s efforts to tackle terrorism, which undermines and threatens human rights. In addition, it included information about penal reforms, and the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish flogging as a punishment in ta’zir cases — in which, under Sharia, punishment is at the discretion of the judge or ruler — and replace it with imprisonment and/or a fine.