Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in India talks amid fears of new Taliban repression

Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (@DrSJaishankar)
Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (@DrSJaishankar)
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Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in India talks amid fears of new Taliban repression

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in India talks amid fears of new Taliban repression
  • Expert says Prince Faisal’s visit “very significant” amid political changes in the region
  • New Delhi urges Riyadh to resume flights as two officials discuss COVID-19 challenges, trade and bilateral ties


NEW DELHI: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan held talks with the Indian foreign minister in New Delhi on Sunday amid growing fears of a return to a repressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The two men had what India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar described as a “very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan” in a “cordial and productive meeting.”

Saudi Arabia's top Saudi diplomat arrived in New Delhi for a two-day visit on Saturday and is expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

It was the first high-level visit by a Saudi minister to India since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent travel curbs early last year.

“(It) was a cordial and productive meeting with (the) Saudi foreign minister,” Jaishankar said in a Twitter post on Sunday after the meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

Prince Faisal’s visit comes amid the recent political changes in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s return to power last month, marking the first official interaction between the two allies.

“Very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar said.




Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (@DrSJaishankar)

New Delhi had previously cultivated a close relationship with Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president who fled the country when the Taliban swept into Kabul on Aug. 15.

“Saudi Arabia and India have shared concerns as to whether Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for extremists because then it would become extremely dangerous for the neighborhood as a whole,” Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

“It’s natural that both the close partners would discuss Afghanistan. It reflects very close relations that India and Saudi Arabia have established with each other.

“We now have a strategic council at the apex level. Therefore, the relationship that began with cooperation on counterterrorism has now become a very strong and deep strategic partnership.”

Return to repression

Despite promises by the Taliban that their new administration would be different from their hard-line Islamist regime in the late 1990s, a series of rulings by their interim government has raised fears of a return to repression, particularly of women.

About two dozen female activists protested outside the former women’s ministry on Sunday after it was closed by the Taliban and replaced by the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the group’s moral police.

Female staff said they had been trying to return to work at the ministry for several weeks, but had been told to go home. 

“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs must be reactivated,” said Baseera Tawana, one of the protesters. “The removal of women means the removal of human beings.”
Another protester, Taranum Sayeedi, said: “The women of Afghanistan today are not the women of 26 years ago.”

The new Taliban mayor of Kabul on Sunday ordered female city employees to stay at home, except those whose work could not be done by men.

Marzia Ahmadi, a rights activist and government employee, demanded that the Taliban reopen public spaces to women. “It’s our right,” she said. “We want to talk to them. We want to tell them that we have the same rights as they have.”




Afghan activists demonstrate in front of the former Ministry of Women Affairs in Kabul on Sept. 19, 2021, to demand better rights for women. (Photo by Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Strategic partnership

The two officials also reviewed progress in implementing the Strategic Partnership Council Agreement, signed during PM Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019, and bilateral cooperation at multilateral forums such as the UN, the G20 and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Jaishankar congratulated Prince Faisal for Saudi Arabia’s successful presidency of the G20 last year, at the pandemic’s peak, a statement by India’s Foreign Ministry said.

“Both sides discussed further steps to strengthen their partnership in trade, investment, energy, defense, security, culture, consular issues, health care and human resources,” it added.

The foreign ministers also agreed to “work closely” to deal with pandemic-related challenges, with Jaishankar thanking Saudi “for the support provided to the Indian community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” urging the Kingdom to relax travel restrictions for visitors from India further.

In July, Riyadh imposed a travel ban on 13 countries, including India, to curb the spread of the coronavirus and its new variants, but removed the UAE, Argentina and South Africa from the list and re-allowed citizens to travel to the three countries starting Sept. 8.

According to Indian foreign ministry data, more than 2 million Indians are living and working in the Kingdom, employed in various sectors of the Gulf state. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered thousands jobless, with a majority unable to return to work due to travel curbs.

Jaishankar urged an early resumption of direct flights to Saudi Arabia while both nations “agreed to work closely on all COVID-19 related challenges.”

In April and May, Saudi supplied more than 140 tons of medical oxygen to Indian to help the South Asian nation tide over a health crisis amid a deadly second wave of the coronavirus that claimed the lives of more than 400,000 in a country of 1.36 billion people.


Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 16 October 2021

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Alaa Abdulaal has been the vice president of strategy and governance at the Digital Cooperation Organization since September 2021.

The organization, a global multilateral entity that aims at increasing social prosperity through accelerating the growth of the digital economy, was established by a group of countries that share an interest in collaborating to realize their collective digital potential. These countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan.

Prior to joining the organization, Abdulaal had served for more than a year as the director of IT strategy and governance at the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services. For over nine years, beginning in 2011, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a database unit leader, technical operation strategist, and a strategic planning and development manager.

In the latter role she established key performance metrics, designed reporting solutions, and promoted the use of structured information to drive enhanced business performance. She also led critical communication development and business reporting.

In 2015, she spent eight months as a research intern at Riva Modeling Systems in Toronto, where she demonstrated a strong interest and aptitude for user experience.

Before that, she worked for more than four years as a database administrator at the Saudi Exchange Market. There, she helped enhance the database’s performance and security. Her job responsibilities also included evaluating the proposed auditing systems and developing the availability process from scratch with the IT service management project consultants. Moreover, she created availability dashboards for Tadawul production services.

Abdulaal received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2006 from King Saud University, where she graduated with first class honors. In 2014, she obtained a master’s degree, majoring in applied computing, with the highest GPA result.

She is a certified strategic business planner and a professional business process manager.


Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

RIYADH: Saudi air defenses intercepted a Houthi drone aimed at Jazan, the Arab coalition said early Saturday.

The Houthis consistently target civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom using explosive drones.

The Kingdom has labeled Houthi attempts to target civilians as war crimes.

Earlier this month, attacks on Abha and Jazan airports in southern Saudi Arabia sparked widespread condemnation of the militia’s tactics of targeting civilian sites.

The Arab coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis, after the militia seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia as repeatedly said the only way to a peaceful Yemen is through dialogue, and has called on the Houthis to end the fighting. The Riyadh Initiative, which was launch by the Kingdom in March, includes a nationwide ceasefire and a plan to reopen Sanaa airport. The plan has been rejected by the Houthis.

Fighting in Marib province has claimed thousands of lives, among both government and Houthi forces. The resource-rich region has been heavily contested as the militia seek to strengthen their control of northern Yemen.

The Arab coalition said on Friday that ten military vehicles were destroyed and over 180 Houthis killed in operations it carried out in Abedia, a district in Marib that has been under siege since Sept. 23.

The Houthi action in Abedia has hindered the movement of civilians and impeded humanitarian aid flows, including medical supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said earlier this week.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.

Saudi relief agency, KSrelief, has poured billions of dollars worth of aid into Yemen and has hundreds of projects focusing on food and health.


Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials
rince Faisal bin Farha
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, the director of Middle East and North Africa affairs at the US National Security Council, Ambassador Barbara Leaf, and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yale Lambert on the sidelines of his visit to Washington, DC.

During the meeting, they reviewed Saudi-US relations and opportunities to enhance them in all fields. Joint efforts to lay the foundations for peace, security and stability in the Middle East and the wider world were also discussed.

The Kingdom’s efforts and initiatives to reach a political solution in Yemen in a way that supports the development and stability of the Yemeni people was also discussed during the meeting, in addition to the most prominent developments regarding the Iranian nuclear agenda.

 


Saudi campaigners are highlighting the risks of breast cancer — and not only for women

Saudi campaigners are highlighting the risks of breast cancer — and not only for women
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi campaigners are highlighting the risks of breast cancer — and not only for women

Saudi campaigners are highlighting the risks of breast cancer — and not only for women
  • While cases among males are rare, the illness follows the same path as in women

RIYADH: Breast cancer has long been known as one of the greatest health risks for women, with incidence rates of up to 30 percent in Saudi Arabia, according to some studies.
However, less well known is that men can also fall victim to the disease.
While cases among males are rare, the illness follows the same path as in women, with cells in the breast growing abnormally, dividing rapidly and then spreading to lymph nodes and other parts of the body, often with devastating consequences.
The risks of the disease to both women and men are being highlighted during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed every October as part of an international health campaign.
Global events include walks and runs, and the lighting of city landmarks in pink — the color used by campaigners worldwide to highlight their stand against breast cancer. Joining the campaign, major buildings in Riyadh have been illuminated in pink every night, while other cities across the Kingdom have also taken part in activities to raise awareness.
Thirty female cyclists rode around the streets of Jeddah dressed in pink to highlight the importance of early detection and treatment of the illness, and to offer support to survivors. The initiative was organized by Al-Murjan investment group in cooperation with the Saudi Ministry of Health and the Brave Cyclist club.
The Saudi government and private sector also will launch a series of initiatives, including educational exhibitions, lectures, mall drives, sports activities and mammogram screenings to promote awareness of the disease.
Arab News, the leading English daily in the region, has placed a pink ribbon on its masthead to highlight the important role that screening plays in combating the devastating disease.
According to a World Health Organization 2018 report, the incidence of breast cancer among females in Saudi Arabia stands at almost 30 percent. The illness is more common among over-40s, the health ministry said.
Early detection of breast cancer can significantly improve chances of recovery in both women and men, experts say.
Dr. Osama Halaweh, a hematologist and medical oncologist at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, told Arab News: “Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, but it does occur in men as well, though rarely. But awareness of the possibility is important. Since there is no screening for breast cancer in men, it is usually detected at a later stage when the lymph nodes are involved.”
Dr. Amer Mahmood, associate professor and molecular biologist at the College of Medicine in King Saud University, said: “Breast cancer is rare in men and usually happens in those over 60, but can occasionally affect younger men. About one in every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the US is found in a man.”
Common symptoms of breast cancer in men a lump or swelling in the breast, irritation or dimpling of the skin, nipple discharge or pain in the nipple area, he added.
Mahmood said that early diagnosis dramatically improves the chances of a cure. Treatment typically involves surgery to remove the breast tissue. Other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, also may be recommended.
While the exact cause of breast cancer in men is not known, several factors increase the likelihood of developing the disease, he said.
Some men inherit abnormal, or mutated, genes from their parents, putting them at a greater risk of developing breast and prostate cancers. Other conditions that increase the level of oestrogen in the body will also add to the breast cancer risk.
However, male breast cancer is often overlooked. In 2009, the advocacy groups Out of the Shadow of Pink, A Man’s Pink, and the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men joined forces to have the third week of October labeled Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.
Studies in Europe and the US have shown that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
Halaweh said that the illness in women can be hereditary in about 5 percent of cases, so genetic testing is important to determine personal and family risk.
“Currently, there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, but there is knowledge of risk factors that increase the possibility of developing the disease. So prevention and early detection remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control,” he added.
Advances in breast cancer management include systemic therapies in which drugs are used to target cancer cells wherever they may be in the body. These approaches include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, targeted drugs and immunotherapy.
Mahmood said that cancer is a universal public health problem and a leading cause of death worldwide, claiming an estimated 9.6 million lives in 2018.
Breast cancer is by far the most prevalent form, followed by lung cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. In absolute numbers, cancers in Islamic countries caused 1.02 million deaths in 2012, accounting for 17.4 percent of the total deaths in low and middle-income countries and 12 percent of the global cancer deaths, he added.
A balanced diet, and losing weight in cases of obesity may help to lower risk. Increased body weight is linked with a higher risk of breast cancer after menopause.
Studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity can reduce breast cancer risk, Mahmood said.
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week, preferably spread throughout the week.


Saudi businesses think pink for October breast cancer awareness campaign

Saudi businesses think pink for October breast cancer awareness campaign
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi businesses think pink for October breast cancer awareness campaign

Saudi businesses think pink for October breast cancer awareness campaign

JEDDAH: Saudi businesses have joined the annual October drive to think pink with increasingly innovative ways to help raise awareness about breast cancer.
Every year the pink ribbon symbol is used around the world to represent solidarity with breast cancer sufferers and show charity support for the health movement.
The condition is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Saudi women, and the annual global awareness campaign highlights not only the challenges and threats posed by the disease but also new research on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
And whether offering a free checkup or a unique October product, Saudi firms have been at the forefront of the monthlong pink link push in the Kingdom.
Shaimaa Waleed, owner and founder of Jeddah-based Woow ice cream shop, has created a special edition of pink ice cream to mark the occasion.
She said: “I learned that one-out-of-eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and I wanted to remind women that they need to get checked as part of the awareness campaign for early detection.
“So, I came up with a marshmallow-flavored pink ice cream with marshmallow pieces in it, only served this month.”
Waleed added that the cause was close to her heart as a friend had died from the disease, and she advised every woman to get a checkup. “You are precious and your health matters to us, and because you are half of the society, get the early examination, it may be a reason to save your life.”
Jeddah-based Ward and Balloon filled its shop window display with pink flowers and has been offering discounts on everything it sells that is pink to support the cause.
Shatha Abdulhaleem, the business’ founder, told Arab News: “This awareness campaign hits close to home. I have some women in my family who were diagnosed with cancer, and I think it is very important to remind people of the matter using my business too.”
Meanwhile, Fighters, an all-women’s gym, has illuminated its machines with pink lights and pink equipment to celebrate survivors and support fighters of the disease. The gym is also offering big discounts for new female members.
Moayyad Al-Tayyeb, the gym’s owner, said: “One of the causes of breast cancer is obesity. In my gym we support and encourage all our clients to have a healthy lifestyle and a better future.”