How a Saudi nonprofit is promoting compassion for animals and the environment

Special How a Saudi nonprofit is promoting compassion for animals and the environment
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Updated 08 February 2022

How a Saudi nonprofit is promoting compassion for animals and the environment

How a Saudi nonprofit is promoting compassion for animals and the environment
  • Rahmah Animal Welfare Association provides care for strays, arranges adoptions and fights wildlife trafficking
  • Riyadh-based Rahmah has rescued more than 2,300 animals and overseen hundreds of pet adoptions 

DUBAI: For many people around the world, pandemic lockdowns have been isolating and sometimes dispiriting experiences. Families have been confined to apartments and houses, children were forced to attend classes through computer screens in their bedrooms, and parents worked remotely from whatever space was available in their homes.

Amid the gloom, one of the happier results is that many people adopted abandoned animals as pets to provide companionship, exercise — and some much-needed fun.

In Saudi Arabia, pet adoption is a relatively new concept but the younger generation is making great strides in correcting common misconceptions and changing long-held, traditional attitudes.

One of the people making a difference is Shokran Aljihani, 29, the manager of the adoption and rescue committee at Rahmah Animal Welfare Association, a voluntary, nonprofit organization launched in Riyadh in May 2020. She was moved to get involved with it initially because of her passion for animals and a desire to help inspire change.

“It started with a group of people interested in animal welfare and the environment who gathered and decided to create Rahmah to raise awareness towards animals and the environment,” she told Arab News. “My family and I love animals, so the passion started a long time ago for me.”

That passion drove Aljihani to adopt pets of her own and then she met one of Rahmah’s board members, who introduced her to the fledgling group and the work it planned to do. In May 2020, she joined as a founding member in the hope of “making a difference.”

“I make sure the process of rescuing, adoption and daily operations of the shelter go according to plan,” she said.




Shokran Aljihani, 29, is the manager of the adoption and rescue committee at Rahmah Animal Welfare Association, a voluntary, nonprofit organization launched in Riyadh in May 2020. (Supplied)

The association responds to calls from members of the public about injured or stray dogs or cats, sending rescue teams to pick up the animals. Once any immediate health issues are addressed, the animals are typically vaccinated, spayed or neutered and put up for adoption.

Photos of rescued animals, and their stories, are posted on the group’s website, rahmah-ksa.com, and its Twitter and Instagram accounts in an attempt to find people willing to adopt them.

Soon after she joined, Aljihani said, she rescued six cats and two baboons and took them into her own home. The baboons in particular have proved to be a challenge — but a rewarding one.

“It’s not really common to adopt baboons but it’s a bit hard to keep them at the shelter 24/7 because they need extra care and more attention,” she said.

“One of them is 3 months old and the other is 10 months old but monkeys need motherly care.”

Baboons are native to the Sarawat mountains in Saudi Arabia’s western region. Most are found in the southwest, from Taif to Asir. Last year, they were also spotted, for the first time in decades, in the central region in several neighborhoods of Riyadh.

The baboons rescued by Rahmah were found in the southwestern region. They had been taken from the wild, a common problem affecting animals in the Kingdom. Aljihani admits it was hard to live with them in her home at first, given their child-like behavior, but added that it has been fun.

“They break furniture but they are kind to the cats,” she said.




In Saudi Arabia, pet adoption is a relatively new concept but the younger generation is making great strides in correcting common misconceptions and changing long-held, traditional attitudes. (Supplied)

She explained that an important mission provided the motivation for the founding of Rahmah.

“Rahmah’s purpose, and the main reason it was created, is to protect animals and we can do this in many ways through our work here,” said Aljihani. “We rescue and take care of the animals, we give them the medical attention they need. We try to find homes for them and we try to raise awareness, which is the most important thing.”

The hard work is paying off. To date, Rahmah has rescued more than 2,300 animals and overseen the adoption of about 300. It has done all this with the help of almost 2,000 volunteers, and the shelter’s team actively promotes notions of coexistence, peace and compassion for animals and the environment.

However, there are only five animal shelters in the Kingdom and more help is needed. Rahmah is working to raise awareness by visiting schools in Riyadh, training and educating young people on how to take care of animals and suggesting ways in which they can contribute to rescue efforts.

“It’s all about awareness; people haven’t been aware enough so we’re working on it,” Aljihani said. “In Saudi Arabia there are so many people who are passionate about animals but they are working, so making this work as a non-profit organization helps raise the awareness faster.”

Mindsets are indeed slowly changing and Rahmah plans to expand to other cities. It also hopes soon to set up a mobile clinic that will provide medical services for animals in owners’ homes and on the streets, as well as rescue services.

Aljihani said she considers animals to be equal to humans, in terms of their right to live happy and healthy lives.

“I am so lucky my family is so supportive,” she said. “I spend so much time outside, because I work in the morning and then I go to the shelter for hours, and they take care of my animals.”




Photos of rescued animals, and their stories, are posted on the group’s website, rahmah-ksa.com, and its Twitter and Instagram accounts in an attempt to find people willing to adopt them. (Supplied)

She also has help and support from her friend, Basma Altwejri, who brought the Pay It Forward initiative to Saudi Arabia in 2016 to encourage people to have a positive effect on their communities. Pay It Forward is active in more than 80 countries and seeks to change perceptions of giving by encouraging simple, everyday acts of kindness.

As another passionate supporter of the non-profit sector and lover of animals, Altwejri felt compelled to help Rahmah and took charge of its marketing and partnerships section over a month ago.

“I got it from my mother,” she told Arab News. “We were very young when we adopted a few stray dogs and cats. I felt helpless as a child — I wanted to help so many but I couldn’t. We tried our best at the time but I didn’t feel there was a group that could help with animal welfare, so I just left it there.”

As she grew up, and through her experiences with nonprofits, she began to notice a gap in the animal welfare field, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which is home to a considerable population of cats and exotic animals that are often sold and traded illegally.

“It isn’t ethical,” Altwejri said. “So I wanted to help.”

She began collaborating with the Riyadh Animal Shelter before exploring other opportunities to help animals in the Kingdom. Most of the options she discovered were single-person operations — until she discovered Rahmah.

“I tried volunteering with a lot of nonprofits but (Rahmah) are so professional; they take care of animals with absolute love,” she said.

“There is a need to reach a wider segment. Rahmah’s success so far is impressive but there are still a lot of animals that need to be adopted. We need a push. Not a lot of people have compassion for animal welfare. They think it’s just a secondary thing but (the animals) are helpless creatures that give you unconditional love — and if we don’t help them, they can’t help themselves.”


Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
Updated 8 sec ago

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
  • Speaking as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh for an official visit, Prince Faisal bin Farhan said bilateral relations are characterized by friendship, trust, cooperation and coordination
  • Xi is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development

RIYADH: Three summits due to take place in Riyadh in the coming days reflect the shared determination of the Kingdom, the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations and the wider Arab world to strengthen cooperation and enhance strategic relations with China in pursuit of greater growth and prosperity for all of the countries and their peoples, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

“The relations between the Kingdom and China are strategic and close in light of the international developments and changes taking place,” he said.

He added that the bilateral relationship is characterized by friendship, mutual trust, cooperation and continuous coordination, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

His comments came as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday evening for a three-day official visit, during which he is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development.

Prince Faisal praised the contribution made by a high-level Saudi-Chinese joint committee to the development of relations between the two countries in many fields. He said the bilateral economic relationship is progressing rapidly against the backdrop of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which offer promising opportunities for cooperation, sustainable development and mutual benefits.

He added that China has ranked as the Kingdom’s top trading partner since 2018, and that the value of bilateral trade in 2021 was SR309 billion ($82.1 billion), an increase of 39 percent compared with the previous year.


Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
Updated 19 min 39 sec ago

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
  • Prince Badr met with a number of his counterparts on the sidelines of the forum
  • A number of agreements were signed during bilateral meetings to enhance cultural cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, on Wednesday organized the 23rd Conference of Arab Culture Ministers in the capital, Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, which was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture, and chairman of the National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, was attended by ministers and officials from 20 Arab countries, as well as representatives of the Arab League, and regional and international organizations.

The minister of culture, who is also president of the 23rd session, said: “This year’s session, whose main theme is: ‘Culture and the green future,’ aims to make the cultural sector more sustainable, as we seek to make it the starting point of international efforts involving the cultural sector with its various branches, extending to cover all elements of its value chain.”

He added: “The utilization of culture toward the green future contributes to instilling culture in the global development debate, which receives the full attention of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, through the Kingdom’s participation in global cultural platforms, where the ‘Culture and the green future’ theme conforms to the goals of the Kingdom Vision 2030.”

He said that this, in return, highlights the Kingdom’s support of collective efforts to enhance knowledge, skills and practices related to making the cultural sector more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

During the conference, ministers focused on the role of culture in achieving sustainable development, while working to develop effective sectorial policies that bring added value to collective efforts to move toward a more creative and sustainable future.

Meanwhile, Prince Badr met with his Egyptian counterpart Nevin Al-Kilany on the sidelines of the forum, where the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in the cultural field.

The memorandum included cultural fields, such as heritage, visual arts, performing arts, literature, books and publishing, Islamic decoration and other creative tracks.

It also included work to enhance the participation of Saudi and Egyptian intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to joint cooperation in training and qualifying local artistic cadres, and benefiting from experiences in the two countries in the fields of museums, urban heritage and handicraft industries.

Prince Badr praised the strong strategic relations that link the Kingdom with Egypt in all cultural fields. The two parties also discussed cooperation in the field of registering intangible heritage files with UNESCO, and cooperation in the field of exchanging expertise through cultural scholarship programs.

Prince Badr met with the Moroccan Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid where another agreement was signed to enhance cultural cooperation in various fields, including literature, publishing and translation, heritage, architecture and design, museums, theater and performing arts.

The memorandum also included enhancing the participation of Saudi and Moroccan intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to exchanging expertise in organizations and cultural policies.

He also held similar meetings with the Director-General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Salem Al-Malik, and the Director-General of ALECSO, Mohamed Ould Amar, where they discussed the most prominent current cooperation programs between the organizations and the Kingdom, and memoranda of understanding were signed.

He also met with his Tunisian and Djiboutian counterparts, and the president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities.


Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 
Updated 08 December 2022

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan met Director General of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization Mohamed Ould Amar in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The meeting was part of the Saudi minister’s bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the 23rd session of the Conference of Arab Culture Ministers, which was held in the Saudi capital and organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with ALECSO.

During the meeting, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the ministry and ALECSO to enhance cultural cooperation through a range of items, including registering natural sites and heritage elements in UNESCO lists.
 


Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit
Updated 07 December 2022

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday participated in the work of the 154th session of the preparatory ministerial council for the 43rd session of the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was held at the headquarters of the GCC General Secretariat in Riyadh.
The meeting was chaired by Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, who is also president of the council’s current session, with the participation of Gulf foreign ministers, and GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf.
During the meeting, the ministers discussed ways of enhancing the process of joint cooperation and coordination between the GCC countries, and the developments of the situation in the region.
They also discussed the latest regional and international developments, and the schedule of the work of the Chinese-Gulf Summit for Cooperation and Development that will be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and GCC leaders.


Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks
Updated 07 December 2022

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

RIYADH: Sweden’s envoy to Saudi Arabia recently met with the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for talks on ways to further strengthen cooperation links.

During their meeting in Jeddah, ambassador Petra Menander and OIC chief Hissein Brahim Taha also discussed other issues of mutual concern.

In a tweet, Menander said: “Excellent discussion with Hissein Brahim Taha, secretary-general of @OIC_OCI on topics of common interest — need to increase global levels of humanitarian support, women, and youth empowerment, and more. Looking forward to continued dialogue.”

While visiting the Red Sea port city, the Swedish envoy also met with Saudi doctors trained in Sweden and now working in the Kingdom.

In a separate tweet, she said: “In Jeddah, catching up with Saudi doctors with specialist training from top university hospitals (in Skane/SUS, Sahlgrenska), now all leaders in healthcare.

“Great discussion on primary healthcare, workplace conditions, and other topics of common interest. Great to see you all — greetings to absent friends,” she added.

The new Swedish ambassador submitted her credentials to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September.

On behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, deputy minister for protocol affairs, Khalid Al-Sehli, received a copy of Menander’s credentials.

In October, Menander held a meeting with Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim to discuss topics of common interest and areas to develop cooperation.

The Saudi-Swedish Business Council was launched in October 2021 and inaugurated in Sweden’s capital Stockholm by Saudi Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi and Swedish Foreign Trade Minister Anna Hallberg.

Al-Qasabi said the council acted as a mainstay in stimulating and encouraging the private sectors of both countries while helping in the development of bilateral relations, exchange of expertise and knowledge, and the coordination of investment planning and related partnerships.

He added that Saudi Arabia was, “keen to enhance trade cooperation, facilitate exports to Sweden and Scandinavian countries, and exchange expertise and knowledge.”

Saudi Arabia is Sweden’s most significant economic partner in the Middle East and the No. 1 trade partner among Scandinavian countries, with the volume of trade exchange in the past five years reaching more than $6 billion.