Wildlife center releases gazelles, oryxes into King Khalid Royal Reserve

Dr. Talal AlHarigi (Right), and Ahmed Al-Touq (Left), Director General of Studies at the National Center for Wildlife, moments after opening the doors for the oryx to return to its original habitat. (SPA)
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Dr. Talal AlHarigi (Right), and Ahmed Al-Touq (Left), Director General of Studies at the National Center for Wildlife, moments after opening the doors for the oryx to return to its original habitat. (SPA)
Dr. Talal AlHarigi (Right), and Ahmed Al-Touq (Left), Director General of Studies at the National Center for Wildlife, moments after opening the doors for the oryx to return to its original habitat. (Supplied/NCW)
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Dr. Talal AlHarigi (Right), and Ahmed Al-Touq (Left), Director General of Studies at the National Center for Wildlife, moments after opening the doors for the oryx to return to its original habitat. (Supplied/NCW)
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Updated 21 March 2022

Wildlife center releases gazelles, oryxes into King Khalid Royal Reserve

Dr. Talal AlHarigi (Right), and Ahmed Al-Touq (Left), Director General of Studies at the National Center for Wildlife, moments after opening the doors for the oryx to return to its original habitat. (SPA)
  • Reintroduction of 50 antelopes part of wider program to protect endangered species
  • Move will help to restore biodiversity, improve environmental balance, center’s CEO says

RIYADH: The National Center for Wildlife on Monday released 20 Arabian oryxes and 30 rhim gazelles into King Khalid Royal Reserve as part of a program to reintroduce endangered species to their natural environments across the Kingdom.

The move was in collaboration with the Imam Abdul Aziz bin Mohammad Royal Reserve Development Authority.

Dr. Muhammad Ali Qurban, the center’s CEO, said the reintroduction of local species threatened with extinction would help to restore biodiversity, improve the environmental balance and solidify the concept of environmental sustainability.

The program is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims to create a better environment and improve living standards.

Qurban said the wildlife center had researched the best time to reintroduce the gazelles and oryxes. As well as the animals, it aimed to reintroduce more than 1,000 fungal organisms this season across all reserves and national parks, he added.

The center uses the latest technology to monitor animal populations and collect data about the biodiversity in each of the reserves.

The IARDA, which oversees two royal reserves — the Imam Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad Royal Reserve and King Khalid Royal Reserve — also aims to maintain ecological balance and restore biodiversity.

The two reserves, which cover about 12,000 sq. km northeast of Riyadh, are similar in topography and both are crossed by the Urmah mountains. These play a central role in supporting the ecosystems of the two reserves by creating beautiful wadis and balanced habitats for the many species that are found there.

“The two most difficult challenges those (antelope) species have faced in the wild is overhunting and loss of habitat,” Dr. Talal Al-Harigi, IARDA’s CEO, said.

“The effect of both challenges has caused a decrease of species abundance in the area.”

Al-Harigi told Arab News that the development authority was working to eliminate threats through four main initiatives. These are: rewilding wildlife species with an emphasis on endangered ones, increasing vegetation coverage, promoting environmental awareness, and managing and regulating hunting and grazing activities.

 


Tawakkalna app awarded United Nations Public Service Award 2022

Tawakkalna app awarded United Nations Public Service Award 2022
Updated 24 June 2022

Tawakkalna app awarded United Nations Public Service Award 2022

Tawakkalna app awarded United Nations Public Service Award 2022
  • The honor is recognition of the Kingdom’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the technological and digital fields

RIYADH: The Tawakkalna app has been awarded the United Nations Public Service Award 2022 for institutional resilience and innovative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The award ceremony took place at an annual forum that recognizes distinguished figures in public service who work to achieve sustainable development goals.

Dr. Abdullah bin Sharaf Alghamdi, President of the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA), said that receiving the award illustrated the Crown Prince's leadership and Chairman of the SDAIA's Board of Directors' unwavering support for the various initiatives launched by SDAIA to improve government collaboration and maximize the benefits of AI.

Dr. Alghamdi also emphasized SDAIA's global and national accomplishments, as well as the efforts of national experts, which have propelled the Kingdom to the forefront of technological and digital fields.

HIGHLIGHT

The SDAIA developed and launched Tawakkalna to support the efforts of the Saudi government to confront the COVID-19 pandemic by managing the process of granting permits for leaving home during the lockdown phase, which helped limit the spread of the virus.

Dr. Alghamdi stated that SDAIA's advanced infrastructure reflected the Kingdom's determination to achieve the Vision 2030 goals.

Tawakkalna was launched by SDAIA to assist the government in combating COVID-19.

The application managed the process of granting permits electronically during the curfew for government and private sector employees, as well as individuals, at the height of the pandemic. This aided in limiting the virus's spread.

Tawakkalna then added pandemic-related services like health passport verification, COVID-19 test and vaccine services, reviewing health travel requirements, and managing travel requirements.

SDAIA recently launched Tawakkalna Services, a secure digitally-enabled application that provides various e-services that facilitate all aspects of people's daily lives in Saudi Arabia.


Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 

Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 
Updated 24 June 2022

Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 

Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 
  • US needs Kingdom on several fronts, President never intended to treat Riyadh as pariah, says Elise Labott
  • Biden will meet Saudi king and crown prince for talks on addressing joint issues: Saudi embassy spokesman

CHICAGO: US President Joe Biden publicly denounced Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” while privately sending back-channel emissaries to try to restore the relationship between the two allies, an influential analyst has told Arab News.

Elise Labott, the former global affairs correspondent with the broadcaster CNN who is now a columnist with Politico magazine, had access to highly placed US and Saudi sources — both on and off the record — for an article published recently in the magazine.

Speaking on “The Ray Hanania Show,” which is produced by Arab News and broadcast weekly on the US Arab Radio network, she said: “Let’s be honest, I don’t think that President Biden ever really intended to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah when he came to office and make that his policy, but the politics kind of got in the way and they were trying to move forward on the policy, but in secret because of the politics. After a while, the Saudis did want to repair the relationship. So, they did a lot of what the US asked them to do.

“But finally, they were just like, all right, in or out? There have been a series of visits over the course of the last year or so. National security adviser Jake Sullivan went out there. CIA director Bill Burns went out there.”

Labott said there was a recognition in the White House that “there are problems in the relationship … on the wider human rights front, but then whether it's security, or economically or in the region, the Saudis are a valuable partner and the US does need to reset the relationship.”

Other issues encouraged a recalibration, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and soaring fuel prices in the US, Labott said.

“I think that when President Biden was on the campaign trail as a candidate he promised, of course, to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah state, make them pay the price, and for a while they were pretty standoffish, but I think as time wore on, and certainly the war in Ukraine was really a catalyst for this, the US saw that the relationship with Saudi Arabia was too big to fail. And so, you had rising gas prices. You had the war inUkraine. You had a whole host of things where the US would look to that solid partner over the years, Saudi Arabia — this is a 75-year-old relationship.

“And because the Saudis, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular, were being kind of ostracized, finally they had had enough. Even though President Biden was saying this in public, in private he was sending emissaries to Saudi Arabia to say look, we want to reset the relationship. We want to move forward.

“And kind of in secret almost, there was this back-channel diplomacy going on for the last year or so in which the two sides were trying to make progress on a whole host of issues.”

Labott said Saudi influence on the global price of oil amid US domestic anger over the cost of fuel at the pumps was a driver of White House thinking — but far from the only one. “Well, a lot of people are reducing it to the oil and the Saudis are the biggest swing producer,” she said.

“The US is looking to them to stabilize markets, everyone is going to fill their car with gas at the pump, its over $5 and some places it’s $7, so the initial thought is can we get the Saudis to increase oil production so that will ease the pain?

“I think that the Saudis ultimately are playing hard to get, with the US having agreed to some oil production, I don’t think that’s going to make much of a difference for the US economy in the long run, that’s what experts say.

“I think if it is anything from stabilizing some of the economies in the region like Lebanon, for instance, or playing a mediator in Iraq or reaching out to Iran. Normalization with Israel. And then there is, you know, Saudi Arabia is on the Red Sea and there is a whole keeping trade lanes open in the Red Sea and mediating with Africa.

“If you look across the globe, most major foreign policy issues particularly in that part of the world, Saudi Arabia is the ‘gorilla in the room,’ and you can’t really get anything done if you don’t have them on the inside.”

Washington had functional relationships with many states without agreeing with them on every issue, Labott said, and it was important for the US to realize that it could not bend a country to its will. “Whether it’s in the UAE or Saudi or Bahrain or these Gulf states, they’re monarchies they’re not democracies, but if you ask the people by and large there’s not a lot of dissent … if you ask the Saudis whether they approve of Mohammed bin Salman, if you held an election, I think he’d win hands down. I think it’s recognizing these leaders as imperfect as they are and trying to find a way to move forward instead of trying to bend them to our will.”

As for what the US expected of Saudi Arabia, Labott said: “I think it’s just showing that leadership in the region that the US is looking for and that could be anything from standing on the right side of democracy against the war in Ukraine.

“We have one goal right now and that’s to beat Putin, and we need the Saudis to help us do that, so that means not doing anything with the oil market that will embolden President Putin … maybe not supporting sanctions in the way the US wants them to, but don’t do anything that will help President Putin, and I think if the Saudis want to be that leader, that’s what the US is looking for them to do.”
The radio show also featured an interview with Fahad Nazer, spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, who said that contrary to the views of some pundits there was a genuine appreciation in Washington of the important role played by Saudi Arabia and the significance of the relationship with the US. Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia next month as part of his first Middle East trip was evidence of that, Nazer said.

“This dialogue goes a long way but I think there is an appreciation in Washington, as far as I can tell among congressional leaders and in the administration, that Saudi Arabia plays a very important role globally … in stabilizing international energy markets,” he said.
“We play an important role in helping bring stability and helping resolve some of the political crises in the region including the Yemen war … and we have played the leading role over the years in pushing back onmilitant non-state actors like Daesh, Al-Qaeda, the Houthis, Hezbollah and others. So, I think there is an appreciation for that very constructive role that the Kingdom plays.”

Nazer confirmed that Biden would hold separate meetings during his visit with King Salman and the crown prince, with a wide range of issues on the agenda. “The two leaders will discuss bilateral cooperation and joint efforts to address regional and global challenges including some of the newer challenges that the international community faces including cyber security, climate change, and environmental initiatives,” he said.

“At the same time the Kingdom is hosting a summit that will include the leaders of the GCC countries as well as the leaders of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and obviously President Biden will be attending that as well.”

Arab countries remained critically important role players in these discussions with “our most important strategic ally in the world,” Nazer said.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here: www.arabnews.com/RayRadioShow


Cypriot filmmaker Marios Piperides discusses the importance of cultural discourse with Saudi audience

Cypriot filmmaker Marios Piperides discusses the importance of cultural discourse with Saudi audience
Updated 24 June 2022

Cypriot filmmaker Marios Piperides discusses the importance of cultural discourse with Saudi audience

Cypriot filmmaker Marios Piperides discusses the importance of cultural discourse with Saudi audience
  • It is a marvel that the Saudi film industry is on the rise, the filmmaker says

RIYADH: Filmmaker Marios Piperides made his way for the first time from his home country of Cyprus to the Kingdom to screen “Smuggling Hendricks” to Saudi audiences in Riyadh on June 16.

The screening was part of the inaugural one-week European Film Festival, which hosted a series of 14 European films at The Esplanades’ VOX Cinema. 

“Smuggling Hendricks” is based on a true story that revolves around a struggling musician, Yiannis, who plans to move away. His plans are disrupted by his dog, Jimi, crossing the border that separates the southern Greek from the Turkish north. Since the exchange of animals between the countries is prohibited, Yiannis enlists the help of a Turkish settler to retrieve his dog. The film consists of strong political and legal commentary of the issue in Cyprus, packaged in a feel-good arthouse comedy. 

The filmmaker hopes to create a political discourse, share the story based on his own experience and get people to discuss “the nature of borders,” he told Arab News. “We build our own borders and keep people away, and we create this fear for the unknown.”

His film journey began 20 years ago when he came back to Cyprus after completing his studies in the US. This exchange opportunity allowed him to gain knowledge from the American film industry and contribute to the film scene back home. 

This demonstration of cultural exchange parallels the initiative of the EuroFest in Riyadh, which aims to expose the Saudi people to international efforts, prompt introductions to Saudi filmmakers, and create a space for discussion. 

Since the film market is competitive, the filmmaker hones in on the importance of giving an audience a reason to pursue a niche film as opposed to bigger, more accessible productions. 

Filmmaker Marios Piperides. (Supplied)

“I think it’s (about trying) to find a way to tell something locally, but with international appeal. If you can do that, and you can share a local story that will appeal to somebody from Cyprus or somebody from France, that’s the bet that you have to try and win . . . You have to find your own voice,” Piperides said.

As the independent film scene in Europe is struggling, and funding is becoming harder to acquire, it is a marvel that the Saudi film industry is on the rise, the filmmaker said. While there were only 14 movie theaters on the island, Saudi is currently home to more than 50 sites.

“Coming from a small country, it’s very important to have this opportunity to exchange and understand each other’s culture through cinema,” Piperides said.

“The good thing here is that you have a big market that we don’t have in Cyprus. You have a growing market that starves for film. The whole thing is new. In Europe now, their attendance is going down,” he said during a talk as part of the side events calendar of the festival, moderated by TV and radio personality Muhammad Bajnaid.

For the filmmaker, cinemas create a space for people to share their experiences, views and opinions and open up the floor for discussion about specific issues. “The cinema in Cyprus, during the 50s, or till the 80s — it was huge. There were a lot of cinemas. In a small village with two to 3,000 people, there were six cinemas. And now there is only one art house cinema, and it’s struggling,” Piperides said.

“It’s important to see if they can do a parallel program,” he said. 

While this is the first European Film Festival in Riyadh, a way to improve this is to bring arthouse and independent films to the capital and neighboring cities and towns. 

“It’s important also to have smaller art house theaters. To show more, not only European, more arthouse films, not only blockbusters, American, Bollywood, or Egyptian. I believe there is an audience (for that).”

Arthouse films are renowned for dealing with complex issues that cater to a niche genre as opposed to a mass audience, making them less popular with global markets. “Distributors are not bringing (European art films) because there’s no way to get their money back. Through festivals, you can see good films that otherwise you wouldn’t have the opportunity to,” he said.  

The film first premiered in 2018 and has been screened in multiple regions across the globe. “It’s still nice to see that it’s still fresh, still interesting. It’s still current because nothing changed, basically — the political situation in Cyprus. And it deals with borders also which is still (an issue).”

In a way, the film documents the evolution of not just the director’s skills, but also the industry itself. Piperides highlights the crucial role of reflecting on past works and continuously criticizing. “I see mistakes that I did or more directing-wise, the technique, the script, things that could have been better . . . At the time, this is what I knew. You learn and you try to do better things. Being critical about yourself and your work is important.”


Saudi health ministry reports 1,002 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

Saudi health ministry reports 1,002 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death
Updated 24 June 2022

Saudi health ministry reports 1,002 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

Saudi health ministry reports 1,002 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death
  • Of the current cases,149 were in critical condition: Health Ministry

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia reported 1,002 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health. As a result, the total number of cases in the Kingdom over the course of the pandemic grew to 789,367.

The authorities also confirmed one new COVID-19-related death, raising the total number of fatalities to 9,195.

Of the new infections, 402 were recorded in Riyadh, 126 in Jeddah, 94 in Dammam, 48 in Hofuf, 28 in Makkah, 27 in Dhahran and 22 in Madinah. Several other cities recorded fewer than 20 new cases each.

The ministry said that of the current cases, 149 were in critical condition.

The ministry also announced that 1,059 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom over the course of the pandemic to 770,077.

It said that 28,668 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to more than 43 million.

Nearly 67 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign began, with more than 25 million people fully vaccinated. 

 

 


Saudi Islamic university achieves second world record with 170 nationalities on campus 

Saudi Islamic university achieves second world record with 170 nationalities on campus 
Updated 23 June 2022

Saudi Islamic university achieves second world record with 170 nationalities on campus 

Saudi Islamic university achieves second world record with 170 nationalities on campus 
  • With more than 20,000 students, the Islamic University of Madinah has become a meeting place for the world’s diverse cultures

RIYADH: The Islamic University of Madinah has entered the Guinness World Records for the second time for having more than 170 nationalities in its student body.

Talal Omar, the MENA director of the records reference book, handed the framed certificate bearing the new world record to the president of the university, Prince Dr. Mamdouh bin Saud bin Thunayan Al-Saud, in Madinah this week.

Opened by royal decree in 1961, the university first broke the record in 2016, but has overcome its own standard with another expansion in nationalities.

With more than 20,000 students studying in nine faculties, the Islamic university has become a meeting place for the world’s diverse cultures.

The Saudi government offers students from around the world full scholarships that cover the entire cost of education, accommodation and transportation.

Notable alumni include Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, the grand mufti of Lebanon; Sheikh Khaled Hafiz, former advisor to the Muslim minority in New Zealand; Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, Canadian scholar and historian; Prince Saud bin Abdul Rahman bin Nasser, deputy governor of the Northern Borders region; Sheikh Mishary Al-Afasy, famous Qur’an reciter who is a specialist in the 10 readings; and Dr. Mohamed Jallow, a Senegalese Islamic preacher and author.