JEDDAH: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed its thanks to Saudi National Campaign for Syrian refugees for the provision of dates for more than 20,000 families in the Al-Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan. The coordinator of the commission in the national campaign Hovig Etyemezian said that the Saudi campaign has had a good effect on improving the living conditions of the Syrian refugees in the camp through comprehensive efforts. He added that the commission, in cooperation with the World Food Organization and "Save the Children" program has distributed dates provided by the Saudi National Campaign for Syrian refugees during the first half of this year. Etyemezian praised the services provided by the campaign for the Syrians, adding: "The UNHCR and its partners appreciate this great generosity provided by the campaign through its various programs to improve the living conditions of the refugees there." The Saudi National Campaign during the dates project supplied 70,000 kilograms that benefited 10,120 Syrian families living in Al-Zaatari refugee camp.
When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged to bring back moderate Islam, he referenced a time before the developments of 1979 halted the Kingdom’s progress
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Saudi Arabia was on a roll in the 1970s, enjoying the social and cultural developments that had begun in the previous two decades, and buoyed by the rising price of oil and the Kingdom’s first Development Plan.
But 1979 changed everything. Saudi Arabia took a conservative turn, prompted by two events: the Iranian Revolution in February, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, and the siege by religious extremists of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told 2017’s Future Investment Initiative: “We were not like this in the past. We only want to go back to what we were, the moderate Islam that is open to the world, open to all the religions … And quite frankly, we will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas … We want to live a normal life, a life that translates our moderate religion, our good customs.”
And that’s what has happened. Under Vision 2030 and a flurry of life-altering developments – movies and concerts, greater freedom for women, fitness in schools, to name just a few – the Kingdom is on a trajectory back to the future.
— THEN —
1955 - Saudi Arabia’s first private school for girls, Dar Al-Hanan, is founded in Jeddah by Princess Effat, with the support of her husband, Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, amid a social outcry.
November 20 - A well-organized group led by Saudi militant Juhayman Al-Otaibi storms the Grand Mosque with weapons smuggled in coffins and vehicles using members pretending to be there to pray. Al-Otaibi is a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-
Muhtasiba (Salafi Group that Commands Right and Forbids Wrong), which is angered by Western social influence, women’s presence in the Saudi workforce, TV and other issues. Worshippers are prevented from leaving after the announcement of a takeover over a microphone. Hostages are forced to pledge allegiance to the group’s leader, Mohammed bin Abduallah Al-Qahtani, Al-Otaibi and their followers.
December 4 - The siege lasts for two weeks and ends after an intervention by Saudi special forces and their allies, leaving hundreds dead, including Saudi officers, soldiers and civilians as well as Al-Qahtani and his followers. Al-Otaibi is arrested and executed on Jan. 9, 1980.
Al-Ahsa Oasis is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Weam Al-Dakheel becomes the first Saudi woman to anchor the main evening news on Saudi TV.
Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and the Black Eyed Peas are among the first international performers at the Formula E in Riyadh, for which the first trial tourist visas are granted.
The WWE’s Royal Rumble takes place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, beginning a 10-year partnership with the General Sports Authority.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launches a mega tourism project in AlUla which will include a resort designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve dubbed Sharaan.
Lubna Al-Olayan becomes the first Saudi chairwoman to run a Saudi bank, a merger between Alawwal and Saudi British Bank.
Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador, Princess Reema bint Bandar (top center), is appointed to Washington.
The Saudi Cabinet approves a “Privileged Iqama residency permit,” which will allow foreign nationals to work and live in Saudi Arabia without a sponsor, offered to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds.
By royal decree, Saudi women no longer require permission from a male guardian to travel or obtain a passport.
A lineup of superstars perform in concerts across the Kingdom: Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and 50 Cent in Jeddah; Andrea Bocelli in AlUla; Pitbull and Akon in the Eastern Province.
High-profile sports events include the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and AC Milan; Fight Night between world boxing champion Amir Khan and Billy Dib; and the largest Battle Royale in WWE history.