The New Saudi Arabia

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Streets come to life in Saudi Arabia’s first graffiti project

March 01, 2018

ALKHOBAR: A historic neighborhood has turned its aging streets and houses into a living art exhibition with the help of graffiti artists from around Saudi Arabia.
The “Alfan Sharqy” (“Art is Eastern”) exhibit in Bayoonya opened on Monday and is believed to be the first street graffiti project in the Kingdom.
Saudi artist Madawi Albaz, founder of the Dawi gallery, organized the exhibition under the sponsorship of Princess Abeer bint Faisal Al-Saud.
Albaz said she “had a dream of spreading beautiful art around the Kingdom, starting with Alkhobar, and thank God the dream has come true.”
More than 20 Saudi graffiti artists worked for 10 days to complete the project, painting six houses and transforming an entire neighborhood on Alkhobar’s southern side.
Albaz said: “I wanted to give Saudi artists the opportunity to show their talents, and decorate the neglected houses. This is a different experience, with a big challenge that included a large population and old streets.
“The initiative goes hand in hand with Vision 2030, offering talented youth the chance to spread art and beauty.”
Planning for the project took six months, she said. The exhibition was approved by the Alkhobar municipality.
The exhibition had been welcomed by neighborhood residents. “People are coming from everywhere to see it. Everyone is happy,” she said. “There is a lot of excitement, and other neighborhoods have expressed interest in similar projects.
“This is just the start,” Albaz said. “We plan to go to different cities and neighborhoods with new visions and big ambitions.”

This article was first published in the Arab News

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Saudi Arabia reshuffles military, promotes woman at labor ministry

Time: February 27, 2018

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has replaced some of its top military officers in a shake-up that elevates a younger generation, brings a woman into a senior government job and tightens Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grip on power.

In a reshuffle announced late on Monday, the military chief of staff, air defense and land forces heads and senior defense and interior ministry officials were removed. Tamadur bint Youssef al-Ramah became deputy labor minister, a rare high-level job for a woman in the deeply conservative kingdom.

The crown prince, who at 32 is also defense minister and heir apparent, has promised reforms to wean Saudi Arabia off oil exports, create jobs and open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles. Since rising to prominence three years ago, he has also removed a number of apparent rivals to the throne.

His cousin Mohammed bin Nayef was ousted as crown prince and interior minister in a palace coup last June, after which Prince Mohammed restructured the ministry to establish tighter control over intelligence and counter-terrorism.

Another cousin, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, was sacked as head of the National Guard last November and detained for two months in an anti-corruption crackdown in which scores of the kingdom’s economic and political elite were held.

The latest personnel changes were decreed by King Salman and published in state media. No reason was given but the changes appear to have enabled Prince Mohammed to put his personal stamp of authority on key levers of the military.

The overhaul, analysts said, was not directly linked to Saudi Arabia’s three-year-old military campaign in Yemen against the Iran-aligned armed Houthi movement. But the war has largely stalled and international criticism is growing over a humanitarian crisis and air strikes that have killed civilians.

Prince Mohammed is likely to face questions from allies frustrated with the lack of progress during planned trips to the United States and Europe.

“He can say… he’s dealt with people responsible for that right up to the top. But it’s not going to instil confidence that your military, as a result of that, will be technically better able to perform,” said Michael Stephens, research fellow at British defense and security think-tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

“It’s a wide ranging sweep across the deck… Especially when it comes to security, that makes people nervous.”

The new military chief of staff was named as First Lieutenant Fayyad bin Hamed al-Ruwayli. His predecessor, First Lieutenant Abdelrahman bin Saleh al-Banyan, was retired and made a royal advisor.

The decrees included adopting a new strategy to restructure the defense ministry for improved organization and governance, but provided few details.

Defense contracts with U.S. and European companies have long been a source of corruption and Prince Mohammed has it is “unacceptable” that high military spending has not translated into better performance.

Scholar Joseph Kechichian said some officers had been dismissed for incompetence while others had received fast promotions, but analysts said it was not clear the shake-up would immediately improve military performance.

Khalid Biyari, appointed aide to the defense minister, left his post as chief executive of Saudi Telecom, a possible sign that the crown prince is tapping the private sector to implement reforms.


The overhaul was a nod to a younger generation, analysts said, in what has become a hallmark of the crown prince’s approach to ruling youthful Saudi Arabia, where patriarchal traditions have long made power the preserve of the old.

If he succeeds his father, Prince Mohammed would become the first grandson of the kingdom’s founder Ibn Saud to be king after decades of rule by six of his sons.

“It’s sometimes useful in flexing your patronage muscle,” said British-based analyst Neil Partrick. “It might give a sense of freshness… but I would be surprised if it leads to any changes in substance in policy in Yemen or anywhere else.”

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman drinks coffee during the graduation ceremony of the 93rd batch of the cadets of King Faisal Air Academy, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 21, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

The appointment of a woman at the labor ministry is part of efforts to modernize and promote a more moderate form of Islam. Prince Mohammed has loosened social restrictions, scaling back the role of religious police and permitting public concerts.

The government has announced plans to allow women to drive this year, and said women can enrol in the security forces and no longer need the consent of a male relative to open their own businesses, a step away from the kingdom’s guardianship system.

A senior Saudi cleric said last month that women need not wear the abaya – the loose-fitting, full-length robe symbolic of religious faith – and another prominent sheikh said that celebrating Valentine’s Day did not contradict Islamic teachings, defying the religious police’s hardline position.

The decrees also included the appointment of three deputy governors from among the descendants of Princes Ahmed, Talal and Muqrin – brothers of King Salman, some of whom may have felt sidelined by changes since his accession to the throne in 2015.

One of them, new deputy governor of Asir province, Prince Turki bin Talal, is the brother of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was detained in the government’s anti-corruption campaign and released only last month.

Greg Gause, a Gulf expert at Texas A&M University, said the injection of more junior officials could help the crown prince cultivate a bloc within the royal family that is supportive of him at younger levels.

“But, and this is a big ‘but’, he is not appointing them to positions in the central government, at least not yet,” said Gause. “He is keeping power in the cabinet centralized in his hands.”

This article was first published in Reuters

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Saudi Arabia allows women to join military


26 February 2018

Saudi Arabia has for the first time opened applications for women to join its military.

Women have until Thursday to apply for positions with the rank of soldier in the provinces of Riyadh, Mecca, al-Qassim and Medina.

The roles do not appear to involve combat, but will instead give women the opportunity to work in security.

A list of 12 requirements says hopefuls must be Saudi citizens, aged between 25 and 35, and have a high-school diploma.

The women and their male guardians – usually a husband, father, brother or son – must also have a place of residence in the same province as the job’s location.

The decision to recruit female soldiers is one of many reforms enhancing women’s rights introduced in recent months in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

King Salman has decreed that women will be permitted to drive from June, while women spectators were allowed to attend football matches from last month.

However, human rights activists say Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system remains intact despite government pledges to abolish it.

Under the system, adult women must obtain permission to travel, marry or leave prison. They may be required to provide consent to work or access healthcare.

Women are also separated from unrelated men and must wear full-length robes known as “abayas” in public, as well as headscarves if they are Muslims.


General Entertainment Authority to announce 2018 Entertainment calendar with more than 5,000 planned events

Time: February 20, 2018

Saudis of all ages can look forward to an unprecedented year of culture and entertainment in the Kingdom as the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) prepares to announce its 2018 entertainment calendar of more than 5,000 events on the 22nd February 2018. The calendar offers a diverse line-up of live entertainment ever seen in Saudi Arabia, has been designed to appeal to all of Saudi society and incudes events for families, youth and kids. 

The General Entertainment Authority, one of the entities supporting the Quality of Life Vision Realization Program, aims at setting goals and drawing strategies that contribute to the development of the entertainment industry in the Kingdom by diversifying investment opportunities and creating a diverse and sustainable sector, in addition to helping achieve the Vision 2030 goals through the significant contribution of the entertainment sector to the economy and its positive impact on economic diversification and the gross domestic product (GDP) annually.

In planning its 2018 entertainment calendar, the General Entertainment Authority has taken into consideration various standards to ensure the diversity and high quality of the activities so to suit the interests of all segments and categories of the society.

Saudi women don’t need male permission to start businesses

Time: February 18, 2018

JEDDAH: Saudi women do not need the permission of a male guardian to start their own business, according to the Ministry of Commerce and Investment.
“No need for a guardian’s permission. Saudi women are free to start their own business freely,” ministry spokesperson Abdul Rahman Al-Hussein tweeted on Thursday using an Arabic hashtag that translates as #No_Need.
The #No_Need campaign is an initiative of Taysir, which aims to streamline the necessary procedures to establish a new business.
There is no longer any need to visit a notary to document the founding of a company. The Abshir system means this can all be done electronically.
Saudi women will no longer face more obstacles than a man does to establish their own business and government agencies will no longer require the consent of a guardian for a woman to complete the necessary procedures.
Al-Hussein told Arab News: “Women can practice all their commercial transactions in the Ministry of Commerce and Investment without a guardian or a notary.”
Nojood Al-Qassim, head of the Department of Personal Status, Family Legacies and Women’s and Children’s Rights, pointed out that this latest step toward the empowerment of Saudi women is in line with the government’s overall development drive.
“One of the directives of Vision 2030 is to activate the role of Saudi women in society and to give them their full rights and the rights guaranteed by Shariah,” she told Arab News.
Dima Al-Shareef, a Saudi law consultant, said: “I believe this new approach will open the door to (women) in our homeland to highlight their talents and ideas and translate them into a realistic business with a worthy financial return.”
She added: “We are witnessing a new era in the empowerment of Saudi women, in the commercial sphere in particular.”

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News


Saudi Public Prosecution to hire women investigators for first time

Time:  February 11, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution will begin hiring Saudi women as investigative officers from this week.

Arabic newspaper Al-Madina cited Saudi attorney general Saud Al Mojeb as confirming the plans, which were later announced by the kingdom’s Centre for International Communication.

He said applicants must have good conduct, be qualified for the position, have a university degree in Sharia or information technology with no less than a grade C and pass aptitude and physical fitness tests.

“The hiring process is a rigorous one as we are looking for the most qualified of candidates to take on such a critical job. After meeting all the application requirements, the candidate will sit through an interview,” Al Mojeb was quoted as saying.

The application process will open on Sunday, February 11.

The official position is for the rank of lieutenant investigator, with responsibilities including criminal investigation, testifying in court, supervising the execution of penal verdicts, inspecting prisons, listening to the complaints of inmates, overseeing prisoner release, briefing the interior minister and other executive functions.

Al-Mojeb has been a key figure in the kingdom’s recent corruption purge, which snared businessmen royals and former government officials.

He said at the end of last month that 56 individuals of 381 subpoenaed were still being held after the kingdom accumulated settlements from those accused worth more than $100bn.

Other important security roles recently opened to women include as passport control agents at airports and border crossings.

The Saudi General Directorate of Passports said on February 1 that it had received 107,000 applications after advertising 140 jobs.

Last year, the justice ministry also announced plans to recruit 300 women as social researchers, administrative assistants, Islamic jurisprudence researchers and legal researchers.

This article was first published in Gulf Business

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Saudi Arabia: How women are making football history

Time: 12 January 2018

Women in Saudi Arabia are making history this month as they are permitted to watch soccer live from the stands for the first time.

They will be present at grounds in the country’s three major cities.

First off, female spectators will enter the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on Friday to support their teams as Al-Ahli take on Al-Batin in the Saudi Professional League competition.

Saudi Arabia has been slowly granting additional rights to women in recent months in response to demands by activists – but how significant is this latest move?

Which matches can women watch?

All unaccompanied adult women are permitted to enter stadiums in three major cities – Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

On Thursday 18 January, Al-Ittifaq will be taking on Al-Faisali at the Prince Mohamed Bin Fahd Stadium in the eastern city of Dammam, where women are also welcome to attend.

Separately, Saudi Arabia has this week been hosting its first women’s squash tournament.

In November 2017, the country also introduced the women’s basketball tournament for universities, which took place in Jeddah and was attended by about 3,000 women.

Where will they sit for the football?

Women will view the games from stands in sections of each stadium with specially allocated seating for females and family.

This means that women attending the events will probably sit with children in segregated areas away from the men.

These sections have been made available specifically for women who are not accompanied by a male family member.

Other areas within the venues, such as cafes and restaurants, have also been adapted to provide separate seating arrangements.

While out in public and at these events, the women must wear loose-fitting, full-length robes known as “abayas”, as well as a headscarf if they are Muslim.

Why is this happening now?

The move is part of a social reform plan spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has pledged to transform the country with the government’s Vision 2030 programme.

It is aimed at giving more freedom to Saudi women, who face strict gender segregation rules, and follows the historic lifting of a driving ban in September 2017.

In the same month, women were allowed to participate in Saudi Arabia’s National Day celebrations for the first time.

Last year, Saudi Arabia also announced that it was lifting a ban on commercial cinemas that has lasted more than three decades. The first cinemas are expected to open in March this year.

In December, thousands of women cheered and rose in a standing ovation at the first public concert performed by a female singer in the country.

Up until now, such sports and entertainment venues have been men-only areas.

What can’t Saudi women do independently?

There are many things that Saudi women are still unable to do without permission from the men in their lives.

These things include, but are not limited to:

  • Applying for passports
  • Travelling abroad
  • Getting married
  • Opening a bank account
  • Starting certain businesses
  • Getting elective surgery
  • Leaving prison

These restrictions are down to Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system, which has aligned the country with a strict form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism.

Under the system, every woman must have a male companion with her in public, usually a close family member, who has authority to act on her behalf in these circumstances.

This has helped create one of the most gender unequal countries in the Middle East.

This article was first published in BBC

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Saudi Arabia is holding its first women’s basketball tournament

Time: November 1, 2017

It’s another first for the kingdom in a year full of them.

Saudi Arabia will play host to its first-ever official women’s basketball tournament on Saturday, in another move towards increased freedom for women.

The games will be held at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Gulf News reports, and have the support of the General Sports Authority and the Ministry of Health.


Teams from Jeddah United, Dar Al Hekma University, University of Business and Technology, DFAC, Braves and Shoot for Cause will compete, and the matches will be attended by women only.

Organiser Leena Al Maeena, of the Shura Committee, told Saudi site Al Marsad the tournament was also aiming to raise awareness of breast cancer, Gulf News said.

“We are grateful for the approval of such special women’s sports championships… It is nice to participate in an important day for women and to educate them for the sake of eliminating breast cancer through a sports tournament held for the first time in Saudi Arabia,” Al Maeena said.

“I hope such tournaments will continue and I am confident that this one will be successful as the strongest women’s basketball clubs in Jeddah will be playing,” she continued.

The tournament comes after women were allowed into sports stadiums in the city for the first time, and amid calls for women to participate more in sports.

saudi girls football

The changes come under Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious post-oil economic plan which aims to make Saudi a more modern, tourist-friendly destination.

In September, a royal decree revealed women will be able to secure driving licences from June 2018, with the news widely celebrated around the globe.

As part of the initiative, the government also aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.

This article was first published in Emirates Woman

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87,575 business licenses issued for Saudi women

SOURCE: Arab News

October 11, 2017

RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce and Investment issued 87,575 commercial registrations for women at the end of the Hijra year 1438.
Licenses were issued throughout the Kingdom, with the highest number in Riyadh with 20,086, followed by Jeddah (13,826), Makkah (5,098), Madinah (4,400) and Taif (3,861), a ministry official said.
They were issued for businesses in various fields, including trade, manufacturing, communications, information technology, real estate, cleaning, tourism, restaurants and exhibitions.
Measures and programs have recently been implemented to give women opportunities to participate in various business activities throughout the Kingdom, the ministry said in a report.
“These programs for women were sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment in line with the goals of Vision 2030, which is geared to develop the Saudi economy with the active participation of local men and women,” the report said.
The ministry has set up centers in regions such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah, Dammam and Madinah to provide business assistance to women.

To This Saudi Startup, Allowing Women To Drive Is A Game Changer

SOURCE: Forbes

OCT 3, 2017 

Saudi Arabia easing restrictions on women driving, finally allowing almost half its population to get behind the wheel, is not only landmark moment in a society where gender roles have long been rigidly demarcated, but has huge implications for women’s ability to work.

“For women, the Saudi job market is one of the toughest in the world,” says Khalid Al Khudair, founder of Glowork, a startup that’s been at the forefront to boost women participation in Saudi workforce. “But the driving decree will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for women especially in the retail sector, which has over 450,000 jobs, as the cost of transportation allowances will drop.”

Changing landscape

Allowing women to drive is the latest in a series of changes in Saudi Arabia, which has an ambitious plan to transform the economy by 2030 and, in line with that goal, increase the number of women in the workforce — from 22% to 30% over the next 15 years.

Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia has the largest gender imbalance in labor force participation among G20 countries. Only 1.9 million of its 13.1 million women participate in the workforce — a labor participation rate of 20.2% — compared with 77.8% for men, according to G20 Labor Market Report 2016. The unemployment rate among women is 32.8%. The country ranked 141/144 for gender equality in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap report.

Many of them have yet to join the labor force, despite being highly educated and motivated. Last year, 105,494 women graduated from Saudi universities compared with 98,210 men.

G20 Labor Market Report

The problems female jobseekers face is largely the result of the country’s conservative culture. Apart from driving ban, many social and workplaces are segregated and companies often have a cultural resistance to hiring them.

Founded in 2011, Glowork has put over 33,000 women in the workplace, and has assisted over 300,000 more. “On average, we place 28 women a day into the private sector,” says Al Khudair. Every year, it also organizes a career fair attracting over 25,000 female jobseekers. Last year, 3,600 women were hired at the career fair.

In addition to matching women jobseekers with employers, Glowork has pioneered a “virtual office solution” that makes it possible for women to work from home. 
“Due to gender segregation, many SMEs cannot hire women as that would mean extra cost for separate office space, rent, utilities and furniture,” Al Khudair explains. “The cost-effective virtual office solution enables women to work from home and the companies that hire them can easily monitor their work. This solution works best for women in rural areas and those with special needs and disabilities,” he adds. For this initiative, the startup won awards from International Labor Organization and World Bank.

Slow but steady

Saudi Arabia’s untapped human resource also cost the world’s largest oil producer billions per year, as the Ministry of Labor gives jobseekers an allowance of around $6,000 a year. To reduce the cost of the government, Glowork acquired the Ministry’s database of unemployed women, and now earns a commission every time it finds a job for one of those registered women. “Since we filter and screen candidates, mentor and interview them, and find employers looking to hire women, the government, instead of paying the jobseekers, pay us in installments — $200 upon hire of a new candidate, $200 on completion of three months at work, $150 after six months and $150 after a year,” says Al Khudair. “This saves the government money.”

These efforts have led to progress in the last few years. Now, women cloaked in black, some with only their eyes showing through face veils, are working in shops, offices and boardrooms. “Every other day, new sectors such as aviation and airports, hospitality and food courts in malls are opening up for women,” says Al Khudair. “Five years ago only 46,000 women were in the private sector, today over 600,000 women are employed in the private sector.”

There has also been some easing of restrictions on women’s ability to work in the fields of law and education. Additionally, Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, plans to raise the share of women in the workforce from 25% to 40%.

“The country is changing — albeit slowly — towards gender equality,” says Al Khudair. Earlier, this year, Sarah Al Suhaimi became the first female chairperson of Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, the largest bourse in the Middle East, and Rania Mahmoud Nashar was appointed the chief executive of Samba Financial Group, one of the country’s largest national banks.

“The key is not just placing women in the workplace, but empowering them to leadership positions in various sectors,” adds Al Khudair.