Saudi Youth Idle No More

Sabria S. Jawhar says the perception that “Saudi youths are idle, humorless and disengaged from the political and societal movements” was probably true for previous generations, but it is not the case for the new generation. You can see that, she says, in the many YouTube comedy shows produced by young Saudis over the past two years:

More important than simply entertainment, the Saudi government can learn a great deal about what young people think, especially as ministries prepare to introduce new regulations that affect society in general or more specific issues like employment. Their comedic commentaries are a constructive way to express disappointment without being confrontational.

Branson Calls on Saudi Government to Abolish the Morality Police

British billionaire Richard Branson writes in his blog:

It’s nothing short of depressing to see the same old stories come out of Saudi Arabia, especially when last year saw some encouraging developments. Such as their first ever female Olympian, Sarah Attar, competing at London 2012. As I mentioned at the time, I have had first-hand experience of the way certain sections of the country’s population can be treated. It’s a shocking thing to experience.

The educated Saudi men that I personally know disagree with the regime’s approach to women. I suspect it would be wise for the Saudi government to abolish the morality police and start treating all sections of their society with a little bit more trust and dignity.

US Embassy: No Blacklist for Saudi Islamist Activists

A senior official from the United States’ Embassy in Saudi Arabia has denied the existence of a list of Saudi Islamist activists who are banned from traveling to the US, noting that the previous travel ban was based on confidential information that cannot be disclosed to the public.

Cecilia Khatib, a consul at the US Embassy, said that US privacy laws protecting personal information state that reasons for an individual being banned from travel can only be disclosed to that individual. She added that there is no information about the existence a list.

The question is probably related to the case of famous Saudi cleric Ayedh al-Qarnee who was deplaned a flight from Riyadh to New York last month after he was told he is persona non grata in the United States. Former US diplomat in Saudi Arabia John Burgess wrote on his site Crossroads Arabia that he is “sure” the Embassy in Riyadh does not hold a blacklist.

Saudi Arabia vs Qatar

James M. Dorsey:

At the core of the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are fundamentally different strategies of self-preservation. While the royal families of both have sought to buffer themselves by lavish social spending, Saudi Arabia has opted for maintenance of the status quo where possible and limited engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, toward which it harbors deep-seated distrust.

In contrast Qatar seeks to be on the cutting edge of history and has exercised a sophisticated soft diplomacy with its winning bid to host the World Cup, positioning itself as global hub by developing a comprehensive sports sector, creation of world class museums and sponsorship of the arts. In effect, Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood and popular revolts in the region constitutes an integral part of its foreign and defense policy, designed to embed itself in the international community so as to enhance the chances that other nations will come to its aid in time of need

It seems that the Saudi-Qatari honeymoon that lasted for the past few years, clearly seen in Al Jazeera’s softening their coverage of Saudi Arabia, is probably coming to an end over differences on how to handle the Arab uprisings. Saudi Arabia’s newest newspaper al-Sharq has been running many pieces critical of Qatar in recent weeks.

Saudi Preacher Gets Away With Murder

Until he was arrested for torturing his 5-year-old daughter to death last November, most people have not heard of a preacher named Fayhan al-Ghamdi. The man has previously made some appearances on private religious channels, but he was not well known. It was not until his ex-wife, the mother of Lama, spoke publicly about the case that his name became familiar to many people. Al-Ghamdi was detained on November 12, 2012. Earlier this week the court issued its ruling in the case. The sentence was shocking to many observers: No jail time for the preacher who gets to walk free after paying blood money. Lama’s mother told al-Watan that she will appeal the ruling.

Can You Teach a Foreign Language Sans Its Cultural Values?

Khalid al-Seghayer:

Teaching English along with its culture is in line with the announced goals of teaching English to Saudi students, i.e., to prepare Saudi citizens to be intercultural speakers or cross-cultural literates who are knowledgeable of different cultural practices and world views. Therefore, the call to remove all cultural references from the English language textbooks of international publishing companies, the call to teach English in isolation from its culture, and the call to include only local cultural references while teaching English are all unwise and unreasonable.

Saudi Failure to Protect Against Corruption in Defense Spending


Saudi Arabia is among the biggest arms-importing countries that have insufficient safeguards against corruption in the defense industry, Transparency International said.

Seven of the nine countries that imported more than $1.5 billion of weapons in 2011 ranked between high and very high for corruption risk, the non-profit organization said today as it unveiled a ranking of 82 countries. Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey and China were among the largest markets with the lowest grades.

Saudi Arabia signed a $29.4 billion agreement with the U.S. in 2011 to buy 84 new F-15 fighter jets and modernize 70 existing ones. A unit of European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co. (EAD) is currently being investigated by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office over bribery allegations in the country.

The Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index can be found here, and Saudi Arabia’s profile is here.

Heavy Rains Ravage Tabuk

Heavy rains accompanied by strong winds since Sunday evening have brought life in the region to a standstill. Major thoroughfares have been inundated with rain water causing lot of problems to the motorists who were seen spending hours to reach their homes or workplaces.

Authorities have ordered all schools in the region closed for two days in view of the incessant rains and clogging of water on main roads in the governorate. All schools will now reopen on Saturday.

Prince Fahd Bin Sultan, Emir of Tabuk Region, has directed all authorities to exert all efforts for the safety of the citizens. They have also been directed to provide all possible assistance, including suitable accommodation, meals and heating for all those affected.

Fahd bin Sultan told Okaz last December that SR 6 billion ($ 1.6 billion) have been spent on infrastructure projects in Taubk. Looking at photos and videos of the flooding streets makes one wonder where did all the money go.

Saudi Clerics Arrested Outside the Royal Court As King Abdullah Makes First Public Appearance in Month

King Abdullah has made his first public appearance in four weeks when he received senior princes and clerics in his palace Tuesday afternoon in the Saudi capital Riyadh. The state television played footage showing members of the royal family greeting the elderly monarch and kissing his hand. Crown Prince Salman and the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Alsheikh sat next to him.

This was the first time the King appears in public since December 29 when he chaired the cabinet meeting to announce the annual budget. Earlier Tuesday, a group of clerics were reportedly arrested after they gathered outside the royal court to protest. Asim al-Mashaali, one of the protesters, said on Twitter that they were stopped by the security forces and taken into buses. Lawyer Abdulaziz al-Hussan said he went to the police station in Sahafa district where 13 protesters were detained, but the police refused to tell him the reason for the arrests.

The clerics have staged a similar sit-in outside the royal court earlier this month to protest what some of them described as “recent changes in the country” including the King’s decision to appoint 30 women to the advisory Shoura Council.