Saudi Arabia Ratifies GCC Security Treaty

Saudi Arabia ratified the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security treaty endorsed by the GCC Supreme Council at its 33rd summit in Bahrain in December, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Abdulaziz Khoja said after the weekly cabinet meeting here in Jeddah on Monday that the government decided to ratify the treaty after considering the report presented by the Minister of Interior Prince Mohammed bin Naif and the decision of the Shoura Council to approve the treaty last May.

“The agreement focuses on cooperation among member countries in law enforcement and information exchange,” Khoja said.

The statement published by the state news agency listed some features of the security treaty, summarized here by Arab News:

Member countries will cooperate with one another in tracking down criminals and law violators irrespective of their nationalities. The agreement also allows GCC countries to take action against citizens and foreigners who try to interfere in their internal affairs. They will also exchange information related to wanted citizens and foreigners.

The security treaty did not pass without controversy.

Khaled Al Sayed, editor-in-chief of Doha-based newspaper The Peninsula, wrote last December that it was “shameful” for GCC governments to quietly pass the agreement without that raising awareness among their citizens about the pact or its contents.

“They are supposed to know because it concerns them, and it would upset them that the clauses of the pact haven’t been discussed and their opinions not sought,” he said.

The GCC security agreement was first introduced in 1994, but it faced strong resistance from Kuwait where lawmakers raised concerns that the pact is incompatible with its constitution. However, Kuwait eventually came on board to endorse the agreement in order to address security challenges faced by the six Arab Gulf countries.

“Such challenges necessitate that we be a coherent and non-penetrating security entity, and that will only be achieved through this agreement,” a Kuwaiti official said last May.

Photo of Qatar Armed Forces soldier courtesy of US Department of Defense via Flickr

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‘But It’s Their Money’

David Ignatius:

The core problem for Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf regimes is that they have immense wealth resting uneasily on conservative political systems. They resist change, even as their young populations get ever more connected electronically with the outside world — and its online trends of both secularization and radical jihad.

Under Pressure

Jane Kinninmont:

The arguments between those who see dissidents as mere ingrates, and those who see conservatives as regime stooges, have been growing more polarized. The resulting political tensions are visible above all in Bahrain, where renewed protests are being met with an intensive crackdown today; and in the UAE, over the recent sentencing of opposition activists, and to some extent also in Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia has been carrying out its own crackdown against activists, albeit more quietly than its neighbors. Following jail sentences against Abdullah al-Hamed and Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani, authorities went after members of the their group and other activists with interrogations, trials and jail sentences.

More Roadblocks for Saudi Women Who Want to Drive

Fouzia Khan reports in Arab News:

A proposal to make it illegal to drive vehicles in the Gulf States while wearing the veil could hamper efforts by Saudi women to drive cars in the Kingdom.

The Directors General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in its 13th meeting on Monday in Jeddah, considered the draft from Gulf traffic departments as part of a larger effort to outline more specific unified traffic violations for all Gulf States.

While the draft is not a blanket ban on the veil, its passage into law would make it illegal for drivers to cover their faces in front of traffic police officers.

Saudi Arabia is the only GCC country that bans women from driving. In the past, Saudi women could easily obtain a driving license from other GCC countries, but some restrictions have been put in place to stop that in recent years. The latest of these restrictions come from Kuwait, which now bans Saudi women from obtaining a driving license without the permission of their male guardian, according to al-Hayat daily. “We know there are certain reservations about women driving in Saudi Arabia,” a Kuwaiti official told the newspaper. “Sometimes the male guardian does not approve that their women drive, and we don’t want to cause a family problem by granting a driving license to a woman without the knowledge of her family.”

Madam Minister

Saudi minister of social affairs Yousuf al-Uthaymeen does not mind women taking senior positions at his ministry. Actually, he is hoping that a woman will succeed him at his position as minister. The woman he nominated for the position is Dr. Mody al-Zahrani, supervisor of the social protection unit at the ministry. Al-Uthaymeen statement came after attending a GCC meeting for social affairs ministers. “This is the future minister,” he said as he pointed to Dr. al-Zahrani who was sitting next to him, according al-Sharq newspaper.

Look Ma, No Passport

Saudi women will be allowed to travel to GCC member countries using the national ID card (no passport needed) just like their countrymen, a senior official told al-Watan Tuesday. Women, however, will still need the permission of their male guardians to leave the country. But the infamous yellow slip is gone. The paper permission has been scrapped and replaced with an electronic permission that is stored in the government databases. Now every time a woman leaves the country, her male guardian gets a text message notifying him of her departure. Progress?