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KSA to introduce permits for bloggers 24, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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The Saudi Arabian Information and Culture Ministry announced that all those who publish on the web on blogs or other online media will need to register with the government.

The official reason given was that this would help to cut down on libel and defamation and “is not intended to limit free speech”. Mmm. Not at all.

Currently, online media is the last bastion of vaguely free media space available. TV and newspapers have been carefully controlled, monitored, and regulated for some time now and are incredibly tame. The Government also has a history of arresting bloggers and banning countless pages of online content.

Saudi: easy to do business? 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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As I tactfully alluded to in an earlier post, the recent trend of Saudi Arabia’s high rankings in various global competitiveness type rankings is absurd. Indeed, their latest rating of 13th in the world (top in the Middle East) in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business‘ Survey is a classic example of their absurdly over-inflated placing.

An excellent new blog that I’ve just stumbled upon elucidates just how absurd these kinds of ratings are in an interesting post I commend you to read.

Whilst I’m not sure that I’d legally want to suggest that the authors of these various polls and surveys are being bribed (though I allegedly wouldn’t be surprised) there remains the real question of just how they are so odds they are with reality. Answers on a postcard.

Gay Saudi diplomat seeks aslyum 15, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Saudi Arabia.
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A Saudi diplomat based in Los Angeles has sought asylum in America after it was revealed that he is gay.

If he returned to Saudi Arabia he claimed that he would be persecuted for homosexuality which is “frowned upon” by Wahhabi doctrine. Indeed, were he to return it is wholly feasible that he could be sentenced to death or flogged; it would depend on the whims of the local judge, no doubt coaxed along by religious opprobrium.

Fatwas to be vetted by Ministry 3, August 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam, Saudi Arabia.
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In a potentially devastating blow to bloggers looking for an easy laugh and post at the expense of absurd Saudi muftis, it appears that Saudi is establishing a kind of fatwa quality control system. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has decreed that they will now have to sift through proposed fatwas by Islamic scholars before they can be widely published by the media.

Quite astutely […] some Islamic cleric in the Ministry or other noticed that absurd random fatwa issuing over trivial issues “gives a bad impression about the Kingdom being an Islamic state.” Do you think!

Still, panic not blog readers and other consumers of such silly fatwas, I’m sure that the Ministry will let through a few special ones to keep the lunatic fringe happy. Inshallah.

Hat tip: Abstract JK

Tourism in the Kingdom 18, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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For some time now there have been vaguely official rumours that Saudi Arabia will start issuing ordinary tourist visas. Whilst a typical tourist visa (i.e. individual) may still be some time away, The National reports that there are numerous tourism companies which have been taking tourists to Saudi for some time now.

There must be a minimum of 4 people in a group before the companies will seek to issue visas. Women must be 30 years or older if they are not travelling with a man and must wear Abayas.

There is a lot to see in Saudi. Jeddah is reputedly a very attractive sea-side city. Nearby there are, like in Petra, spectacular Nabatean archeological sites. Diving too is sure to be a growth industry. Across the water from Jeddah there are countless bustling dive-orientated tourist destinations like the delightful Dahab. The reefs surely have to be on both sides of the world-famous Red Sea offering relatively unspoiled climbs. If they so choose, there’s quite the opportunity here.

Saudi are adamant, however, that they do not want to replicate the tourism of Dubai or Bahrain. Both cities have largely deserved reputation for – how to put this nicely – egregiously licentious behavior.

Saudi: we want more polygamy 15, July 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Seemingly there’s a new campaign being launched in Saudi by amorous young men promoting the virtues of polygamy. This is reacting to an increasing amount of young women who are rejecting the opportunity to enter into polygamous marriages in the Kingdom. I’m sure women will come a-flocking.

Hat tip: The Windy City Imam

Multiply raped maid repatriated & charges dropped against Saudi 25, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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A Filipino housemaid in Saudi Arabia who was repeatedly raped by her employer over a period of three years is to be deported after the case was dropped. She was paid £1900 by the Saudi rapist as well as two months wages that she was owed totaling (for both months) £150. She also has to pay her own way home.

Hat tip: Al Bab

Saudi King in ‘co-ed’ picture shock! 8, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah appears in a picture with women at a conference. As small as this picture or gesture may seem, this is really quite a progressive statement. Not only does it explicitly go against the Saudi rhetoric of the strict separation of men and women, but the majority of the women are not wearing Niqabs and I can even – sacre bleu! – see a few strands of hair.

This is but the latest example of the elderly King’s clear statements on reform in Saudi Arabia. Not only did he inaugurate the Kingdom’s first co-ed educational institution but he decreed that it be free from the depredations of the religious police. Therefore, on campus, women can drive, do not need to wear headscarves and can mingle freely with the opposite sex. When challenged by a senior cleric on this, he responded immediately by sacking him. Another bold move.

The questions that is now on everybodys’ lips is what till happen after Abdullah is no longer King. Although Prince Sultan the Crown Prince practically returned from the dead, it is unlikely that he would take over for his health is surely still too fragile. Instead, Prince Naif, an arch conservative, was made deputy Crown Prince. He is generally accepted to be the logical successor. Whether he would seek to roll back some of the reforms is the million dollar question.

One last quick note: people often innately assume that ‘it must’ be a case of the Saudi rulers holding back their people who ‘automatically’ want more progressive laws because – well – that’s ‘just’ what people want. Not in Saudi Arabia. Overall, I’d be tempted to say that in fact it is the people who are more conservative than the government and it is the average Saudi who is resistant to change. How the younger generations will change this balance is another interesting question.

Largest dairy farm in world? In KSA, of course 23, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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The Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ monthly newsletter informs slightly incredulous readers that the largest dairy farm in the world is in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it is over twice as large as the largest American equivalent. Stuck in the middle of the desert with 37,000 cows, the farm uses cooling water AC to keep the cows at a pleasant temperature.

In the height of last summer I went to a dairy farm in Kuwait that also used a similar system. Imagining the farm that I saw scaled up thousands of times beggars belief. The sheer amount of water needed to keep the farm working is staggering. The newsletter reports that it takes a whopping 2300 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, three times the US’ average.

In Saudi of all countries, who are in the midst of abandoning old water-hungry agricultural projects, it is near impossible to see this venture continuing. Though, ironically enough, perhaps its best hope for its future lies in the glacial pace that Saudi does – well – pretty  much everything.

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Gause on women in Saudi 21, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Gulf sage Greg Gause has a fantastic article at FP on the changing role of women in Saudi society. The short article is well worth reading but here are a couple of little ‘nuctas’ which I gleaned.

  • Yes, KAUST is a great thing but Gause notes that it is so isolated (80 miles from nearest city) from Saudi society and there are so few Saudis there, let alone Saudi women, that its effects are perhaps best measured in decades.
  • There was a co-ed crowd at Riyadh’s annual book fair and at the fair for the King Abdullah study abroad fair. Even the religious vice and virtue police were present – at a stall – at the former giving out leaflets. Nevertheless, these are but ‘one off events’.
  • Jeddah’s Chamber of Commerce is working on implementing different working times for men and women so they never have to mix.

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