The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.
In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.
We've had womens' unveiled faces with the news presenters, but to have the same thing as part of a cookery program is unprecedented. All the teenage lads will be staying in that night, they don't normally see a woman's face apart from their mother and sisters.
RIYADH (AFP) - A Saudi woman has been expelled from her university for taking pictures of unveiled colleagues with a camera-equipped mobile phone and posting them on the Internet, a newspaper reported.
This was the first case of its kind in Dammam in the Eastern Province, according to Al-Yaum, although newspapers had earlier reported cases of girls kicked out of their schools or universities in other parts of the conservative Muslim kingdom for using the banned mobiles to photograph colleagues.
The unnamed student in Dammam had taken pictures of colleagues "not wearing the abaya (long black robe) and with their heads uncovered, publishing them through an Internet website" and prompting complaints from parents, Al-Yaum said.
More than 50 other students at the same female university are being investigated for carrying the banned mobiles, it said.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm hearing reports of this happening from colleges all over the place. The Religious Policemen are getting really worked up over this. Unfortunately the poor girls involved are getting their career options closed down, not that they had many in the first place. Become a teacher, or, if you've really got connexions, work in a Womens' branch of a bank.
This reminds me of when TV satellite dishes first came out. They were banned of course. Some Cops even went round shooting at them! Nowadays you see them everywhere.
Newsbreaking and controversial -- an award-winning investigative journalist uncovers the thirty-year relationship between the Bush family and the House of Saud and explains its impact on American foreign policy, business, and national security.
House of Bush, House of Saud begins with a politically explosive question: How is it that two days after 9/11, when U.S. air traffic was tightly restricted, 140 Saudis, many immediate kin to Osama Bin Laden, were permitted to leave the country without being questioned by U.S. intelligence?
The answer lies in a hidden relationship that began in the 1970s, when the oil-rich House of Saud began courting American politicians in a bid for military protection, influence, and investment opportunity. With the Bush family, the Saudis hit a gusher -- direct access to presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. To trace the amazing weave of Saud-Bush connections, Unger interviewed three former directors of the CIA, top Saudi and Israeli intelligence officials, and more than one hundred other sources.His access to major players is unparalleled and often exclusive -- including executives at the Carlyle Group, the giant investment firm where the House of Bush and the House of Saud each has a major stake.
Like Bob Woodward's The Veil, Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud features unprecedented reportage; like Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country? Unger's book offers a political counter-narrative to official explanations; this deeply sourced account has already been cited by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, and sets 9/11, the two Gulf Wars, and the ongoing Middle East crisis in a new context: What really happened when America's most powerful political family became seduced by its Saudi counterparts?
However...we can order direct from Amazon. And it comes delivered in an anonymous Fedex parcel, so the Thought Police will never know. Mine's on the way!
The ex-Archbishop of Canterbury recently made a speech in which he addresses the subject of Islam, and in particular why it inhibits, not facilitates, progress. As opposition to progress is something that the current Saudi Arabia typifies, I have extracted several pertinent comments.
Address given by Lord Carey of Clifton at the Gregorian University, Rome, on Thursday, March 25 in which he criticised Islamic culture and regimes
...wherever we look, Islam seems to be embroiled in conflict with other faiths and other cultures. It is in opposition to practically every other world religion- to Judaism in the Middle East; to Christianity in the West, in Nigeria, and in the Middle East; to Hinduism in India; to Buddhism, especially since the destruction of the Temples in Afghanistan.
.....We are presented therefore with a huge puzzle concerning Islam. Why is it associated with violence throughout the world?
.....Whether religious or nominal, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of Muslims, like Christians, are honourable and good people who hate violence and are distressed to note that they are lumped together with evil and misguided people. We should never seek to demonise them or their faith. But a fight for the soul of Islam is going on.
....Two hundred years ago a Reform movement had swept through Saudi Arabia through the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Uniting with Muhammad Ibn Saud, a powerful chief, Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab subdued other tribes and imposed what Prof. John Esposito has described ' a puritanical form of Islam' on the people
...Its intolerant and tyrannical beliefs lend themselves to young impressionable minds searching for certainties. The politicisation of young Saudi Muslims was completed in our own day when the impotence of Muslim countries was compared with what they regard the decadence of the West with its materialistic power.
...the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mohamed Mahathir who on the brink of retirement gave his sober estimate of Islam, saying that unless Islam was prepared to change it would degenerate still further.
'I find it very hard to be optimistic about Muslims in the 21st century' he said, 'Very few Muslims understand reality and they do not understand that coming to terms with globalisation is one of the greatest challenges facing them'…. 'They cannot run away' he said.
...Why the glaring absence of democratic governments in Muslim lands, particularly in the Middle East, we might wonder? It is said that modern Muslim experience suggests that Islam and democracy are incompatible
... theological Islam is being challenged too, to become more open to examination and criticism. Christianity and Judaism have had a long history of critical scholarship which, we must admit and acknowledge, has not been without its pain, but there have been great gains also.
In the case of Islam, Mohammed, acknowledged by all in spite of his religious greatness, to be illiterate man, is said to have received God's word direct, word by word, from angels and scribes who recorded them later.
Thus, believers are told, because they have come direct from Allah they are not to be questioned or revised.
....although we owe much to Islam handing on to the West many of the treasures of Greek thought, the beginnings of calculus, Aristotelian thought during the period known in the West as 'the dark ages', it is sad to relate that no great invention has come for many hundreds of years from Muslim countries
....Muslims in the West with the accompanying freedom to worship freely and build their mosques should be reciprocated in Muslim lands. However, that freedom is uneven. In some Muslim lands there are strong and cordial relationships but in some others Christians have little freedom, are sometimes persecuted, are not able build their churches, or only do so after much difficulty.
Saudi Arabia will not allow Christian worship and Christian priests and ministers are not allowed to function as such in that land. Muslim leaders often tell Christians and Jews that 'there is no compulsion in religion'. This sadly is only half true. If non-Muslims are not compelled to become Muslim, Muslims are not free to choose another faith. There is, we find, some compulsion, after all.
I apologize for quoting at length, but there is actually much more worth reading in there, and I would commend the whole article to you. It resonates with we Saudis who have seen what is achieved in the West, and then see our own country held back by an unholy alliance of corrupt and backward rulers, hand-in-hand with religious zealots who would like everything to revert to the First Millenium.
Supporters of six Saudi reformists arrested this month said on Wednesday they had failed to secure their release after talks with the kingdom's powerful interior minister.
About a dozen pro-reform activists met Prince Nayif late on Monday but the discussions revealed deep differences between authorities and campaigners, liberal university professor Khalid al-Dakhil said.
"The discussion went very well but on the other hand it was clear there is a gulf of misunderstanding between the reformers and the government," he said.
The "gulf of misunderstanding" is that when the government talks about reform, that is what it is. Talk. Whereas the reformists actually want something to happen. But that's not on the government's agenda.
And the reason that those Reformers remain imprisoned, is that they have not yet signed some form of spurious "confession". (The same that Nayif got the Western so-called "booze-bombers" to sign, even though the bombings continued while they were in prison. But we'll save that story for another day). And God knows what sort of pressure they are being put under. We don't have "Public Defenders", "Prison Visitors", "Habeas Corpus" or any other such nicety.
...which is what some of us call Bahrain. It's at the end of a 15 kilometer causeway, 400 kilometers from Riyadh, and many of us go there for the weekend, to have some fun by the seaside. There are bars and restaurants serving alcohol, women don't wear veils, drive themselves, and even stand for the elected parliament. You get the picture. Normality. Like the rest of the world.
Sadly, however, the Religious Policeman mentality ("I'm holier than thou so I'm going to tell you what you can or cannot do, for the good of your soul") is rearing its ugly head in Bahrain.
More than 100 Islamists have invaded a restaurant in Bahrain and threatened diners with knives, say witnesses.
The youths stormed La Terrasse restaurant near the capital, Manama, on Wednesday night because it was serving alcohol, the owner said.
...The owner of La Terrasse, Jahanshah Bakhtiar, told the Reuters news agency that there were about 40 customers in the restaurant at the time of the attack, including seven Westerners.
He said: "About 100 young men, shouting 'God is great', came to the restaurant carrying knives and shouted at the customers, 'Why do you drink?'"
The diners were mostly Gulf Arabs, including Saudis. It must have been very scary, once they realised it wasn't the cabaret. Let's hope it was a one-off.
RIYADH, 24 March 2004 — A 50-year-old woman hid her gold jewelry in her womb in a desperate attempt to prevent her siblings from depriving her of the last of her inheritance, according to a press report.
Al-Watan newspaper said the woman’s siblings had stripped her of her inheritance from her father and her late husband and kept her locked up in a room with boarded-up windows for 11 years.
...When she threatened to report them, they locked her up, she said. During her 11 years of captivity, she was only permitted to see one sister every four or five months.
What is not so unusual is that her sister visited her, but did not report her imprisonment. That's because it's quite normal for male relatives to keep females locked up. Perhaps not for 11 years, but for substantial lengths of time.
Many Saudi houses have grilles over all the windows. That's not to keep burglars out, because burglary rates are low. It's to keep wives and housemaids inside, when the husband is away. Sadly it's a fairly common practice. And every now and again there is a fire, and they all die, because they can't get out.
(And no, I don't keep my (one) wife locked in the house. Nor our Filipino maid. However, unless they want to walk, they need someone to drive them around, they can't drive themselves of course. So the Filipino maid's husband is our driver, and they live in a flat in part of our house, which is a good arrangement).
....from one of our more intelligent Ministers, Prince saud Al-Faisal.
"The ideas and proposals presented for reforming the Arab situation reflect flagrant accusations against the Arab countries and people.....These initiatives look good from outside but they are malicious in essence....One of these ideas says that we should introduce reforms in our countries in order to cope with the times."
The purpose of Reform is usually "to cope with the times" but, hey, what do I know, I'm not a Prince.
DAMMAM, 24 March 2004 — Underage drivers are everywhere in the Kingdom’s cities. Outside one supermarket, a boy barely 14 sits at the wheel of a Cadillac, his mother by his side. He has driven into an empty fruit crate which got stuck to the car’s chassis. A passer-by finally crawls beneath the car and pulls out the wooden crate.
On another road, a little boy so small his head is barely visible above the steering wheel drives down the wrong side of a one-way street. Other drivers wave frantically for him to get off the road.
Out of 500,000 road accidents in Saudi Arabia last year, nine or 10 percent were caused by underage drivers.
For readers from other countries, I must explain that we do not have a system of driving schools and rigorous testing. When you go to the Centre to get a licence, they ask you to drive round a circuit, and then reverse between some cones. If you can do that, you get your licence. That's why Saudi driving is probably the worst in the world.
However lots of parents let their kids drive, even when they are too young for a licence. So what do the Shawarma Champions, our intrepid Police, do?
Had he ever been stopped by police? “I am very vigilant about them. If I see one coming, I pretend to park the car and they say nothing.”
Faisal said police stopped him a few times, but they always let him go. He has had only one accident, which was a fender bender. “I was driving by the stadium where a soccer match was on. Suddenly there was a big roar from the crowd, I got distracted and hit the car in front of me. I saw that it was something minor, so I quickly sped off.”
And that's the other thing. When they hit you, they won't be insured, so you'll have to pay for the repairs yourself.
(That's another thing about this country. Until recently, motor insurance was optional. The Imams used to say it was against Islam, because it was "gambling". However the government, in an uncharacteristically progressive move, brought it in. But not for 13-year-olds)
A large number of accidents involve under-age drivers going too fast and driving into walls, killing themselves. That helps to solve the problem.
who said that Saudis shouldn't be allowed the vote because they were illiterate and might vote for the wrong people.
The Arab News has now published his interview. However they rewrote the embarrassing gaffe about illiterates. Perhaps because The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was himself illiterate. Allah may have spoken to him directly, but Prince Sultan still wouldn't let him vote.
I've picked out some quotes because they are quite revealing.
Where elections (to the Shoura Council) are concerned, if their time comes and the Saudi people deem they are warranted, we will not fail to hold a vote
How will you know what the Saudi people "deem", without a vote? Telepathy?
The prince sidestepped the question whether women could join the Shoura. “I can tell you they are smarter than men,” he said. “The government will do everything possible for the service and development of women.”
Patronizing women as usual. The government will do "everything possible" except let them drive, let them work, let them wear sensible clothes, let them vote.
Referring to the political campaigners arrested earlier this week, the defense minister said they were “outlaws who have revolted against their fathers and the country
This is the old Tribal mentality. In a tribe of 2000, criticism was seen as disloyalty to the tribe and to the Sheikh. Doesn't work in a country of 20 million.
“Five of them have been released. As for the rest, we pray to God to guide them (to the right path),” he said, without specifying how many remained in detention.
No names or numbers for the rest, just like the the Police State that this is. And no doubt God will guide them to the "right path" with the assistance of sleep deprivation and sadistic warders beating the soles of their feet.
People need not fear arrest provided they adhere to Islamic teachings, work for national security and keep away from “deviant foreigners”, he added.
So who are the "deviant foreigners"? Give us a clue.
Prince Sultan declared himself satisfied that Washington would not impose democratic reforms on any country in the region, blaming the “Jewish-controlled US media” for playing up a US “Greater Middle East Initiative” in a way likely to drive a wedge between Arab countries and the United States.
Ah-ha. Now we get to it. It was the Jews after all. As we are continually taught in school, "There will always be Jews, and the Jews will always lie". Sultan, Hitler is proud of you.
...kept awake by "boy racers" in the neighborhood, driving their cars up and down and doing handbrake turns. We called the Police, but by the time they finished their shawarmas and turned up, the miscreants had gone.
Mind you, it's easy to understand why they do it. Unlike their counterparts in the West, they don't have cinemas, youth clubs, sports clubs, swimming pools, soccer pitches or skateboard parks on which to let off energy. The mosques don't organize anything for them. They don't have anywhere just to hang out and meet girls in a relaxed setting; so they make a nuisance of themselves following girls in the Malls, if they're allowed in - normally the doormen will keep them out.
Then when they grow up, they'll be unemployed wasters, millions of them. What a problem we are storing up for ourselves.
However I didn't appreciate the scale. Only 8% of workers in the private sector are Saudis, which is an amazing statistic. All the rest are imported from the Third World (although there are a few from the West in executive and professional roles, the ones that haven't been driven away by the bombs, that is.)
Ask any Saudi boy where he wants to work when he grows up, and he will say:
The Armed Forces
(although he will only get into those if he comes from the same tribal group as the Royal Family, that's to ensure loyalty)
The Civil Service
and failing that,
A shop (but taking the money, not actually selling things)
Anything else is considered to be demeaning, and suitable only for Third World expatriates. They certainly don't want to work as Nurses, which is extremely demeaning, and Womans' work (although women aren't allowed to do it). If the Filipino nurses all went home, the Health Service would collapse in a heap.
This country will only get Saudized when the government stops paying people to stay at home. It needs a major change of attitude. As it says in the article:
Dr. Syed Khwaja of the Health Ministry said the main problem is one of mindset. “While it is true that a section of the Saudis are sincere and hardworking, unfortunately a sizable section of them have a laid-back attitude. They while away their time on phone calls, socializing and spending more time on prayers than is necessary. This is the reason why the private sector resists calls for Saudization and cuts corners wherever possible,” he adds.
In a staggering display of arrogance, even by the standards of the House of Saud, Prince Sultan ruled out elections for the "Poodle Parliament", sometimes known as the Shoura Council, on the grounds that Saudis are illiterate and would therefore vote for the wrong people. This, from a leading member of the Royal Family that boasts of its achievements in adult literacy.
Top Saudi Prince Rules Out Elected Shura Council
RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is not yet ready to have an elected parliament because voters may pick illiterate and unqualified candidates, Defense Minister Prince Sultan said in remarks broadcast Monday.
Prince Sultan, the third most senior member of the royal family after King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah, was responding to a question on whether Riyadh could hold elections for its 120-strong consultative Shura Council, now hand-picked by the king and with a largely advisory role.
"No, because if there were elections to the Shura Council then people would emerge who cannot read or write but who have leaders and people backing them without debate," the prince said in remarks broadcast on Saudi state television.
Well, I've got news for Prince Sultan. If we ever get elections, you'll be the first to go buddy. You and your palaces and all your privileges.
So no wonder you'll resist democracy as long as possible.
....to pass the time on a Friday.
After all, we're not allowed cinemas or piano bars or concert halls or theatres, so what better way to spend Friday, after Friday prayers in the mosque, than a really good Public Execution.
Bring all the family, it's entertainment for all ages!
But don't get too close, you may become a victim yourself.
Then, in one swift move, the executioner separates the prisoner’s head from his body. Several spectators faint, and the executioner is pulled from the scene lest he get carried away and injure someone else with his sword.
RIYADH, 21 March 2004 — Traffic accidents in the Kingdom have reached alarming proportions. According to Traffic Department statistics, the number of accidents in the Kingdom last year was 268,392.
Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper, a sister publication of Arab News, conducted a study and found two basic reasons for accidents.
The first, behind 84 percent of traffic accidents, is the driver’s behavior when he gets behind the wheel. Drivers are reckless and, if they are aware of rules and regulations, choose not to follow them. High speed is also a problem with many drivers claiming to be unaware of speed limits.
As they say themselves, 84% of accidents are caused by driver behavior. So that makes 16% caused by bad roads. So they quote the 16% rather than the 84%, we Saudis don't like "losing face". But let's face it, when it comes to reckless and dangerous driving, we are the World Champions.
Major causes of road accidents?
- Police are afraid to pull up anyone driving fast in a Mercedes, in case he's a Prince and they get reprimanded
- Parents with lots of children crawling all over the front and back seats, never in seat belts or child seats, they're instant projectiles when there's an accident. That, and our large families, is why you keep seeing reports saying "One accident, 2 cars, 19 dead".
- Fathers driving with small children sitting on their lap. When there's an accident, they're much squishier than an air-bag.
- People driving at speed and talking on mobile. Maybe with small child on lap.
- Drivers who change lanes without giving a signal. They never had signals on a camel.
- Idiots driving at speed on outside "emergency lane", flashing lights to try and get idiots in front to move over, and being flashed by idiots behind.
- Idiots switching lanes every 5 seconds, as though they were Formula 1 drivers. they are not.
(For a really frightening drive, and plenty of examples of the two above, try Riyadh's northern ring road on Wednesday and Thursday night, as the morons make their way to the "Resters" (bars without booze) in Riyadh's north-eastern outskirts).
- Lazy policemen who just like to look good, flashing their blue lights, but never actually do anything. Especially when they see a Mercedes.
Saudi authorities have jailed a lawyer a day after he criticised the arrest of several top intellectuals in a television interview, sources say.
Abderrahman al-Lahem was reportedly jailed after expressing his surprise on Arab television station al-Jazeera.
It emerged on Tuesday that a number of leading Saudi activists - some liberal, others Islamist - had been arrested.
The detained intellectuals had put their names to a petition calling for a constitutional monarchy.
The exact number of intellectuals arrested remains in doubt, but is thought to be between five and 12.
..."expressed surprise that the National Human Rights Association - a newly-created government-backed pressure group - had remained silent on the arrests."
They may be surprised, no-one else is. Do they really expect a government-sponsored group to speak out against the government?
Forget the talk of Reform. This is the Reality of Saudi Arabia.
RIYADH, 19 March 2004 — The Kingdom yesterday voiced disappointed over US criticism of its arrests of Saudi reformists, saying the detentions were an internal security issue.
“The US State Department should have consulted us to learn the truth of the issue before its spokesman made his remarks,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The United States said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia’s detention this week of 13 prominent reformists was a step backward for political change in the Kingdom. However, there was confusion about the exact number of the activists detained. On Tuesday, a Foreign Ministry source spoke of “a small number of individuals.”
So now it's 13 people in prison for advocating such revolutionary changes as parliamentary democracy and human rights. Things that the West have had since the 1700's, at least. And the reason that there is "confusion" about the numbers is that in Saudi Arabia there is no "Habeas Corpus", no due process, no reporting of cases, no legal representation, no time limit for prosecutions. So you can disappear into their "black hole" and never be accounted for; just hope you've got friends or relatives who notice you are missing.
(They won't get me, I use a direct satellite link. Expensive, but it avoids the eavsdropping ears of the Ministry of Thought Monitoring).
It's good to see that the US has delivered its mild rebuke. What many of us would like, of course is for the US and the West to forget their oil interests just once, and really play hardball with this Medieval Theocracy. Let's have a blaze of publicity, UN Resolutions, the lot.
Just in case you hadn't got the picture yet:
Advocate Political Reform, and you go to Prison.
Screw a 13-year-old girl, and you become a newspaper Celebrity.
Any problem with that?
JEDDAH, 19 March 2004 — In 50 years, Saleh Al-Saieri, a Saudi businessman has married 58 women, including eight Yemenis, and then divorced 54 of them. Every time the wives hear that Al-Saieri has found a new prospect, they begin wondering who is next to go.
“I married university graduates and illiterate women. The oldest wife I am married to is 40 and the youngest is 13, who I married just one month ago. She lives in southern Saudi Arabia,” he boasted.
He's also a serial polygamist, but we live in the Middle Ages, and the law allows that.
(It is generally known that The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was in fact illiterate, and that he dictated the Quran for others to write down. What is not so widely known is that he was also innumerate. Otherwise, when he allowed men to have 4 wives at a time, he didn't realise that with a male : female ratio of 1:1, 75% of the male population would have to be single).
Sadly our law allows men to marry 13-year-old girls. Anywhere else in the world and they'd be put in prison. Here, you'll get put in prison for saying that the law is wrong.
And so he'll continue to inflict his shrivelled old dick on that poor girl. Then, when she loses the next divorce lottery, she'll be discarded.
Saudi security services have arrested a journalist who criticised the arrest a day earlier of a group of Saudi reformers, three of whom have since been released.
Speaking to Aljazeera on Tuesday, Abd al-Rahman al-Lahim, who is based in Saudi, had said the arrest of the reformers was "contrary to the law".
He advocated "freedom of expression, a priority for economic reform" envisaged by the authorities.
Sources close to the reformers on Wednesday said Saudi security forces had arrested some 10 reformers since Tuesday, including academics who were among 116 signatories to a petition to the government in December calling for transforming the kingdom into a constitutional monarchy.
The only people allowed to talk about "Reform" are the government. Private citizens who do this, risk a stay in some filthy prison with psychotic guards.
So they'll avoid reform as long as they can get away with it. Otherwise they risk losing their privileges, their palaces, their immunity from prosecution.
RAFHAH, 17 March 2004 — About 900 imams and khateebs (those who lead prayers and give Friday sermons) have been suspended for negligence, said Dr. Saleh Al-Sadlan, professor of law at Riyadh’s Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University and head of the advisory committee in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.
“The reason for the suspension is that various flaws and shortcomings were noted, mainly to do with failure to do what is required of imams and khateebs,” Dr. Al-Sadlan explained. He added that seminars would be held to advise those who are detected making frequent mistakes.
Here you will notice our Saudi characteristic of "saving face". They have not been suspended for "negligence", which implies that they forgot to get the carpet cleaned. They have been suspended because they don't follow the official line, and continue to preach out against "unbelievers", "westerners", and of course "Jews". They're not very smart, because all the sermons are broadcast over a loudspeaker, and everyone in the neighbourhood can hear them. But then, who said you had to be smart to be an Imam?
The government used to allow this sort of preaching to happen all the time. Then they started to clamp down after the May 2003 bombings in Riyadh. Too late. "What ye sow, so shall ye reap".
Meanwhile, the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University in Riyadh continues to churn out Imams by the hundreds each year, if not thousands. As if we were short of lazy parasites.
Two wanted Saudi armed fighters have been killed in a shootout with security forces in a residential quarter of the capital.
The clashes took place around midday on Monday in the al-Nasim quarter, witnesses said.
They said the two suspects were on a 26-strong most wanted list of suspected Islamist fighters alleged to have links with bombings that killed 52 people in Riyadh in May and November 2003.
According to earlier official accounts, the list, issued in December, was narrowed to 23 after one fighter was killed in a clash with security forces, another surrendered, and a third died of his wounds after he was injured in a shootout with police and left to die by his comrades.
It's fairly common knowledge that these guys keep getting tipped off from within the security forces. Like the time that about 20 were in a house and surrounded, but miraculously shot their way out and got away scot-free.
RIYADH, 15 March 2004 — Raids and sweeping arrests of expatriate travel agents continued until last night, defying hopes of a grace period for Saudization of the travel industry.
No more heads have been forcibly shaved, according to recently released travel agents.
But all detained workers complained barbers in the detention center used pressure tactics to persuade workers to allow their heads to be shaved — possibly to maximize their income. Some said that while head-shaving was not mandatory, many inmates were tense and anxious during detention and did not dare refuse or simply asked no questions of the barbers.
So the good news is that nobody's getting his head shaved any more. But the bad news, according to the Saudi Gazette, is that the Travel Agents are now losing millions, because they can't get replacement staff, or staff with enough experience. Same problem with the jewelry shops since Saudization. Half of them are closed, the other half are manned by Saudis who don't know an Amethyst from a Ruby, like the guy who was trying to sell a ring to my wife the other night.
The problem with Saudization is that nobody in our government is smart enough to figure out that these guys need training begore they can do these jobs. We've got graduates in all the academic subjects, and a whole university in Riyadh turning out Imams (as if we needed more of them) and lawyers, but how many technical or vocational colleges are there? That's right, zero. So until then, we should start by Saudizing the unskilled jobs. Let's start by replacing the Bangladeshis we see sweeping up the litter we endlessly drop. That'll soon stop us from being the litter champions of the world.
Oh, I forgot, street-sweeping is beneath us, that's for Third World nationals, We're a nation of businessmen and managers. Like the expression "All chiefs and no Indians".
JEDDAH, 14 March 2004 — Authorities have intensified the crackdown on illegal mobile camera phones.
Mobile retail outlets across the Kingdom are being searched by representatives from the Interior Ministry and phones are confiscated. The authorities plan to re-export the collected devices and compensate shop owners with the profits, according to Al-Watan newspaper.
The phones were banned in September 2002 at the urging of the chief of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice following reports that they were being used by some men to secretly photograph women.
But that has not stopped the phones from being sold.
The controversial phones are being bought from neighboring Gulf countries and sold for up to double their original price.
In what other country in the world would Camera Phones be "controversial"?
We can all be reassured that our intrepid Religious Police (aka the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) have banned them, because (shock, horror), men are using them to photo women.
However, they'll soon learn that they are, to use that wonderful Western expression, "pissing in the wind". Just like when they tried to stop TV satellite dishes.
JEDDAH, 14 March 2004 — Saudi Arabia’s first elections will take place in October and should lead to general elections, Asharq Al-Awsat, a sister publication of Arab News, reported yesterday, quoting senior members of the Shoura Council.
“Elections to the municipal councils will take place next October,” Dr. Saleh Al-Malik said. “There is no question of going back on the elections,” added Saleh Al-Omeir, who is leading a Shoura delegation visiting London.
“The experience of the Shoura and the municipal elections will be a positive factor to establish the idea of elections so that they will become general and not just municipal,” the London-based Arabic daily quoted Al-Omeir as saying.
Al-Omeir denied suggestions that Saudis are allergic to democracy and said consultation in public matters was a divine order.
So will they lead to General Elections? "They should"
So we could vote in a different government? "I didn't say that"
Will women be allowed to vote? "Um, I'll get back to you on that"
Will there be political parties? "You're joking!!!"
RIYADH, 13 March 2004 — A court in Riyadh sentenced a Saudi teacher accused of denouncing religion to three years in jail and 300 lashes. The man was banned from teaching and writing in newspapers.
The court dropped an apostasy charge but found him guilty on other charges of blasphemy. The court took statements from three witnesses under the age of 15 in addition to other teachers at the same school.
According to students, the teacher “allowed” what was religiously forbidden such as homosexuality and adultery. He also referred to the Syrian poet Nizar Qabani as “Nizar (peace be upon him).”
The case began last December with the court hearing a succession of witnesses that praised his morality.
Both the accused and the prosecutor disagree with the verdict.
According to Asharq Al-Awsat, the teacher said, “I was not surprised at the decision. I have expected it since the court put me in prison before I even went on trial.
The judge wanted to impose the maximum punishment on me. They accepted the case from the prosecutor without any investigation.
What a "system of justice"! Three years and 300 lashes for the victimless offence of "blasphemy". We can't have teachers asking pupils to question things, can we? On the other hand, the teachers who encouraged their pupils to cheer 9/11 didn't even get a reprimand. Beat up and rape your Filipino housemaid instead, and you'll probably get off without even being arrested. No wonder that so many of us are ashamed of our backward country.
RIYADH, 13 March 2004 — Four travel agency employees are still being detained amid hopes in the travel industry that the government will announce a grace period for Saudization of the business next week.
Most of the workers arrested in raids earlier this week have been released piecemeal. The remaining four, currently languishing in deportation cell No. 2 in Riyadh, say they are spending sleepless nights in unhygienic conditions. “I and the remaining four were picked up from different travel agencies,” said Mohammed Banaras Khan of Trans Continent Agency, who was released Wednesday night after his sponsor obtained an order from the governorate.
Their crime? Their employers had not complied with the Saudization directives, requiring them to employ more Saudis and less foreigners. So the authorities put them, not the Saudi owners, in jail, and shaved their heads as part of the service. That's because they're Third World foreigners. We wouldn't treat our own countrymen like that.
There has been no report of a message of condolence from the House of Saud to the Spanish Government and people, following the recent terrorist atrocity. We were taught at school that the life of an Unbeliever is not as important as that of a Muslim. Is this the reason?