Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Politics’

The Mirage of Saudi Reforms

05/10/2010

King Abdullah, the Custodian of the two holy mosques, is widely popular in the country. I clearly recall when he became the King more than 5 years ago that many Saudis demonstrated their deep strong feelings towards him by voluntarily posting the King’s photo on their cars with slogans praising him. Today I see such photos much less frequently.

Changes took place in the country during the past five years. Yet, I hardly can identify any which directly impacted majority of Saudis in their daily life. I can claim that the changes were either in the appearance or satisfactory to a factional “war”. How?

Some of the most important changes that the King pushed for are in education and juridical system. Fruits in such areas need a lot of time before being felt. Yet, indications especially in education are not promising, I believe.

Another tool used to enforce the change were the Royal Decrees Some of these Decrees created hope when announced, while others created controversy to say the least. After the death of 120 people in Jeddah back in November as a result of moderate rain followed by a flood, a very strong worded Royal Decree was announced ordering detailed investigations of the reasons of the tragedy. It really cooled down the public mood which was so shocked of what happened. However, it is been almost a year and no real action took place against those involved in corruption that killed innocent people. What is more important is that the investigation results are still not published and kept secretive.

Though the King seemed supportive to dialogue (including dialogue between religions) and local newspapers got more critical of the performance of the ministries, the Royal Decree dismissing one of the members of the highest religious council after criticizing KAUST because of the mix of sexes in the University caused a lot of argument and was considered as a factional victory for, the so called, Saudi Liberals. Few weeks ago, another Decree was announced limiting the public fatwa to the members of the highest religious council. Keeping in mind what happened to their colleague few months ago, I doubt that the council will be in position to announce any fatwa that might not be liked by the King.

The two controversial Royal Decrees demonstrate to me that Saudi Arabia is still far away from a period of real reforms and that many things happen behind the scene causing a high level of public anxiety and create a feeling of uncertainty of the future.

When would reforms in Saudi Arabia be real reforms and not the gift of the King?. It is when those reforms focus on finding solutions to the real issues of the country rather than creating more fictional wars. On my personal view, the list of real life issues include, but not limited to, unemployment (currently at 10%, at least), homeownership (at least 40% of Saudis do not own their houses), the inflation especially as a result of greed and lack of regulations over monopoly. That might be just the tip of the iceberg because of the chronic issues such as; lack of transparency on the government income and spending, lack of public participation in governance and the accountability and finally the separation of the authorities in the country.

In a country with more than 50% of the citizens below the age of 25 years old, challenges can be turned into opportunities by taking the right strategies and inclusion of the young generations into building their own, and the country’s, future. However there is no enough evidence that such thinking exists among the ones leading the country.

What is next?

06/03/2010

A friend of mine asked me: “What is your problem with Saudi Arabia?” Well, I said: Justice, Equal Rights, Choice, and Trust

We live in a country where people abandon their rights because they believe they will never have them. We lack trust in our government, and we lack trust in our judicial system.

I don’t want to force people to follow my believes, yet I want to have the freedom to follow my own. I want to be able to walk in the street without covering my face and without others whispering behind my back: “Astaghfor Allah,” Muttawa shouting at me, and people judging me based upon what’s on my head! I want to have the choice to go out with my cousins to any restaurant without fearing that Muttawa would come arrest us and sentence us to 50 lashes each. I don’t want to be judged because I don’t fear putting my pictures on Facebook. I don’t want to be judged because I deal with men. I don’t want to be judged because I don’t mind appearing on TV. I don’t want to be judged because my father allows me to travel alone. I don’t want to be judged because I sit with my male cousins. It is a choice! I am not bad because I am different. I am just different.

“Your father trusts you,” she said. “But the society doesn’t.”

“Show our women that you trust them, as much as you in fact depend on them” Woodrow Wilson once said. You should trust that we can, and will make the right decisions. Trust us, because we are your partners in life. We gave, we sacrificed, we suffered, we accepted, we listened, and we obeyed. Why are you willing to make us partners in suffering but not in rights?

Now is the time for us to be full partners. Trust us, and believe in us. Having our rights doesn’t mean excluding men from our lives and disrespecting them. It means sharing the responsibility and become equal partners.

The problem is that women are afraid. Afraid of the responsibility, because they have been taught and they believed that they are useless, and that they can do nothing but cook, clean, and raise children which I think the biggest responsibility of all. Women want to be in the safe side, and they rather not face the world as long as there is someone who can face it instead of them. Well, one day there won’t be anyone and you will have to do it on your own.

Rights are taken, not given. And if we don’t take them by force we will never have them. Sitting behind our computers and writing these blog posts and making online campaigns will do nothing. We tried it and it didn’t work.

What is next?

By: Najla Barasain

ABC in Saudi Arabia, meeting the experts and knowing the target

03/03/2010

I received an email from the Saudi blogger Mohammed Awlia asking me to share a post that he recently published in his own blog. Below is the post and hopefully more will come from Mohammed.

Today we [Saudis] dwell on how unfortunate our current situation is, how the previous leaders failed to meet the demands of the rapid development of the 20th century, how education is poor, how unemployment is rising, how bribery became an everyday habit and finally how connections make life  easier!

It is, in no doubt, an extremely significant thing for us to admit that we are mistaken. Our ice-breaker discussion today is just how unsuccessful we are (whether true or not) and begin comparing ourselves with the old Islamic Caliphates, to the United States and recently Japan.

Very good! You would think we are comparing ourselves to know where we stand and where want to be. However,  we are now experts at pinpointing the errors, today everyone utilizes various coefficients in an equation that underscores our situation, whether economically, politically or academically … but at the end we all deduce an exact single result; failure. Some blame it on how we lost our everyday ethics, how dishonesty emerged, that we are too spoiled or living in poverty.

Our main objective, if there is one, is to jump from point A to point C without passing by B. It may be possible, but it is in fact not advisable. The question, therefore, emerges: What is point A, B and C? My humble answer to this modest question will be: Sorry there is not only a single answer but a million! One million! Yes, because to every situation there is an alternative way to tackle it with this so called theory of ABC

We utilize this theory conditionally to an obstacle we face. For instance, let’s employ this analogy in the business world; how would A, B and C be implemented.

Before I start with an example, it will be my honour to introduce the experts that will provide us with their assertions that would balance the reliability or the credibility of the example chosen.

  1. Dinner evening specialists (DES); a group of people who meet for dinner and usually end up discussing the welfare of the nation, the negatives, and at sometimes they end up celebrating the achievements of a minority in the country.
  2. Afternoon singles (AN); a group of singles who usually hang out at a café’. Unlike DES, the afternoon singles discussions vary, sometimes it is about the country, stuff they must buy, stuff they wish to buy, football and what’s wrong in their lives.

Back to the example:  Point A may be an individual’s qualities in the workforce; leader, hard worker or organized, teamwork…etc. – simple stupid. So far point A is clear? I hope so.

Point B is putting these qualities in immense action, receiving hard tasks, working with foreigners (unfortunately subconscious racism)… Point B is the area where an employee may get demotivated, feel he is fed up.

Why would such a behaviour occur? On the one hand, according to dinner evening’s specialists (DES) in this particular situation assert that this shift in behaviour is due to the fact that they are given an easy ride in school, in other words there is not much challenge in school, therefore, getting used to studying a day or week before the exam.  On the other hand, according to the afternoon singles (AS) it is as a result of being spoiled, getting used to things coming easy- life being easy… until you suddenly encounter difficulties and thus back off. Valid argument, obviously not to all… but to some at least

Point C, Maslow’s hierarchy’s self-actualization, being an executive, a CEO… Aiming high! Another argument by our team of experts, DES claim these high ambitions are, in fact, due to the notion that they are being pressured by society’s expectations, and hence wanting to meet their anticipations. However, AS give a dissimilar theory, their thesis states that these high aims particularly go hand in hand with the love of tangible materialistic things, meaning the idea of owning the best car, a big house and travelling first class.

Therefore, to conclude, we may say that these points, in order to effectively employ them we must follow them chronologically, rather than jump from different points. If an individual jumps from A to C, in the example used above, it may mean the individual did not experience B (the hard one) vividly and is thus not able to perform well as a C – a CEO. This, therefore, draws the line that distinguishes where the real mistake is:

  • Blaming the government: 50% effective – The government can provide everything but it is for you to follow up… We cannot all be CEOs.
  • Blaming bad teachers: 10% effective –Teachers are put at a halt, perhaps because they are not satisfied with their salary, with the weakness of the syllabus and unmotivated students.
  • Blaming the family (Society); 30% effective, blaming the country for not being trained to encounter difficulties, such as getting used to living economically and to cut costs.
  • Attend the dinner or chill at the café’: 0% effective all you will do is sit down moan and hope one day things will turn around.
  • Blaming yourself; 88% effective, making the change you seek in the world… nevertheless an evident loophole may be falling into depression.

Hence, not only the government, the private sector, the health sector, the education sector, the industrial sector are all responsible, but also you are, by all means, responsible!

May Allah bless all.