Arabizing the private sector, more on discrimination at KAUST

  • Essam al-Zamel has a very insightful post discussing an important part of the unemployment puzzle in Saudi Arabia. Employers in the private sector avoid recruiting Saudis because they accuse them with lack of productivity. Essam believes this lack of productivity is not related to education or scientific degrees, but rather due to their inability to communicate in English. “How can we expect anyone to be productive when they work with a language different from their mother tongue?” he asks. We can either change our first language to English and make it the main language for communication and eduction even if that means losing our identity, or we can Arabize our economy especially at the private sector to make it more suitable to our youth
  • After Nathan, here is another KAUST blogger writing about discrimination in the new community. “The problem is that the way KAUST is now run, the university is a beacon of oppression and exploitation to many,” says Richard Denny. Yes, I do realize that such practices are widespread in the country. However, I believe this is not a good excuse for such thing to happen at KAUST.
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CPVPV in KSU, Discrimination at KAUST, Limits on Lashing

  • During a meeting between KSU female students and the spokesman of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, an attendant asked the all important question: “When are we going to see female hai’a inside KSU?” It’s not like KSU is already dominated by hai’a sympathizers or anything. Let’s remember, the aforementioned meeting was conducted through the closed tv circuit of the university. The CPVPV spokesman was in one place, the students were in a different place, far far away from him. They could see him, he could not see them.
  • Nathan has a disturbing blogpost about discrimination at KAUST. “[T]he injustice and prejudice against foreign workers runs deep here,” he says. I agree. Saad Al Dossari has a good follow up.
  • I somehow missed this quote by Mufleh al-Qahtani, head of NSHR, who said there is a need to set minimum and maximum limits for lashing sentences. Obviously he is taking the typical Saudi approach of trying not to offend anyone. How about going 300 steps further and stop lashing once and for all, except for those very few cases explicitly specified in Quran?

Don’t Be a Victim

Yes, we have a discrimination problem. Racism, regionalism, tribalism, sectarianism, etc. You name it. We have it. Discrimination in many different forms and on many different levels. It is good that we are finally acknowledging this problem. But acknowledging it is not enough. We have to confront it. We have to work on it.

Ali al-Mousa wrote about this in al-Watan last week. He admitted that we have this problem, which is great. But then he followed this with another admission, one that was rather shocking and disturbing to me. “I’m the first to practice discrimination in marriage and tribe, for instance, and I will inherit this to my kids, as a will and a way of life.”

Some might read that and think: what a brave admission. But is it, really? I understand that we all have our prejudices, but simply admitting that they exist will not take us anywhere, it will not move us forward. What is the difference between those who deny the discrimination and practice it, and those who admit it’s there but also practice it? It is good to know our prejudices, it is great to talk about them, but it is fighting and not acting on them that truly counts.

I find it scary that an intellectual like al-Mousa feels comfortable about justifying discrimination for himself (and probably his readers as well) simply because he thinks we are all “victims of a long legacy of social hierarchy and the weight of tribe.” I refuse to be a victim. We should all reject this twisted logic. I wonder, if people like him, supposedly leaders in our country, do not push for change and start with themselves, how can we hope for anything to ever change?

Wanted: A Fake Iqama

I’m done with shopping malls in Riyadh. I used to complain all the time about the ban on single men there, but after four years in this town I guess I have come to accept the sad reality of human relationships here. These days there is something else that bugs me. It bugs the hell out of me, actually.

In the northwestern part of the city, you can find the Diplomatic Quarter, aka the DQ, which is basically a nice clean area where most of embassies and consulates are located as well as a group of government offices and other businesses. Most diplomats and embassies’ staff, and also some Saudis, live in the residential part inside the DQ.

Following the terrorist attacks in the country, security on the DQ gates has been much tightened. Entering the DQ has come to mean long waiting lines and slow check points. In other words, it’s become a hassle and such a crappy experience. That is, if you are a Saudi. For the most part, foreigners don’t have much trouble getting inside the DQ.

If you have some friends (Saudis or expats) who work or live in the DQ, then you can expect that every time you need to visit them that the security guards at the gates would give you shit for merely trying to enter what has become a walled garden.

Without a trace of a smile on his face, the guard would ask you: “What?!” You, trying to speak as politely as you can, would tell him the reason of your visit, which is either to see friends or for a meeting at some embassy or something in between, like a dinner with foreign visitors at Scallini, the only restaurant in the DQ.

First, he would ask you to show an invitation. But in this era of email and mobile phones, it is rather the exception to carry printed invitation letters, unless it was a very formal occasion. If you fail to produce the invitation letter that he most probably won’t read because he can’t understand English, he will tell you you can’t enter.

You tell him that you have an appointment and people are waiting for you inside but he is not buying any of it. If he is in a good mood, he would tell you that your host must come to pick you up from the gate. If he is in a bad mood, which is the case more often than not, he would say, “You are not allowed to enter.” If you dared to ask why, the answer could be “Just like that,” “These are the instructions,” or the dreaded “Mamnou3 dukhool al-3izab” (no single men allowed).

I understand the security concerns, but this crap we as Saudis face every time we need to enter the DQ is ridiculous. I don’t mind waiting in a long line at a check point. I don’t mind being a subject for any security procedure with any device as they damn well please. But being treated in this demeaning manner is unacceptable and conveys a bizarre discrimination. Imagine being discriminated against in your own country simply because you happen to be a native citizen?

Is it time to get a fake Iqama?