Miscellany from the past two weeks

  • So a couple of week ago, the Saudi Council of Senior Ulema issued a fatwa banning female cashiers. What happens next? Saudi Arabia gets a seat on the board of UN Women, the new United Nations super agency that is supposed to focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment. This is not a bad joke, as Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said. It’s a reality now. It’s been 20 years since 47 Saudi women led a protest in Riyadh to drive cars. They are still not allowed to drive.
  • Jamal Ghosn: “I am not worried about the stockpiling of weapons, since I’m not naive to think that ever stops. I’m not worried about a certain $60 billion purchase of weapons, although I do wonder what will be the return on investment when it’s sold as scrap metal.”
  • At the time when I’m getting lost in Manhattan to report stories about life in New York, my good friends Ali al-Khalthami and Fahad al-Butairi back home get to do awesome, fun stuff like this:
  • The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association have announced that they plan to sue the Ministry of Interior on behalf of all those banned from traveling without a legal sentence. The current list of travel bans include some prominent activists such as Abdullah al-Hamed and Matrouk al-Faleh.
  • A group of wildlife lovers in Riyadh are leading efforts to free an endangered Arabian Lynx that has been imprisoned in a pet shop in a small glass box with a hard, concrete floor for over 4 years. How can you help? Glad you asked. Go to this Facebook group, and contact the Saudi Wildlife Commission.
  • Anyone who lived in the western region of Saudi Arabia can talk to you for hours about how great and delicious AlBaik chicken is. People living in other parts of the country are out of luck as they don’t have any branches there. There are several theories that have been flying for years as to why AlBaik don’t open in other regions, including one that involves the richest Saudi man alive. Nobody, however, has confirmed information on the true reason behind this geographic conundrum for friend chicken lovers.
  • I know it’s almost mid November, but Lou K has a pretty good post about once a pretty “Saudi” October. Probably unrelated, but you also may want to read The skinny on Jeddah dating.
  • The Brookings Institution’s Doha Center has launched its 2010 essay contest. It’s designed only for students living/studying in the 22 Arab states between the ages of 20 and 30, and the hope is to identify talent for political analysis in the region, as well as provide an unprecedented and independent platform to share their views with political leaders and pundits, the media, and the public at large. The first place winner will receive $2000, the runner up $1000, and honorable mention(s) $500. You can find more details here.
  • Sorry about the hiatus. Been busy with school. Here is two examples from the stuff I’ve been working on.

Press freedom ranking, arms, doctors, genies, he’s back!

  • At least 20 Saudi medical doctors wanted to show the world what kind of ignorant idiots they are, so they went and joined an ongoing campaign calling for special government hospitals for women in order to prevent mixing of genders. Carol Fleming, who worked for hospitals in Riyadh, comments.
  • The recent US-Saudi arms deal, with an estimated $60bn price tag, was marked by the unusual absence of any opposition by Israel and its lobby in Washington DC. Dov Zakheim, blogging at Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government blog, says this is “In part because the Israelis do not expect such an attack [from the Saudis]; in part because they will be receiving the more advanced F-35 the same year that the Saudis begin to take ownership of the F-15s…” At the end of his post he mentions one more reason: “Riyadh is the biggest prize and the Israelis are ready to go to great lengths to win it over — and if that means silence in the face of a massive purchase of American arms, so be it.”
  • Speaking of Foreign Policy, they have this aptly titled article by Simon Henderson about the return of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of the National Security Council, after two years of being AWOL. Elaph had the scoop on this one a couple of weeks ago.
  • RSF released their 2010 Press Freedom Index. Saudi Arabia, unsurprisingly, is at the bottom ranking 157 out of 178. Last year we were 163. Can we call this progress? As a journalism student, I’m not quite sure how to feel about this.
  • Everybody back home is laughing about this. I don’t want to talk about it.