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.

Sultan al-Qahtani’s newest crush, MOCI and their law

  • Elaph’s Sultan al-Qahtani has a piece on the increasing popularity of Qatar’s first lady Sheikha Mozah Al Missned. She has recently visited the country and met with King Abdullah. Apparently Saudi girls have a crush on her, hanging her posters on their walls and looking up to her as a role model. The Sheikha is popular, no question about it. My question is: does Sultan al-Qahtani have a crush on Karen Elliott House? The former foreign editor and publisher of WSJ is currently in Riyadh, working on a new book about Saudi Arabia. Al-Qahtani quotes House in his piece, saying when they met in Khozama Hotel her eyes were “beaming beauty and hope.” Al-Qahtani quotes three other women in the short article, including fellow blogger Sarah Matar, but he fails to mention anything about their eyes.
  • If you think that I have been overreacting to MOCI’s proposed plan to regulate the internet, go read this article by Iman al-Guwaifli. In the article, Iman quotes the aforementioned Abdulrahman al-Hazzaa saying the new regulation will include “all websites, blogs and forums.” Once the new law is enacted they plan to list all websites, and in the future they hope site owners will contact them before launching their websites. “Everybody will be given a chance to register, but the law will be enforced on everyone,” he said. Fouad is waiting for MOCI to come out with a clarification to what Iman wrote, but I doubt they will do such thing. MOCI just don’t get it.

Women’s driving, woman ambassador, a pretty happy girl

  • Elaph quotes unnamed sources saying Saudi women will start driving their cars within two months. Watany mobile news service also quoted unnamed sources saying a meeting took place last week between a senior decision-maker and the Grand Mufti indicates that women’s driving is imminent. Also last week, al-Riyadh daily published a feature discussing how to implement women’s driving, which marks a transition from the typical “is it time for women to start driving or not?” Last month, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the minister of foreign affairs, told NYT columnist Maureen Dowd to bring her driving license next time she visits the country. However, Dowd told me in an email that she knows he was being sly and that driving is not going to be forthcoming.
  • Abdullah Aboul-Samh praises the Republic of Georgia for appointing a woman ambassador to Saudi Arabia. “It is a clear evidence on our civic advancement,” he adds. I’m sorry dude, but Georgia appointing a woman ambassador says nothing about us. Please wake me up when Saudi Arabia appoints a woman ambassador in Georgia.
  • Sabria S. Jawhar: “Like all Saudi women I appreciate the efforts by American and European human rights organizations to protect us from bad Saudi men and to help grant us the freedom we deserve. Without the help of Americans and Europeans my life would have no future. Okay, I’m lying. If Western do-gooders minded their own business I’d be a pretty happy girl.”