Opinion

Four exciting years in Saudi Arabia

Four exciting years in Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia today is very different from what it was just a few years ago. The page has been turned to begin a new era through a series of courageous decisions to repeal a number of laws that previously dominated the local scene.

The events of the past four years have marked the end of two-thirds of a century that were filled with social norms and government legislation that presented obstacles to development, normal life, business and social relations.

This series of changes began on the day the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 was announced. Anyone can claim they were behind this change, but the change began in Saudi Arabia when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took on the task of development in the government of King Salman. Since then, not a month has passed without the issuance of new decisions addressing the concepts, legislation, services, and the state’s relationship with its citizens and society.

We can see many examples of the resultant changes to daily life in the Kingdom; the decision to grant women more of the rights to which they are entitled, for example, is a story in its own right.

Saudi Arabia is betting on its development of the entire state and the economy. It is a huge project that affects all aspects of life in the country — and it cannot follow the old approach that was taken by the Kingdom for so many generations.

There have been, on one hand, contradictions that reflect official ambitions, such as giving women grants to study abroad in Western universities, and, on the other hand, obstacles that reflect officially approved social constraints that prevent women from many activities associated with study, work, travel and other activities.

In the space of just four years, life has changed greatly in Riyadh and Jeddah, and even in smaller cities. Movie theaters have opened, women can drive cars on public roads, forums are being held, cafes are open to all, and more women are now employed in shopping malls than men. All of these things were forbidden to until recently, and women would be punished if they tried to participate in activities they were excluded from.

A number of official decisions issued the day before yesterday have removed the last remaining obstacles to gender equality. A number of amendments to laws, all of which give women and men equal rights, were announced which are probably more progressive than the civil laws affecting women in other Arab countries.

In the space of just four years, life has changed greatly in Riyadh and Jeddah, and even in smaller cities

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

 

The amendments include improvements to the rights of women in court, where they have until now been treated more severely than men. In addition, Saudi women who wants to work will no longer require the approval of her husband, father or legal guardian.

The list of bans and obstacles to equality that the government’s recent decisions have removed is a long one. The sheer number, nature and application of the changes, alongside the fact that most people in the country have accepted them, are proof that the Saudi leadership is wise and courageous, and can accomplish what was until recently thought to be impossible.

The fierce campaign by some against Saudi Arabia, and the crown prince in particular, fails to understand the priorities of the Saudi people. It does not realize the importance of the significant changes that are taking place inside the Kingdom, changes that will positively affect its Arab and Islamic surroundings. This is the project of the future for which we all care more than anything else.

  • Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

It was me! The Saudi woman in the frame for a photo that went viral

The viral picture showing Munira Abdullah hugging a giant portrait of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Supplied photo)
Updated 05 August 2019

It was me! The Saudi woman in the frame for a photo that went viral

  • Munira Abdullah fields comments on social media from other Saudi women who say she has summed up exactly how they feel

When Munira Abdullah went to bed on Thursday night she was just another one of many Saudi women newly empowered and independent because of a raft of amendments to the Kingdom’s laws.

By the time she woke up on Friday morning she was an internet sensation — thanks to a photo snapped on the spur of the moment in a Riyadh cinema foyer.

The picture shows Munira hugging a giant portrait of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and perfectly captured the emotions of many Saudi women in the wake of the new legal amendments.

“What drove me to have this picture taken is my admiration and deep gratitude toward the crown prince,” Munira, 30, an education technology resources specialist from Taif, told Arab News.

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“There was no planning,” she said. “I went to watch a movie at the cinema in Al-Qasr Mall for the first time in my life, and I was very happy and grateful.

“On my way out, I saw the portrait and rushed to hug it, and my sister took the picture and documented these beautiful emotions.”

The photo not only took Twitter by storm, it also made the front page of Arab News on Saturday. Now Munira is fielding a barrage of comments on social media from other women who say she has summed up exactly how they feel.

 


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“They all say, ‘Thank you for conveying our emotions about the crown prince’,” she said.

“I feel gratitude and joy for their joy too and I continue to reply to them to this day.”

The legal changes, announced by royal decree, strengthen women’s rights in the areas of labor, travel, social insurance and civil status, and reduce the role of male guardians.

 


Saudi Arabia wins praise for showcasing ancient cultural heritage

Updated 35 min 50 sec ago

Saudi Arabia wins praise for showcasing ancient cultural heritage

  • It has introduced Saudi and Arab heritage to more than 5 million people across the world

RIYADH: Alessandra Capodiferro, director of the National Roman Museum, on Monday, expressed pride that her museum was hosting the exhibition “Roads of Arabia: Masterpieces of Antiquities in Saudi Arabia Across the Ages.”

The exhibition, which was inaugurated by Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah on Nov. 26, has already been hosted by a number of prominent international museums.

Capodiferro praised the international reputation achieved by the exhibition, which features many important artifacts, including hunting gear, weapons, jewelry, utensils made from precious metals, glass, alabaster, ceramics, sculptures and wall paintings — all of which are an expression of local production, trade exchange and cultural contact.

She said that the most important achievements of the research conducted in the Kingdom over the decades by Saudi specialists and archeological missions, including those headed by Italian teams, revealed the rich history of the Arabian Peninsula mentioned in ancient literature. Excavations conducted on these missions have led to the discovery of a significant number of artifacts dating back to several epochs — prehistoric, ancient, Roman Imperial and late antiquity.

The exhibition highlights the successive civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula, and provides examples of cultural interaction between Arab and Roman civilizations. It will continue for three months in Rome, its 17th station. Hosted in the most prominent international museums in European, American and Asian cities, it has introduced Saudi and Arab heritage to more than 5 million international visitors.