Meet Faris, the Saudi boy who conquered cancer

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Faris Kashmeeri, cancer free since 2022, received free treatment at the Princess Noura Oncology Center at King Abdulaziz Medical City, Jeddah. (Supplied)
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Faris Kashmeeri, cancer free since 2022, received free treatment at the Princess Noura Oncology Center at King Abdulaziz Medical City, Jeddah. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 July 2023

Meet Faris, the Saudi boy who conquered cancer

  • Nesma Al-Mulla has documented her son’s cancer treatment on social media, launched support community for other mothers

RIYADH: Nesma Al-Mulla, a Saudi mother, thought her life was over when her son Faris Kashmeeri was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of five.  

“When I found out my child’s condition in 2019, I encountered a horrible reality. I knew that this catastrophe will force me to reconfigure my life,” Al-Mulla told Arab News.  

Al-Mulla chose to adopt a positive approach to the situation as she has always believed that hardship makes you stronger. As a mother attuned to her child’s needs, she also realized that she needed to be strong for Faris’ mental health. 

Faris was too young to understand the nature of cancer and how it can spread. Al-Mulla explained that the disease needed a treatment called chemotherapy in order for him to become strong and recover. 

Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful chemicals or drugs that destroy cancer cells, and it works by stopping or slowing the growth of the cells, according to the Mayo Clinic.

With the help of the Saudi health care system, Faris received free treatment at the Princess Noura Oncology Center at King Abdulaziz Medical City, Jeddah.

Al-Mulla would give Faris gifts after each chemotherapy session to motivate him. “(It) encouraged him to go to the hospital and complete his treatment,” she said. 

“This method of motivating him had a wonderful effect on him, and he still loves the hospital and does not regard it as a painful experience. I tried to buy him brand-new toys so that he would look forward to them throughout each chemotherapy session.” 

The single mother of three and provider for her family decided to document her son’s medical treatment on social media. 

“My son’s name means ‘knight,’ so I nicknamed the account ‘leukemia knight.’ The account was rewarded by a local Jeddah hospital called National Guard Hospital. This journey through social media was a source of inspiration for many women who are going through the same thing,” she said.  

Al-Mulla shared images of her son receiving therapy in the hospital on the Instagram account, documenting his journey using positive images. The posts attracted a lot of attention, especially from mothers with children with cancer. 

“I had no idea that what I was doing was inspiring, other than from the responses I received from mothers. Many of them urged me to continue spreading the word about pediatric cancer since I had made the illness understandable to them and given them the motivation to carry on,” she said.

Doctors reassured Al-Mulla that there was a 95 percent chance of her son recovering, and in 2022 Faris was declared free from cancer.

Al-Mulla then made the decision to establish Nesma Community, an initiative to support mothers who have children with cancer and that helps them to improve their quality of life.

The center provides yoga and mental health classes, workshops on how to deal with pressure, recreational activities, and meetings with doctors to discuss cases. 

The community initiative was approved by the Kingdom’s Quality of Life Program and listed on the Hawi portal, which provides support to community groups, organizations and interests.

Al-Mulla’s center hosts a range of events in Riyadh and Jeddah. Forthcoming events will discuss a variety of subjects in collaboration with experts and medical professionals. Topics include the impact of therapy on the lungs and breathing, yoga sessions, and leukemia awareness month. 

Faris, who is now a healthy child enjoying all the activities of his age group, has a message for children battling cancer: “You’ll be fine.”

Saudi Arabia launches 1,000 Qur’an memorization sessions for Hajj season

Updated 5 sec ago

Saudi Arabia launches 1,000 Qur’an memorization sessions for Hajj season

  • Qualified Saudi teachers will lead these efforts to enrich the experience of pilgrims

RIYADH: Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, has approved the launch of 1,000 sessions dedicated to Hajj pilgrims memorizing the Qur’an, Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

This initiative aligns with the presidency’s plans for this year’s Hajj season to disseminate the morals of the Qur’an and its moderate message globally. Qualified Saudi teachers, who have memorized the holy book, will lead these efforts to enrich the experience of pilgrims.

Al-Sudais said that this initiative reflected the Kingdom’s leadership’s commitment to teaching, memorizing, interpreting and enhancing understanding of the Qur’an. He said that the sessions in the Two Holy Mosques were designed to provide educational and pedagogical content, as well as methodological approaches to spreading the Qur’an’s message and guidance.

The Presidency of Religious Affairs also aims to broaden the scope of education within these Qur’anic sessions, incorporating recitations and holidays related to the Prophet Muhammad.

Hajj media center launched for local, international journalists at Jeddah airport

Updated 19 May 2024

Hajj media center launched for local, international journalists at Jeddah airport

  • 24/7 operated center offers journalists shared workspaces and real-time updates during the Hajj season

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services launched the media center for the 2024 Hajj season on Sunday at the Hajj and Umrah terminals at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.

The center aims to support and assist more than 1,300 journalists from 16 countries during the arrival and departure of pilgrims via the airport throughout the Hajj season.

Operating 24/7, the center offers journalists shared workspaces and real-time updates, enhancing media efficiency during the Hajj season. This is complemented by the Makkah Route Initiative led by the Ministry of Interior in a dedicated pavilion, alongside the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the General Authority of Media Regulation.

It also caters to local and international media outlets, including news agencies, television channels, journalists, correspondents and photographers.

Saleh Al-Zuaid, official spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, told Arab News: “The importance of the center lies in providing a place for journalists, offering multiple studios, shared workspaces, showcasing comprehensive digital transportation technologies and delivering media messages in five languages: Arabic, English, French, Urdu and Persian.”

Al-Zuaid discussed the technological advancements that will revolutionize transportation and logistics systems for pilgrims. Last year, 19 technologies were introduced to enhance the pilgrim experience, with plans to implement 32 more this year.

Notable innovations include road-cooling technology, virtual glasses for bus inspections and automatic monitoring technology, which significantly reduce bus inspection time. The implementation of these technologies aims to improve efficiency, safety and comfort for pilgrims during their journey.

Al-Zuaid said: “There are technologies we will announce for feasibility study for implementation in the coming years, some of which were launched last year and achieved high success, and will be implemented this year as well, such as the automatic monitoring technology, which reduced the bus inspection time from 60 seconds to 6 seconds, as well as the road-cooling technology implemented last year which contributed to reducing street temperatures by 12 degrees Celsius.”

Other important technologies include the luggage-free Hajj initiative, which facilitates the departure of pilgrims, to be implemented this year at King Abdulaziz International Airport and Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.

The Ministry of Transport is exploring innovative initiatives to further enhance the pilgrimage experience, such as the rubberized sidewalk initiative, the taxi app for convenient transportation, and the use of self-driving vehicles for order delivery among the new projects set to be introduced.

These initiatives focus on improving pilgrims’ overall well-being, reducing logistical challenges and enhancing accessibility to essential services.

Deal signed to advance Saudi cultural preservation, scientific research

Updated 19 May 2024

Deal signed to advance Saudi cultural preservation, scientific research

  • MoUs aim to preserve endowment libraries and valuable manuscripts

RIYADH: The King Fahd National Library and King Abdulaziz Complex for Endowment Libraries signed a deal covering scientific programs, studies, research and cultural exchange on Sunday.

Prince Khalid bin Talal bin Badr Al-Saud, secretary-general of the library, and Fahd Al-Wahbi, secretary-general of the complex, signed the three-year memorandum of understanding covering the cooperation.

The deal aims to foster ties between the library and complex by supporting scientific research to preserve endowment libraries and valuable manuscripts, developing professional skills and enhancing the role of both parties in realizing the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The two parties, which have a mutual interest in preserving culture through technology, will enhance the safeguarding of heritage, including manuscripts.

Saudi students secure 114 awards at global science, tech contests

Updated 19 May 2024

Saudi students secure 114 awards at global science, tech contests

  • Minister praises students’ excellence, reaffirms Kingdom’s commitment to education and innovation

RIYADH: Saudi Education Minister Yousef Al-Benyan extended congratulations to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman following the achievements of Saudi students at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2024 and International Inventions, Innovations, Technology Competition and Exhibition 2024.

In a significant national triumph, male and female students from the Kingdom excelled in the ISEF 2024 and ITEX 2024, winning a total of 114 medals. The ISEF 2024 event was held May 10-17 in Los Angeles, US, while ITEX 2024 was held May 16-17 in Malaysia.

The outstanding performance of the students reflects the attention given to education under the Saudi leadership in pursuit of global excellence, the minister said.

“This achievement reflects the efforts made to reach global championship platforms and represent the Kingdom in the best manner possible. It also demonstrates to the world the level we plan and aspire to achieve, with national efforts and distinguished partners,” Al-Benyan said.

The minister also extended his thanks and congratulations to the students and their families, teachers, and education partners who contributed to motivating them and enhancing their capabilities.

These include the King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, Tuwaiq Academy, and Misk Schools, the minister said.

At ISEF 2024, Saudi students won 27 awards, including nine individual and 18 grand awards. Notable winners include Hamad Al-Husseini and Abeer Al-Yousef, who secured second-place awards in the energy and chemistry categories, respectively. Elias Khan, Sulaiman Al-Misnad, Latifa Al-Ghannam, Turki Al-Dalami, Tahani Ahmed, and Laila Zawawi won six third-place awards across various categories.

The team also won 10 fourth-place awards, with students such as Nasser Al-Suwayyan, Lana Al-Mazrouei, Yara Al-Qadi, Yara Al-Bakri, Shahad Al-Mutlaq, Asma Al-Qaseer, Areej Al-Qarni, Lana Al-Fheed, Layan Al-Maliki, and Tamara Radi excelling in fields ranging from biomedical engineering to plant sciences.

In addition, the Kingdom’s students garnered 87 gold and silver medals and major individual prizes across 48 projects at ITEX 2024 in Malaysia. Among the major prize winners were Lamia Al-Otaibi, Mohammed Abu Ghandar, and Al-Sadeem Al-Odaibi.

Gold medals were awarded to several students from various institutions, including Lamia Al-Otaibi, Sadeem Al-Odaibi, Mohammed Abu Ghandar, and others from the Eastern Province, Makkah, Riyadh, Qassim, Madinah, Jazan, and the Royal Commission in Jubail. Additional gold medalists included students from Tuwaiq Academy and Misk Schools.

Silver medals at ITEX 2024 were awarded to students from the Riyadh, Makkah, and Eastern Province education departments, as well as the Royal Commission in Jubail and the Tuwaiq Academy. Maryam Al-Muhaish, Lamia Al-Otaibi, Ghad Al-Sheikh, Manal Al-Askari, Sadeem bin Tuwaim, and several others from the Tuwaiq Academy won individual awards.

Riyadh hosts high-level talks with former world leaders to address global issues 

Updated 19 May 2024

Riyadh hosts high-level talks with former world leaders to address global issues 

  • Theme of the talks is “The Middle East in a Changing World: uncertainties, risks, and opportunities”
  • Topics at the meeting will build on and further develop the actions decided at the sustainable development goals summit in September 2023 as well as COP28

RIYADH: Two days of talks in Riyadh are focused on several issues, including the world order, its challenges and opportunities, the regional politics of the Middle East, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and challenges of maritime security.

The talks, from May 19-20, are being hosted by the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in partnership with Nizami Ganjavi International Center and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The theme of the talks is “The Middle East in a Changing World: uncertainties, risks, and opportunities.”

“By having these kinds of sessions, we develop our own thinking,” Ismail Serageldin, co-chair of Nizami Ganjavi International Center, told Arab News. 

“You hear one point of view and the counterpoint of view, and you weigh all of that, and these are all very influential people. They were all former presidents and prime ministers, and they had influence on their delegations of the countries there. And they may be able to mediate between different opinions when we have a more formal proposal coming up later,” he said. 

Other topics of discussion include the urgency of global dialogue, climate change, economies in the Middle East, and the Middle East in the age of artificial intelligence. 

“We hope to gather these insights for the summit of the future in the United Nations in September and then again in the COP29, in Baku in November,” Serageldin said. 

Topics at the meeting will build on and further develop the actions decided at the sustainable development goals in September 2023 as well as the COP28 meeting in Dubai in December 2023. 

Chairing the panel as keynote speakers were Prince Turki Al-Faisal,  chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, and Vaira Vike-Freiberga, co-chair of Nizami Ganjavi International Center and former president of Latvia.

Also attending were Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed El-Khereiji, Miguel Angel Moratinos, the high representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, and Maria Fernanda Espinosa, president of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly and former minister of foreign affairs and minister of defense of Ecuador. 

Other participants on the panel included Ivo Josipovic, the former president of Croatia, Mladen Ivanic​​​​​, former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stefan Lofven​​​​​, former prime minister of Sweden, Rosen Plevneliev, former ​​​​president of Bulgaria, and Montenegro’s former minister of defense, Milica Pejanovic.

Discussing the list of high-level officials on the panel Serageldin said: “Many of them are former presidents, former prime ministers, who have had enormous international and national and regional experience. We want to develop insights in a framework that allows us to discuss, without the formality of official delegations presenting proposals and reacting to the proposals of another country. Global challenges require global responses.

“The first session discussed the new global order, not just how to deal with the problems of the Middle East,” Serageldin said. 

Another speaker at the session, Volkan Bozkir, president of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly and former minister of EU affairs for Turkiye, said: “We must not only concentrate on Russia and Ukraine issues.

“There are horrible things happening in other parts of the world, like Sudan, there is famine, people are dying there, we must show our coordination to help those countries, there is a fight in the Latin American countries, drug lords are capturing societies,” Bozkir said. 

He emphasized the need to go beyond the Russia-Ukraine conflict and jointly tackle other challenges around the world. 

Plevneliev discussed the crises in Gaza and put a question to the meeting: “What happens on the day after in Gaza?”

He highlighted the importance of having a strategy for the future of Gaza, underlining the need for “sustainable solutions for peace.”

Shoura council member Huda bint Abdulrahman Al-Halisi discussed multilateralism and the need to bridge local and global. 

“If we all agree that multilateralism is in crisis, we need to discover the root causes and the possible solutions,” she said. “We all agree that all countries have or should have an equal voice.  

“We all want justice, we want development, we want peace, but we are not achieving this globally because there is a weakening of democracy around the world, we see that it is only right that we hold governments into account for not keeping to their commitments,” Al-Halisi said.

She called for the need to push for transparency and accountability, the rule of law, responsiveness, and inclusivity. 

“We need to bridge the local with the global,” she said. 

In an interview with Arab News, Serageldin emphasized the need to turn back to the UN. 

“It was rightly said that the UN is the only institution that has global legitimacy. Everywhere in the world somebody recognizes the UN, but we all recognize that it is hampered, it is tied up, it can’t function,” he said. 

“We need to find ways of reviving it (UN) and giving it the hope that we all have to bring to the task of global peace and security,” he said.