Air Pollution in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a country that is largely dependent upon its production of oil. However, this oil and urban activities in Saudi Arabian cities are responsible for air pollution in Saudi Arabia. Air pollution impacts everyone, but it often hurts the poor the most since they tend to not have access to proper medical care when air pollution makes them sick. According to estimates, about 20 percent of people in Saudi Arabia live in poverty. Saudi Arabia should be able to improve the living conditions of both its impoverished and impoverished people by reducing its air pollution. Saudi Arabia has put forth a policy to improve air quality nationwide and has worked in one of its polluted cities in an attempt to improve air quality.

Ambient Air Standard

The type of air pollution that Saudi Arabia deals with is ambient air pollution. Ambient air pollution includes multiple types of pollutants, many of which are harmful. In 2012, Saudi Arabia put the Ambient Air Standard into place. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the number of harmful pollutants that contribute to air pollution in Saudi Arabia. The standard provides a basis for the maintenance and restoration of ambient air within Saudi Arabia. This action that the government of Saudi Arabia put into place should be beneficial to the people of the country because it will provide cleaner air due to the fact that it will restrict the amount of emissions companies emit.

Cleaning Up Dammam City

Regardless of how bad the air pollution in a country is, cities tend to always be hot spots for air pollution. The Saudi Arabian City of Dammam is one such city where air pollution is a severe problem. Urban activities such as running cars cause pollution in Dammam. Recognizing this, governmental authorities in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia developed plans to reduce the air pollution that these urban activities created. For example, the General Department of Traffic used periodic vehicle inspection stations in order to improve the mileage emissions that the cars created. The General Agency of Roads made plans to pave new roads, fix existing ones and construct tunnels and bridges to improve the flow of traffic.

These changes had positive effects on reducing air pollution in Saudi Arabia. There was a decline in volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and particulate matter among other forms of air pollution. For example, carbon monoxide in industrial areas fell from above 16 parts per matter to almost two parts per matter. Volatile organic compounds in industrial areas fell from almost 0.8 parts per matter in 2010 to slightly above 0.2 in 2015. The data that the Journal of Taibah University provided shows that governmental officials’ action in Dammam has been working.

Air pollution in Saudi Arabia continues to be a problem for its people. However, the Saudi Arabian government has made some improvements to the quality of air, especially for the people living in Dammam.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Developing Countries With Natural Resources
As the planet continues to evolve from the devastating effects of global warming and overproduction of harmful wastes, natural resources necessary for people’s well being are becoming more scarce. With so few natural resources left, these commodities increase in value, thus making them more expensive to attain on the market. Although most of the world is struggling to gain access to such natural resources, some countries are fortunate enough to have a hidden reservoir of natural resources that they can use to their advantage. Here are the top three developing countries with natural resources.

3 Developing Countries With Natural Resources

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still battling many economic and civic issues that emerged out of a series of political conflicts in the 1990s, the country has benefited from its overabundance of natural resources. One can attribute much of its economic growth to the mass export of mineral deposits, those that are particularly in the province of Katanga. Minerals in the region include copper, zinc, cobalt, coal, silver, uranium and platinum. The Congo’s forest is also rich in fish and lumber, but as a result of the abuse of these resources, the government is working to preserve and protect these areas from deforestation. As a result of exporting these vital resources worldwide, especially copper and cobalt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was able to climb out of its economic recession in 2018. In 2018, the economy grew to 4.1 percent and has been on a steady incline ever since. Despite gaining wealth in exporting such resources, its account deficit widened from 2.9 percent of its GDP in 2017 to 3.9 percent of its GDP in 2018. This was due to the large increase in imports, but with sufficient government programs and community support, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be able to stabilize its economy in the future to gain more economic advantages from exporting its natural resources.
  2. Botswana: Since its independence from Britain in 1966, there were doubts about whether Botswana would be able to sustain itself as an independent country. As a landlocked country with a small agricultural population, droughts that hit the country in the 1960s took a huge toll on beef exports, which at the time was the country’s only means of export. However, its luck began to turn around in 1966 when it discovered the first batch of diamonds in Orapa. The capital expenditure on mines aided the start-up of other sectors, such as construction, financial services and transport. This led to rapid economic growth, lifting wealth prospects to overwhelming heights. As documented, from 1966 to 2014, Botswana’s GDP per capita grew at an average of 5.9 percent a year. These numbers were one of the highest rates of GDP per capita growth that the world saw during that period. A large contributor to the rapid expansion of Botswana’s economy was the export of diamonds. Of course, as a developing country, Botswana still has challenges to overcome. Youth unemployment is as high as 35 percent and more than 13 percent of the population is living off of just $1.90 a day. There are also concerns that its economy has become too reliant on its diamond business. Botswana, as always, has been working to relieve these issues.
  3. Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is home to about one-fifth of the world’s petroleum reserves. The petroleum industry takes up approximately 80 percent of its budget revenues, 90 percent of export earnings and 45 percent of the country’s GDP. In addition to the already existing oil fields, Saudi Arabia discovered the Arsan, the AsSayd, the Namlan and the Qamran oilfields along with the Jalamid gas fields in 2010, adding to its economic prosperity. Additionally, Saudia Arabia also has large reserves of a variety of metals including iron, lead, gold and copper. One company called Ma’aden, which has two subsidiaries called Ma’aden Gold and Base Metals Co., has operated five gold mines in Saudi Arabia since 1988 and has produced more than 4 million ounces of gold. To gain further investment from these profitable natural resources, Saudia Arabia joined the WTO in 2005, constructed six economically-driven cities in its country and developed social and infrastructural projects between 2010 and 2014 to promote economic prosperity. In terms of maintaining its position as perhaps the world’s leading petroleum producer and exporter, it will be able to do just that for many years to come. However, internal conflict and poverty are issues that Saudi Arabia still faces, so much work is still necessary to bring its country into an era of peace and stability.

Overall, developing countries do, to some degree, gain substantial benefits from exporting their natural resources for profit. However, circumstances must align in order for the export of natural resources to benefit them, because the same blessing can very well turn into a negative consequence and be more damaging to their economies.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: Flickr

education in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia understands the importance of teaching its people. Its government is increasing efforts to provide primary, secondary and tertiary education to all of its citizens. The Kingdom is improving literacy, expanding forms of education, educating women and more. Here are 10 facts about education in Saudi Arabia.

10 Facts About Education in Saudi Arabia

  1. The Kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, requires citizens to have an education. Children between 6 and 14 years old must attend school. About 200,000 children total did not attend school in 2009, however. That number decreased to about 67,000 by 2013.
  2. The Kingdom does not require college-level education, but Saudi Arabian society values it. The King Faisal Foundation, a Saudi Arabian nonprofit organization founded in 1976, supports higher education, creates universities throughout the kingdom, gives grants and helps to build better lives filled with learning. People donate to the organization to fund new schools for Saudi Arabian citizens.
  3. The Qur’an, the religious text of Saudi Arabia, is a core foundation of Saudi Arabia’s faith, society, government, law and education. The Qur’an teaches many educational values, including to “observe the earth and heavens” by learning the natural sciences like biology and Tirmidhi, learning about angels and praying for the wellbeing of people who search for knowledge. People often value the word of the Qu’ran in school textbooks, but there is a controversy over whether schools should teach it. The majority of over 700 nonprofit charitable organizations are taking donations to keep the Qur’an a subject of study.
  4. Women could not attend school before the 1950s. The government realized that uneducated women could not find husbands and start families. Many men attained relationships with international women instead, due to their higher education levels. Therefore, the government decided to allow women in Saudi Arabia the right to pursue an education and created a separate girls’ education system.
  5. Today in Saudi Arabia, women have the chance to stay in school longer. Societal standards give women more time to attend school and to study. People do not expect women to attain a career after college, but rather expect them to care for their families instead.
  6. Saudi Arabia has online schooling. Colleges such as the Deanship and Faculty of Distance Learning at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah allow flexibility in students’ schedules, allowing them to learn from their local library or home. Citizens push to have more online learning in Saudi Arabia today, hoping that everwhere in Saudi Arabia will soon accredit online learning. Writers such as Hend Suliman Al-Khalifa, an author in the e-Learn Magazine report, promote online universities like the Arab Open University.
  7. The Ministry of Higher Education has not officially recognized online education as a valid source. As a result, finding a job may be harder for students with an online degree. 
  8. Saudi Arabian students often enroll in the University of Phoenix, a private, online university in the United States. The Ministry of Education accepts a degree from this U.S. school as an official document, despite it being a private school.  The University of Phoenix offers many degrees and classes ranging from engineering, entrepreneurism and behavioral sciences to cultural studies and the performing arts.
  9. Due to Saudi Arabia’s effort to educate its population, the literacy rate for people 15 years or older has risen. The literacy rate appears to have continued rising past 2015, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics. Saudi Arabia’s literacy rate has risen by almost 20 percent in Saudi Arabia from 1995 to 2015. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics also reports that learning and participation in school have increased from 1995 to 2015.
  10. The Saudi Arabian school system has four categories: pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary. Children 3 to 5 years old are in the pre-primary stage. The primary stage includes children 6 to 11 years old. Secondary education includes teens from ages 12 to 17, while tertiary education teaches those from 18 to 22 years old. Children from ages 6 to 14 must go to school, but Saudi Arabian society values additional school.

Saudi Arabia improved the literacy of its adult population, but still has goals to widen its educational efforts. Citizens are working towards appealing the government to accept online-based learning officially, and the Ministry of Education continues to monitor the education system.

– Sofia Ponomareva
Photo: Pixabay

Child Labor in Saudi Arabia
Many know Saudi Arabia as one of the richest countries in the world. With the second largest natural oil reserve underground, Saudi Arabia is rapidly accumulating wealth and political power in international affairs. However, there is a dark side to the flashy urban lights of Saudi Arabia. The wealth gap that exists between the rich and the poor, coupled with the country’s patriarchal tradition and its recent conflict with the Houthi movement in Yemen, puts many Saudi and immigrant children in danger of child labor, violence and economic exploitation. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Saudi Arabia

  1. Poverty is the main cause of Saudi Arabia’s Child Labor. While Saudi Arabia is famous for its wealth, thanks in large part to the second-largest oil deposits in the world, there is a big economic disparity between the poor and the rich. According to a study that the Saudi Arabian government funded in 2015, 22 percent of families in Saudi Arabia depend on their children’s income.
  2. The minimum employment age is 13. In the royal decree of 1969, Saudi Arabia enacted a law that set the minimum employment age to 13 years old and banned children from working in hazardous conditions. This does not apply to works in the family business, domestic labor and agricultural work. Some employers of Saudi Arabia exploit a loophole in the law. For example, this law does not address the child brides of Saudi Arabia. If a child bride does any house chores or agricultural work for her husband’s family, it will not be a violation of the minimum employment age law.
  3. There are cases of child labor trafficking from neighboring countries. Stemming from Saudi Arabia’s recent conflict with Yemen, which left Yemen devastated, wartorn and practically lawless, some Yemeni parents are seeking illegal agents who will traffick their children to Saudi Arabia. While some Yemeni parents traffick their children to Saudi Arabia to save them from the desperate conditions in Yemen, other parents traffick their children in hopes of economic relief provided by their children’s labor in Saudi Arabia. While deportation is the main concern of many Yemeni parents for their trafficked children, many trafficked Yemeni children are in danger of violence, hunger and sexual abuse.
  4. Child workers usually have parents who have low professional and education level. The low education and professional level of child workers’ parents, coupled with economic disparity, make poverty in Saudi Arabia hereditary. Saudi Arabia is taking steps to ameliorate this issue. In early 2018, the Saudi government declared that it aims to eradicate adult illiteracy by 2024. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education established adult education centers across the country and launched the Learning Neighborhood program in 2006 in pursuit of this goal.
  5. Children of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia do not have protection under a law that prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Saudi Arabia’s labor law does prohibit forced labor, however, these measures do not extend to over 12 million migrant workers in the country. Some employers exploit this loophole in the labor laws, which sometimes results in physical, mental and sexual abuse of migrant workers and their children.
  6. Saudi Arabia’s citizenship requirement puts Saudi children in danger of child labor and human trafficking. A Saudi child’s citizenship comes from his or her father. If a child has a citizen mother and a non-citizen father, or from a mother who is not legally married to a citizen father, there is a chance that the country will consider the child a stateless person. As a result of being stateless, Saudi Arabia can deny a child state education, and in certain cases, medical attention. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 5 percent of street begging children in Saudi Arabia are Saudi nationals of unknown parents.
  7. The Saudi government is working with the international community to combat child labor. In 2016, with technical advisory services support from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Saudi Arabia ratified its report for ILO’s Minimum Age Convention of 1973. According to the United Nations’ 2016 report on Saudi Arabia’s adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia adopted and implemented regulations against child abuse and human trafficking. As part of the new labor reforms and regulations in 2015, for example, the Labor Ministry of Saudi Arabia can impose SR $20,000 ($5,333) on employers who employ children under 15-years old.
  8. In 2014, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) launched a campaign against child labor in Saudi Arabia. For 19-days, WWSF campaigned to raise awareness for child labor, abuse and violence against children and youth. The National Family Safety Program of Saudi Arabia also launched its four-day program which raised awareness for economic exploitation and abuse of children in Saudi Arabia. Through these campaigns, both WWSF and the Saudi government aimed to reduce child labor in Saudi Arabia by highlighting that child labor contributes to the abuse of children by harming children’s health, physical development, psychological health and access to education.
  9. UNICEF and the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs opened a reception center for trafficked Yemeni children. Many trafficked Yemeni children end up in the streets of Saudi Arabian cities as beggars or street vendors. In the worst cases, these trafficked children are under severe danger of exploitation and abuse. When the Saudi authorities detained them, these Yemeni children usually went to prison or open-air enclosures with adult deportees. The center provides shelter for these children.
  10. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to address the country’s poverty. Launched in April 2016, the Saudi government plans to address the country’s poverty by improving state education and empowering nonprofit organizations. These improvements can lead to making more opportunities available for the children and parents of poor economic background, potentially reducing child labor in Saudi Arabia. In this pursuit, the Saudi government granted $51 billion to the education sector. The Ministry of education established educational centers all around the country to improve adult literacy and theories determine that this improvement in adult literacy will also improve child literacy.

Child labor in Saudi Arabia is both a local and international issue. While the stateless and poor children of Saudi Arabia turn to street vending and begging to support their families, many trafficked Yemeni children in the country are under constant threat of violence and exploitation. These 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia show that with the help of the international community and the Saudi government’s increasing awareness of its less fortunate populace, a better future awaits for the children of Saudi Arabia.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Guest workers
The exploitation of guest workers in Saudi Arabia has been a common occurrence for many years. Eleven million guest workers have come to the Middle Eastern nation in order to find an opportunity to support their families back home. What some meet with is abuse and hardship from their employers for a variety of reasons. These workers are not citizens and they have a limited number of rights to protect them.

Discovery of Oil and the Demand for Workers

When people discovered oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s, it was still a very young country having only established in 1932. The country was one of the most underdeveloped and poorest in the world and did not have the means to extract this oil.

To profit from its discovery, the Saudi government brought in guest workers from the West after World War II and they were mostly professionals in the oil industry. After its success,  it eventually required workers from neighboring Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Yemen and Palestine as well, especially as the gas crisis in 1973 raised the demand for oil.

As the economy of Saudi Arabia grew, there came a need for more workers in other industries of the country besides oil. As a result, guest workers from other Asian nations such as Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka went to Saudi Arabia for work.

Guest Worker Abuses

Human Rights Watch, an international organization, describes the conditions of the guest workers in Saudi Arabia as being similar to slavery. These workers are beaten, exploited, overworked, underpaid and sometimes not even paid at all. The abuse of these workers is deep-seated in race, gender and religious discriminations.

Over 900,000 Filipinos are working in Saudi Arabia and many of them work in the service industries including hotels. There was an instance where 15 Filipino hotel guest workers had to work more than their scheduled 40 hours a week. When they did not receive overtime pay their employers owed them, they complained to the hotel manager who told them to be quiet or they would have them deported.

Guest workers do not have the convenience of collective bargains or unions to protect them from this type of abuse. Saudi employers can dismiss their guest workers at any time regardless of what employment contracts. An employer dismissed a 26-year-old Bangladesh guest worker named Bachu after only seven months because they did not need him anymore. The unexpected termination forced the now jobless worker to attempt to obtain a job illegally, which resulted in his arrest and deportation back to Bangladesh.

There are very few laws that protect guest workers from abuses in regard to the law. There are instances of workers receiving false accusations of crimes, harsh penalties, unfair trials and random arrests. One such incident occurred in 2005 with the arrest and execution of a Sri Lankan maid named Rizana Nafeek. The 24-year-old housemaid suffered the accusation of murdering the baby that she was in charge of taking care of, but she claimed it died from choking. She did not have a translator during her interrogation and the authorities beat her into signing a confession. She was only one of the 100,000 Sri Lankan maids that are guest workers in Saudi Arabia. Over 100 guest workers are sitting on death row in the country.

Changes for the Workers

Recently, the Saudi Arabian government has taken steps towards protecting its guest workers through a series of legislations. In 2015, the government voted on these laws and will impose hefty fines on businesses that it finds guilty of abuses such as not paying employees on time, violating health and safety and employing children under 15.

The U.N. has adopted resolutions that would protect guest workers in not only Saudi Arabia but around the world. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families emerged to protect the human rights of the 164 million guest workers throughout the world.

Saudi Arabia is a young and growing nation. The use of guest workers has helped its economy expand and thrive as a nation. The treatment of these workers has brought much negative attention to the country, though. It is taking steps, however, to ensure that the abuse and exploitation of these workers come to an end.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Facts about Waleed Abdulkhair
Waleed Abdulkhair is a prominent human rights activist and a famous lawyer from Saudi Arabia. He is currently serving a 15- year sentence in his native country. In February 2014, Saudi Arabia passed a new anti-terrorism law, using a vague definition of terrorism to crack down on free speech. Abulkhair was the first human rights activist to be tried and convicted under the law. In the article below, top 10 facts about Waleed Abdulkhair are presented.

10 Facts about Waleed Abdulkhair

  1. Waleed Abdulkhair was born on June 17, 1979 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He was raised in a religious Hejazi family, a family that had many judges and imams (religious leaders). He was taught to memorize the Holy Quran from a very young age.
  2. Waleed Abdulkhair received his Bachelor’s degree in Arabic in 2003 at King Abdu Aziz University. He also received a license from Shaikh Obaid Allah Al Afqani and was approved by the Teaching Board of the Holy Mosque in Medinah.
  3. Abdulkhair met his spouse, Samar Badawi when he took up her case against her father who was verbally and physically abusive toward her. Abdulkhair was successful in defending her rights in court as well as launching a social media campaign. They soon got married and have a daughter together.
  4. In 2015, Waleed Abdulkhair won the most prestigious prize in human rights in Europe, named the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize. He also won the Swedish Olof Palme Award and the Swiss Freethinker Prize. Abdulkadir was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, twice.
  5. He founded an independent human rights organization in 2008, called Monitor for Human Rights. The Saudi government, unfortunately, banned the website of the organization and its Facebook page, prompting Waleed Abdulkhair to register the website in 2012 with the Canadian Ministry of Labor. This made the organization the first Saudi Arabian human rights organization that was registered abroad.
  6. The Saudi authorities forbade him from representing particular defendants in court but Abdulkhair defied them. One of his more prominent and recent cases like this was the case of Raif Badawi, the man who garnered international attention when he was flogged for hosting a website advocating for discourse on sociopolitical issues.
  7. Abdulkhair was arrested in 2013 for hosting what is called a “diwanniya,” an informal gathering at his home where participants would discuss topics such as politics, religion, culture and human rights. It is also referred to as “samood,” meaning resistance or in Arabic.
  8. Abdulkhair was sentenced to 15 years in prison on July 6, 2014, by Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, the national terrorism tribunal. He was sentenced for violating the anti-terrorism law, was also banned from leaving the country for 15 years and fined over $50,000.
  9. Abdulkhair strictly refused to apologize to the court for his position on human rights and he did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Specialised Criminal Court.
  10. Abdulkhair initiated a hunger strike in the prison he was being kept in as a political statement against the poor treatment of the authorities toward him. He suffers from intestinal complications and diabetes, thus requiring a special diet that the authorities have refused to give him.

Waleed Abdulkhair remains a bastion of hope for human rights, civil liberties and democracy in a country that currently suppresses all three of these things. July 2018 was the fourth anniversary of his sentence. He still remains in jail, similar to his many compatriots speaking against human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Saudi Arabia
Sensing that change in multiple forms is necessary for the growth of the economy, Saudi Arabia has begun massive and unprecedented reform. At the heart of the reform, the Saudi government recognizes the need to invest more for the improvement of its impoverished people. Here are the top 15 facts about poverty in Saudi Arabia.

Top 15 Facts about Poverty in Saudi Arabia

  1. Saudi Arabia has the lowest reported poverty rate in the Middle East and the 10th lowest poverty rate in the world at 12.7 percent, as of 2017. However, the Saudi government does not release regular statistics regarding this information, resulting in varied estimates by outside agencies.
  2. The country is highly urbanized with close to 85 percent of citizens living in cities and many impoverished citizens, estimated to be around four million Saudis, reside in slums on the outskirts of those cities.
  3. Saudis who do not even live in the slums still struggle to afford the home in the cities. An estimated 60 percent of urban Saudis cannot afford to own their homes outright.
  4. The unemployment rate has risen slightly from 12.8 percent in 2017 to 12.9 percent in the first fiscal quarter of 2018. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government have made tackling unemployment a key component in their economic and social reform program Vision 2030.
  5. The government has implemented an insurance program for unemployed Saudis, but it is still difficult for recipients to survive when the cost of living is constantly increasing.
  6. A major factor in unemployment is the number of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. There are roughly three million Saudis in the labor force compared to 11 million immigrants who work in similar fields.
  7. Vision 2030 discusses plans to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil as the largest economic asset. Instead, the country plans to invest in other industries that will generate more jobs for unemployed Saudis.
  8. The government announced plans to implement nationalization quotas for small businesses and education programs to allow impoverished Saudis to prepare for the employment.
  9. Prince Salman believes that addressing poverty and unemployment is as necessary from the economic perspective as it is from the humanitarian perspective. He believes that by diversifying the economy and improving the poverty and unemployment rates, Saudi Arabia will attract more foreign investment.
  10. Saudi Arabia’s lifting of their long-standing movie theater ban has drawn AMC to create numerous theaters throughout the country, introducing service industry jobs for impoverished citizens who may not be qualified for more specialized positions.
  11. The government has lifted several bans preventing women from working and participating in the economy. With these barriers eliminated, women will be able to work and help provide for their families.
  12. Despite Prince Salman’s popularity and economic ambitions, many are still troubled by the vast wealth gap in Saudi Arabia. While many Saudi citizens live in poverty, Salman’s father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has an estimated net worth of $17 billion.
  13. With the possibility of water and farmable land becoming scarce in Saudi Arabia in the next few decades, the government will likely need to establish new ways of ensuring food production and food availability at a rate that can support the country’s population.
  14. Saudi Arabia has a history of refusing help from the nongovernmental organization because of the fears of deterring investors, but the government has recently begun to change its policies in favor of helping its impoverished citizens.
  15. Changes will take time. While it is clear that Saudi Arabia is in need of immediate change in some aspects, it will take time for sustainable growth to be implemented.

As Saudi Arabia finds itself in a highly transitional period in terms of social reform and economic reevaluation, its citizens face great uncertainty. However, despite what some of these top 15 facts about poverty in Saudi Arabia may suggest, the country’s leadership has made clear that their top priority is to build the economy into something that will work for, rather than against, the Saudi people.

– Rob Lee

Photo: Flickr

 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman promised reforms to make Saudi Arabia “modern, open” again, women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have grown noticeably, culminating most recently in the lifting of the driving ban
But, while the lift of the driving ban is a large step in the fight for women’s rights in the country, it isn’t actually the largest problem that women are facing. Local activists say that the next, and more pressing, issue that must be addressed is the guardianship system in Saudi Arabia.

The Guardianship System in Saudi Arabia

The guardianship system is rooted in a deeply conservative reading of Shariah law. Under this system, all women must have a male guardian (wali), either a father, husband, uncle or son, sign off on what a woman can or cannot do in her life. Last year King Salman, the Prince’s father, loosened some of the restrictive measures in the guardianship system, but not much has changed in the everyday lives of Saudi women.

A woman still cannot get an education, marry or apply for a passport without permission, nor can she open a bank account or get a fair trial without the consent of her guardian. But women are fighting back and making their voices heard through whatever avenues they can. The internet has proved to be a particularly powerful tool. In September 2016, more than 14,000 Saudi women signed an online petition calling for the end of the guardianship system. The petition was sent to the Saudi government.

Working to End The Guardianship System In Saudi Arabia

A Saudi-born, Australia-based artist who goes by Ms. Saffaa has generated acclaim for her artwork protesting the guardianship system. Saffaa’s popular poster features a woman veiled in the Saudi shemagh and the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian. The image has been massively popular on social media and distributed throughout Saudi and Australian streets. Her most recent work is a 20-meter mural at The Sydney College of Arts campus cafe.

Twitter allows millions of Saudi women to voice their opinions. In part, this is due to the fact that women can create anonymous accounts on Twitter, and therefore, don’t have to fear retaliation for raising their voices. In the past two years, Twitter has gained massive popularity in the country. The top ten most famous female activists have 1.2 million in followers. And the need to end the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia is the most talked about topic on the social media platform with the hashtag #AbolishGuardianship trending.

Female activists are aware of Twitter’s importance to their cause. “Twitter has brought international attention [to issues], which is very important,” according to activist Areej… “We hope that we will come to a time when all women and men are treated equally and have the same rights.” And as the rest of the world starts paying closer attention, those in power in Saudi Arabia will take note and be more willing to change the system.

The guardianship system in Saudi Arabia restricts women from making the most important and base decisions in their lives. It is also deeply rooted in Saudi society, making it all the more difficult to challenge. However, women in the country are finally enjoying freedoms such as going to soccer games and getting their driver’s licenses, and they are not backing down on the issue of guardianship.

– Evann Orleck-Jetter
Photo: Flickr

 Saudi Arabia
The Thomas Reuters Foundation surveyed 550 experts on women’s issues, ranking the worst countries for women’s rights. Out of 195 countries, Saudi Arabia ranked as the fifth most dangerous country for women in terms of the risks they face in cultural and religious practices, and second worst in terms of economic access and workplace discrimination. To get a better understanding of the hardships of Saudi Arabia, this article examines 10 facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East and the home of Islam. While Saudi Arabia is known for its plentiful oil reserves, the country is also one of the most dangerous places to live in or travel to. Saudi Arabia is slowly improving in regards to women’s and children’s rights, but still has a lot of progress to make. 

Facts about Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

  1. According to Human Rights Watch, by mid-2016, nearly all of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association founders were imprisoned and sentenced to nearly 10 years for peaceful protesting. This is a common issue in Saudi Arabia, as people are punished for expressing their beliefs. Journalists, protesters, non-Muslims and women take a huge risk when they express themselves or call for reforms.
  2. Non-Muslims are not allowed to worship in public or display religious items, such as the Bible or a crucifix. Expressing different religious beliefs can result in jail time or the death penalty. This law is to prevent Muslims from converting to a different religion.
  3. There is little to no justice in Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system. Saudi Arabia does not have an official penal code; therefore, judges and prosecutors are allowed to improvise charges on the spot. In many instances, the suspect is not aware of the crime he or she is accused of, allowed access to evidence or allowed to have a lawyer support them during the trial. The Saudi religious establishment, ulama, believes there is no need for an official penal code because everything about law and punishment is stated in the Qur’an and Sunnah, the religious books of Islam.
  4. Women in Saudi Arabia face harsh restrictions, discrimination and punishment every day. Women are required to get permission from a man in order to do things such as travel, obtain a passport, work, sign contracts and get married or divorced. This man is known as the woman’s guardian and is usually a husband, father, uncle or brother. This makes it extremely difficult for women to feel safe and secure, especially because there is no law protecting women from their guardian. If a woman is a victim of domestic violence, she needs the male guardian’s permission to file the complaint, even if the complaint is against that man. However, in 2018, Saudi Arabia took a step forward by lifting the driving ban for women for the first time since 1990.
  5. One of the facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia is that there are no human rights groups. Human rights activists are imprisoned or sentenced to the death penalty for protesting or joining a human rights organization or group. The organization is usually shut down and banned from spreading awareness about their beliefs. 
  6. Human Rights Watch reported that 48 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in the first third of 2018, half of them for non-violent crimes. There have been nearly 600 executions since 2014. One can be executed for a “crime” as small as protesting or showing too much skin if one is a woman.
  7. In many areas of Saudi Arabia, men are allowed to marry a girl once she reaches puberty. Fortunately, according to the Middle East Monitor, girls under the age of 17 now have to present a marriage request from the girl and her family before the marriage can take place. Preventing child marriage is a work in progress in Saudi Arabia.
  8. No one is not allowed to eat pork in Saudi Arabia. Muslims are not to eat pork in keeping with their religious beliefs. If a person is not a Muslim or is a foreigner, they are still expected to not consume pork in the country. Only food that meets the guidelines of Islam is allowed into Saudi Arabia.
  9. As of 2017, nine million foreigners work in service and clerical jobs in Saudi Arabia, accounting for more than half of the workforce. Many of these workers face punishment or abuse during their jobs. Some employers will take away passports and paychecks to hold workers against their will. If workers are caught trying to leave the country, they face serious consequences.
  10. Women are not allowed to work in a job that a man would traditionally do. This means that women are limited to working in the education or medical fields. On the bright side, 38 women were elected to council in December 2015 for the first time ever. This gives women more opportunities and freedoms. While gender restrictions are slowly improving, women are still required to cover their skin fully while working on the job.

These facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia show the challenges and improvements regarding human rights in the country. Women are gaining more independence and children are being allowed to live their childhoods freely. While there is a lot of progress to make, Saudi Arabia is taking steps towards becoming a more equal and free country.

– Kristen Uedoi

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia, human rights are based off the Hanbali Islamic religious laws, which are under absolute rule of the Saudi royal family. Due to the strict regime of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, human rights in the nation have been ranked some of the worst in the world. However, due to a recent change of power, progress has been made in terms of human rights, especially for women. Here are 10 facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Facts About Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

  1. On June 24, 2018, women gained the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman lifted the ban due to his 2030 Vision to have women ascend ranks in the workforce. Women 18 and older are able to now apply for a driver’s license, and driving lessons are offered by instructors that can even be women who obtained their license abroad.
  2. Male guardianship is a huge issue in Saudi Arabia. Every women has to have a “male guardian” that can be a husband, brother, father or son. These male figures have the authority to make decisions on the women’s behalf and decide if she can apply for a passport, get married, travel or leave prison. However, on April 2017, King Salman removed this restriction and gave women access to any government service without a “guardian” (unless it interferes with existing regulations). 
  3. Dress code is a strict part of the Islamic law, and women have traditionally been restricted against wearing makeup or clothes that show off their beauty. Instead, they have to wear some kind of opaque cloak to cover their body which does not prevent them from being harassed on the daily by religious police for being too “revealing”or wearing too much makeup.  
  4. Torture and other cruel treatments of detainees in Saudi Arabia are common practices. In fact, many human right defenders and critics of the system have been sent to prison or unfair treatment for their protestations, such as when authorities passed the “Counter-Terrorism” law.
  5. Competing freely in sports has been a struggle for women in Saudi Arabia. In 2015, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting the Olympics but without any women. When Saudi Arabia sent women to the Olympics in London in 2012, two of the women were labeled as “prostitutes,” had to cover their hair and be accompanied by a guardian. However, in September 2017, the national stadium in Saudi Arabia welcomed female spectators, but they were assigned their own section in the typically male-only venue.
  6. Discrimination exists for Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a minority. This Islamic sect faces prejudice that limits their right to express their belief, work and access state services. In fact, many of the Shi’a activists are continuously arrested, imprisoned and even killed.
  7.  Freedom of expression, association and assembly is a problem in Saudi Arabia as well. Authorities still continue to harass writers, online commentators, activists or anyone who express their views against government policies.
  8. Women still have restrictions on interacting with men. Women are required to limit the amount of time they spend with men who are not related to them. There are even separate entrances and exits for women and men in a majority of buildings, offices, universities and more. A person can be criminally charged if caught breaking this rule.
  9. Male and female swimming pools, spas and gyms are all separate. However, the Crown Prince aims to make Saudi Arabia more appealing for tourists and investors and is thus planning to create a resort that allows gender-mixing bathing, bikinis and alcoholic beverages.
  10. The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is still a major problem. The courts in Saudi Arabia still impose the death penalty for a variety of crimes. Many defendants that were sentenced to death were seen to have unfair trials, and cases have even occured where authorities fail to inform the families of their relatives’ executions.

Creating Change, One Supporter At a Time

Human rights in Saudi Arabia appear to be improving due to the 2030 Vision; however, there is still a long way to go. Continuous support from protestors and other countries is crucial for creating change in Saudi Arabia.

– Negin Nia
Photo: Flickr