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Saudi Arabia's 'date city' hosts annual festival dedicated to delicacy
30 August 2018 - Amid rows of pick-up trucks loaded with crates and boxes, vendors cry out prices at Saudi Arabia's Buraidah Dates Festival, a huge seasonal market dedicated to the sweet golden-brown fruit. Farmers, traders, and consumers descend on the town, known locally as 'the city of dates', in the central Qassim region ... which organizers say is the largest of its kind in the world. (more)

Saudi Arabia says remains committed to climate accord
11 November 2017 - Saudi Arabia remains committed to the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, the energy minister for the world's top oil exporter said on Saturday, 11 November. Khalid al-Falih's statement came as almost 200 countries started talks in Germany to bolster a global climate accord .... 'For our part, the kingdom will remain committed to maintaining our national contributions on taking climate actions that would also enable sustainable development in line with Saudi Vision 2030,' Falih said. (more)

Q and A: Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, the vegan Saudi prince investing his millions in sustainable solutions
24 February 2017 - Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed is the son of one of the wealthiest men in the world and comes from a country of billionaire elites who have amassed great fortune from oil reserves. But the 38-year-old businessman, an avowed vegan and animal lover, is determined to leave a cleaner, greener mark on this earth than other members of the Saudi royal family. (more)

Saudi Arabia says will diversify oil economy to slow climate change
10 November 2015 - Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, plans to diversify its economy to help combat climate change in a move that could reduce expected carbon emissions by up to 130 million tonnes a year by 2030, the government said on Tuesday. (more)

Dignitaries head to Saudi Arabia after King Abdullah's death
24 January 2015 - World leaders and top dignitaries began arriving in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to give their condolences following the death of King Abdullah, who died early Friday at age 90 after nearly two decades at the helm. Despite deep tensions and rivalries between the nations, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was among the first to arrive to the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Heads of state and royals from around world will be visiting Saudi Arabia over the coming days to pay their respects in meetings with Saudi royals. (more)

Organic farming gaining popularity in Saudi Arabia
17 September 2014 - Last week, Saudi Agriculture 2014, the 33rd international agriculture, water, and agro-industry trade show, took place at the International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Riyadh. Organic farming was one of the topics addressed at the exhibition. Under the patronage of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of Organic Agriculture (DOA) participated with its own organic farming pavilion, a joint venture with on one side the ministry and the German GIZ International Services' 'Organic Farming Project' and on the other the Saudi Organic Farming Association (SOFA). (more)

Saudi Arabian investments in green projects to exceed $26 billion
11 September 2014 - International experts expect to see more organizations in Saudi Arabia take action to make existing buildings more efficient. Their comments were made as they gathered to further the dialogue around sustainable building transformation, including energy conservation and efficiency improvement during the Distinguished Sustainability Lecture Series held in Jeddah on Tuesday. (more)

US President Obama reiterates significance of Saudi ties in talks with King
28 March 2014 - US President Barack Obama reiterated the significance the United States places on its 'strong relationship' with Saudi Arabia in talks with King Abdullah on Friday, a White House statement said. 'In his meetings with King Abdullah in Riyadh, President Obama reiterated the significance the United States places on its strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has endured for over 80 years,' the statement said. (more)

Saudi Arabia introduces unemployment insurance
6 January 2014 - Saudi Arabia will introduce compulsory unemployment insurance this year for all citizens with jobs, the world's top oil exporter said on Monday. The introduction of unemployment insurance is designed to make it more attractive for young Saudis to seek jobs in private companies, where the starting salary and other benefits are less generous than in government jobs. While the official unemployment rate is around 12 per cent, economists say only 30-40 per cent of working age adults participate in the labour force. Most Saudis who do not have jobs are financially supported by a relative. Although Saudis do not pay tax, they already make mandatory contributions to a social insurance fund to pay for their state pensions. (more)

Saudi King backs Israeli-Palestinian push, US Secretary of State Kerry says
5 January 2014 - Saudi King Abdullah offered his 'enthusiastic support' to US efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday. The US diplomat made the comment after some two hours and 40 minutes of talks with the Arab monarch, who in 2002 floated a plan to try to bring peace to the Israelis and Palestinians. (more)

Success of Maharishi's Programmes
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Saudi Arabia: Parents, students, school administrators learn about Consciousness-Based Education
31 May 2014 - During a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ashley Deans, Executive Director of Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment in Fairfield, Iowa, USA, attended an educational fair sponsored by a large oil company. The company has built a school offering classes through the 8th grade, and organizes the fair to assist parents and students in choosing a high school to attend. Dr Deans presented Consciousness-Based Education, the foundation of the Maharishi School curriculum, to parents and school representatives as another potential choice for students--including a review of research demonstrating its success in improving students' brain functioning, decreasing stress, and increasing academic achievements. (more)

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New tally in Saudi hajj disaster shows at least 1,399 killed
8 October 2015 - The crush and stampede last month outside of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca killed at least 1,399 people during the hajj pilgrimage, a new tally Thursday (October 8) showed, 630 more than the kingdom's official toll. The Associated Press count of the dead from the worst tragedy to strike the hajj in a quarter-century comes as Saudi Arabia faces threats ranging from an Islamic State insurgency, a war in Yemen against Shiite rebels, and weakening global oil prices gnawing away at its reserves. Saudi Arabia has been hesitant to release updated casualty figures from the September 24 stampede in Mina, even as hundreds remain missing. (more)

Horrific stampede at hajj in Saudi Arabia kills 717 pilgrims
24 September 2015 - A horrific stampede killed at least 717 pilgrims and injured hundreds more Thursday on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the deadliest tragedy to strike the annual hajj pilgrimage in more than two decades. At least 863 pilgrims were injured in the crush, said the Saudi civil defense directorate, which provided the death toll. The tragedy struck as Muslims around the world marked the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday. It was the second major disaster during this year's hajj season. Two survivors interviewed by The Associated Press said the disaster began when one wave of pilgrims found themselves heading into a mass of people going in another direction. (more)

Suicide bomber kills 21 at Saudi Shi'ite mosque, Islamic State claims attack
22 May 2015 - A suicide bomber killed 21 worshippers on Friday in a packed Shi'ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia, residents and the health minister said, the first attack in the kingdom to be claimed by Islamic State militants. It was one of the deadliest assaults in recent years in the largest Gulf Arab country, where sectarian tensions have been frayed by nearly two months of Saudi-led air strikes on Shi'ite Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. (more)

Saudi migrant crackdown closes shops, raises fears
14 November 2013 - Garbage is piling up on streets around the mosque housing the burial site of the Prophet Muhammad. Grocery stores have shut their doors and almost half of Saudi Arabia's small construction firms have stopped working on projects. The mess is because foreign workers on which many businesses rely are fleeing, have gone into hiding or are under arrest amid a crackdown launched 4 November targeting the kingdom's 9 million migrant labourers. Decades of lax immigration enforcement allowed migrants to take low-wage manual, clerical and service jobs that the kingdom's own citizens shunned for better paying, more comfortable work. Now, authorities say booting out migrant workers will open more jobs for citizens, at a time when unemployment among Saudis is running at 12.1 percent as of the end of last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. But the nationalist fervour driving the crackdown risks making migrant workers vulnerable to vigilante attacks by Saudis fed up with the seemingly endless stream of foreigners in their country. The majority of workers hail from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines, as well as Egypt and Yemen. Others, mostly from east Africa, have never acquired visas, often taking perilous boat journeys across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen from where they cross illegally into the kingdom with the help of smugglers. (more)

Saudi Arabia arrests dozens in protest over prisoners
13 June 2013 - Saudi security forces arrested dozens of people this week during protests by families seeking freedom for relatives detained on security charges, activists and witnesses said. Families of security detainees have regularly staged small protests in Riyadh and some other cities over the past two years in defiance of a government ban on demonstrations. They accuse the government of holding their relatives without trial or failing to release them after they were found innocent or had completed their sentence. Saudi Arabia says it has detained a total of 11,000 people on security grounds during the last decade but that only around 2,700 remain in custody. Saudi human rights activists have said they believe the real numbers are higher and that they include people detained only for demanding political change (more)

Saudi woman sentenced to 10 lashes for driving car
27 September 2011 - A Saudi woman was sentenced Tuesday to be lashed 10 times with a whip for defying the kingdom's prohibition on female drivers, the first time a legal punishment has been handed down for a violation of the longtime ban in the ultraconservative Muslim nation. Making Tuesday's sentence all the more upsetting to activists is that it came just two days after King Abdullah promised to protect women's rights and decreed that women would be allowed to participate in municipal elections in 2015. Abdullah also promised to appoint women to a currently all-male advisory body known as the Shura Council. The mixed signals highlight the challenge for Abdullah, known as a reformer, in pushing gently for change without antagonizing the powerful clergy and a conservative segment of the population. (more)

Detainees disappear into black hole of Saudi jails
25 August 2011 - Thousands of people have disappeared into the black hole of Saudi prisons without charge or any indication of when they could be released, Saudi and international rights groups say. The Government says it is an Islamic state ruling via Islamic Sharia law. Activists say security forces act with impunity, and defendants are subject to an individual judge's interpretation of law, and in many cases are not allowed access to lawyers. Amnesty International estimates the number of people who have been detained in the thousands, some for criticising government bodies. 'There is a high level of secrecy maintained by the security in Saudi Arabia which makes it difficult for human rights organisations to have a precise number and details of people detained,' said Dina El-Mamoud, an Amnesty researcher. The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) says all prisons connected to the Directorate of General Investigations (DGI), the state security apparatus, are full, which would put the total held at around 30,000. (more)

Bin Laden took a path of fanaticism and terror
2 May 2011 - Osama bin Laden was born into one of Saudi Arabia's most prosperous families, but he left home in search of revolution, found a path of fanaticism, inspired a murderous organization that terrorized the West, and ultimately became the most wanted man in the world. But long before bin Laden became the world's most hunted man, few believed fate would move him in that direction. 'I saw radical changes in his personality as he changed from a calm, peaceful, and gentle man interested in helping Muslims into a person who believed that he would be able to amass and command an army to liberate Kuwait. It revealed his arrogance and his haughtiness,' Prince Turki, the former Saudi intelligence chief, said in an interview with Arab News and MBC television in late 2001. 'His behaviour at that time left no impression that he would become what he has become,' the Prince added. (more)

25 Saudi Guantanamo prisoners return to militancy
20 June 2010 - Around 25 former detainees from Guantanamo Bay camp returned to militancy after going through a rehabilitation programme for al Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi security official said on Saturday. The United States have sent back around 120 Saudis from the detention camp at the US naval base in Cuba, set up after the US launched a 'war on terror' following the September 11 attacks by mostly Saudi suicide hijackers sent by al Qaeda. Around 11 Saudis from Guantanamo have gone to Yemen, an operating base for al Qaeda, while others have been jailed again or killed after attending the programme, said Abdulrahman al-Hadlaq, Director General of the General Administration for Intellectual Security overseeing the rehabilitation. He pinpointed strong personal ties among former prisoners but also tough US tactics as the reason why some 20 per cent of the returned Saudis relapsed into militancy compared to 9.5 per cent overall in the rehabilitation programme. 'Those guys from other groups didn't suffer torture before, the non-Guantanamos (participants). Torturing is the most dangerous thing in radicalization. You have more extremist people if you have more torture,' Hadlaq told reporters in a rare briefing about Saudi anti-terrorism efforts. (more)

Saudi Arabia detains thousands without trial: HRW
10 August 2009 - Saudi Arabia has detained thousands of people as part of its anti-terrorism drive without charging them and sometimes even ignoring court rulings ordering their release, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday. In a report, HRW said the General Directorate for Investigations, the domestic intelligence agency, was holding an unknown number of people in its prisons, among them foreigners, and dissidents demanding democratic reforms. HRW estimated that more than 9,000 had been held since al Qaeda launched a campaign in 2003, of whom probably between 2,000 and 4,000 were still detained. Few were ever charged or had access to lawyers, even if Saudi laws limit detention without trial to six months, with the intelligence agency ignoring court rulings ordering a release in some cases. (more)


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