Arabian Peninsula

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The Qatar Phenomenon

It is not easy to pigeon-hole Qatar, a stand-alone Middle Eastern state in more ways than one, geographically, politically, economically, influentially.  That Qatar aspires to become a major player in the region and beyond may seem obvious enough, but in pursuit of this objective Qatar’s tactics sometimes puzzle, sometimes infuriate, its neighbours. But then, as the world’s wealthiest nation by a long chalk, Qatar can afford the luxury of proceeding along its own preferred path, without too much concern for what others think.

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Saudi Change of Women’s Sporting Right

Saudi Arabia is projecting miniscule steps to reverse decades of denial of women’s sporting rights as evidence of significant changes in the kingdom that aim to diversify its energy-dependent economy and upgrade its autocracy. The steps include the appointment of a member of the ruling family to oversee women’s sports and the doubling of the number of women participating in Olympic Games from two to four.

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Saudi Celebrates Local Artists

The Kingdom has unveiled plans to showcase the arts and grow its media industry to counter negative stereotypes. The initiatives are part of the wide-ranging National Transformation Program 2020. “The intention also is to transform the society,” Culture and Information Minister Adel Al-Toraifi told reporters on the sidelines of a briefing about the NTP on Tuesday. Under the NTP, a Royal Arts Complex would be developed, as well as a Media City. Al-Toraifi said although some Saudi artists and performers have exhibited and gained popularity abroad, they “did not find the platform and space to support them” at home. That will change with…
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Oman in Divided Region

In a fractious, unstable region rife with conflicts, one country appears to be unscathed. It is telling that Oman emerged not only intact from the ramifications of the Arab Spring, but also shied away from the tense polarisation that has hijacked the rest of the Middle East. Oman’s position on the various regional issues is self-evidently peaceful and different from the other Gulf monarchies. In fact, behind this peaceful and unique position lies a hive of activity of which many are unaware. As part of the revolutionary wave, a series of popular demonstrations were held in Oman with the masses…
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Bin Laden Group

The Bin Ladens: A Saudi Bellwether

The layoffs followed last year’s collapse of a Bin Laden construction crane that killed 107 people and prompted the government to ban the brothers from travelling abroad as well as review the company’s massive government contracts. The travel ban was lifted earlier this month, eight months after it was imposed, according to sources close to the company. Bin Laden, according to reports in Saudi Arabia’s controlled media and sources close to the company, laid off 77,000 foreign and 12,000 Saudi employees or almost half of its 200,000-strong labour force. The government’s failure to pay the company on time meant it…
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Women: A Benchmark of Saudi and Iranian Reform mpc-journal.org Image ©: AP

Women: A Benchmark of Saudi and Iranian Reform

In a slick document, entitled Vision 2030 that was drafted by Western consultants, Saudi Arabia identifies sports “as a mainstay of a healthy and balanced lifestyle and promises “to encourage widespread and regular participation in sports and athletic activities.” Yet, the document makes no reference to facilities for women in a country that has so far refrained from introducing physical education for girls in elementary and secondary schools. Similarly, the document, amid leaks that the kingdom’s powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman favours the lifting of a ban on women’s driving in due course, promises enhanced educational and job…
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Mideast Yemen

Positive Action in Yemen Yields Positive Results

If any one area is a microcosm of the chaos in the Middle East, it is Yemen. Here, as across the region, Islam has been at war with itself, as the deadly rivalry between Saudi Arabia’s Sunni fundamentalist ruling family, and Iran’s equally uncompromising Shia-based Islamic revolution, played itself out. Nowhere was the fault-line between the Shia and the Sunni traditions of Islam more obvious – and nowhere was it more blurred, as self-seeking interests cut across it. Who is fighting whom in Yemen? There are four main principals: The Iranian-supported Houthi rebels; the lawful president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi;…
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Waleed Abdullah

Player’s Haircut Spots Saudi’s Existential Dilemmas

Waleed Abdullah probably didn’t know what was happening to him when a referee delayed kick-off of a Saudi premier league match to cut the Al-Shabab FC goalkeeper’s hair. In a country that demands conformity, Abdullah’s hair-do, involving shaved parts of his hair in a style popular among youths across the globe, was deemed un-Islamic and by implication subversive – a threat that needed to be dealt with immediately and demonstratively. The public humiliation of Abdullah not only evoked the disgracing of players who failed to live up to autocratic expectations in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya but also…
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