Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fun in the Sun in Saudi Arabia

"Saudi Arabia is suddenly allowing a lot more fun" by Donna Abu-Nasr and Deema Almashabi Bloomberg News  January 07, 2017

The scene could have been from any variety performance on any weekend just about anywhere in the world, at least on the surface. But this is Saudi Arabia.

As part of a shock therapy to overhaul the deteriorating economy, the government is relaxing the rules on having fun in the ultra-conservative society — and also plans to make some cash from it. The kingdom is hardly synonymous with entertainment: religious police order music to be silenced and citizens usually travel to Dubai or Bahrain when they want to catch a movie or a show. Now the plan is to turn cheering people up into an industry.

The changes are part of Vision 2030, the blueprint for a post-oil economy dropped on Saudis in April by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s powerful 31-year-old son. It tackles everything from government spending on subsidies to the role of women in the workforce, and people are trying to figure out how it can work.

He is the guy who is really in charge. His father is reportedly suffering dementia and other health problems. 

What they need is a new alliance.

When it comes to fun, it states that by 2020, there will be more than 450 clubs providing a variety of cultural activities and events. The target is to double household spending on recreation to 6 percent — that would be higher than the 4 percent the US Labor Department shows Americans spent on entertainment in 2015.

The focus will be on families and the ‘‘guiding principles are our Islamic and cultural values,’’ said Amr AlMadani, who runs the newly established General Entertainment Authority.

The authority sponsored events in the kingdom’s biggest cities and in 2017 plans to expand its activities to other regions. So far, they have included World Wrestling Entertainment in Riyadh — for men and their kids only — and a motor sports and music show that drew 6,000 spectators to a venue outside Jeddah. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is looking into a Saudi project and Six Flags agreed to open a theme park in the kingdom. James Reid-Anderson, chairman of Six Flags, said the park would cost as much as $500 million.

And the human rights, beheadings and stuff? No concern, no protest, no word?

The variety show in November was inside King Abdullah Economic City, a gated community about 160 kilometers outside Jeddah, and tested some traditional Saudi boundaries. The stage was in a marquee and involved performers from Got Talent shows across the world. The audience wasn’t segregated, and women took selfies or applied red lipstick while little girls skipped to the beat of the music.

Yes, the right to whore yourself up and drink alcohol is what we call women's freedom. Never mind the bombs being dropped on so many Muslim women in so many places, the least of which is Yemen.

While that represents some sort of revolution for Saudis, it’s still overshadowed by one of the strictest brands of Islam.

Most weekends and holidays, there’s bumper-to-bumper traffic on the King Fahd Causeway heading to more liberal Bahrain. About 5 million cars crossed the 25-kilometer bridge in 2015, according to the kingdom’s statistics bureau. Dubai is a favorite destination for artists and filmmakers who cannot show their works at home. When Abdulmajeed Abdullah, a popular Saudi singer, performed in the city in March, the show was sold out to a mostly Saudi audience.

Yeah, you can catch a concert and bang your head before returning home.

Things have not always been so strict. In the 1980s, concerts by Arab and local artists were popular. By the early 2000s, the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice that runs the religious police had been given a freer hand. The cops roamed malls and restaurants, arresting unmarried couples found in the same car or eating together and ordering waiters to turn off the music.

That would be after, you know.

Earlier this year, the government issued directives to curb the committee’s powers, saying religious police can no longer chase violators, arrest them, or ask for identification.

As Saudis experiment with ways to put on shows without angering religious authorities, organizers of a performance by Canadian stand-up comedian Russell Peters last January separated men and women inside a white tent pitched in the desert outside Riyadh.

The audience, who had driven 95 kilometers outside of the capital down a dark and secluded road to attend, tried to protest before giving up. For 22-year-old college student Marwa Yassin and her girlfriends, the experience was worth it.

‘‘I felt like I was part of a real society,’’ said Yassin. ‘‘We sat together and laughed together. When the show was over, we all stood in lines in the cold to buy burgers or crepes from food trucks. We ran into friends. It felt right.’’

American culture is freedom.


Just don't blog criticism of the government:

"Man’s death sentence for tweets offers glimpse into Saudi justice" by Cleve R. Wootson Jr. Washington Post  April 27, 2017

WASHINGTON — Ahmad Al-Shamri’s case provides a glimpse into the Saudi Arabian judicial system, which routinely tries to hide capital trials and death sentences from the outside world, activists say.

What is known is that there’s been a surge in death sentences. More than 400 people have been put to death since 2014, according to a report by Amnesty International.

‘‘The conservative religious folks have full control of the justice system,’’ said Adam Coogle, with Human Rights Watch.

At least they are having fun.

‘‘Judges come from religious seminaries in Saudi Arabia. They see themselves as preservers of Saudi Arabia’s character as an Islamic state,’’ he said. ‘‘And they come down hard on people who step out of line.’’

Most of the sentences are based on Koranic law, not a penal code, and Coogle said judges and prosecutors have almost unlimited leeway ‘‘not only to decide cases, but what constitutes a criminal offense in the first place. Sometimes is just a description of your behavior.’’

A spokesman with the Saudi Arabian embassy did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The country ranked third in 2016 in executions, according to Amnesty International’s report. Condemned people in Saudi Arabia are killed by beheading and shooting. Death sentences, the report says, can be based on ‘‘confessions’’ extracted through torture.

You gotta throw those out.

‘‘A large number of these executions were not imposed for the most serious crimes but for offences such as nonviolent drug-related crimes, which are not even mandatorily punishable by death according to the authorities’ interpretation of Islamic sharia law,’’ according to the report.

In 2011, the US State Department raised concerns with the Saudi government about the judicial process....

What is it now, 2017? 

As usual, oil and the USraeli-Saudi axis overrides everything else.


They are even doing it to their own:

"At a time when the monarch is implementing unprecedented austerity measures, even royal families welcomed the execution as decisive and fair. Details of the prince’s last hours were revealed on social media, another rare development for the conservative, often secretive kingdom....." 

Do you think that has something to do with the unrest, and thus mass executions

Did Trump bring those up when he visited?

Editorial Saudi Arabia: Friend or frenemy?

The Saudis have been branded with guilt in the aftermath of the avalanche of concrete and steel; however, no one is laughing and everyone is talking about how it was Israel and US collaborators that took down the towers.

That's nowhere near a defense of the odious Saudi regime that allows itself to be used as a tool while taking blame and still funding the most extreme of terrorists. When will they realize that, once the Qatars and Bahrains of the world are gone, they are next?

Saudis restore full public sector salaries and benefits amid grumbling

There are always complainers even in the funnest of times, huh? 

(Blog editor giggles to himself there)

Saudi Arabia announces 2017 budget with more spending

British Prime Minister Theresa May visits Saudi Arabia without headscarf 

I wonder if her head will be handed to her tonight.

Trump has Major Trip to Saudi Arabia Planned, will Discuss Massive Weapons Deal for Saudis

Bowing to pressure from the H.R. McMaster, Dina Powell, Gary Cohn coalition, President Donald Trump’s first overseas trip is scheduled to be in Saudi Arabia, multiple sources confirmed after Steve Holland of Reuters first reported rumors of the trip. During the visit Trump will discuss a proposed arms package for the Saudis, [while] behind the scenes McMaster will be seeking Saudi support for a ground war in Syria. “Trump doesn’t want to go,” one person with knowledge of the trip said, “but Powell and Cohn are making him.” --source--" 

It's going to be a separate post, sorry, and the ground war in Syria must be soon.

Saudis key to CIA’s secret arming of Syrian rebels

I'm sorry, say again?

Why Saudi Arabia is behaving like a cornered boxer

Yemen’s destruction is one cost of the US-Saudi alliance 

No one at the U.N. cares about those massive war crimes, probably because an aider and abettor has veto power over the charges.

"A vast multinational construction conglomerate run by Osama bin Laden’s brother, and founded by his father, is facing street protests after it failed to pay wages to tens of thousands of its employees for months. On Saturday, seven buses were torched in the holy city of Mecca by non-Saudi workers who were part of 77,000 foreign workers the Saudi Binladin Group announced that it will be sacking, almost half of its total workforce. The protests add to mounting pressure on the company to pay an estimated $660 million in back wages to large groups of foreign workers as well as 12,000 Saudi nationals, who have all been asked to ‘‘resign or wait.’’ All employees waiting for wages have been promised a two-month bonus should they stick it out. Saudi Binladin Group’s cash crunch is another instance of collateral damage from oil’s plummeting price. The company controls 70 percent of the kingdom’s government-sanctioned construction projects when measured by value, and the decline in oil revenue has left the government about $100 billion in debtaccording to the International Monetary Fund." 

The bin Laden name isn't what it used to be.

With oil prices stubbornly low, Saudi Arabia’s future looks fraught

Producers expected to stick with Saudis

Uber turns to Saudi Arabia for $3.5b cash infusion

A blacklist, blackmail, and Saudi Arabia’s black eye

Domestic violence?

Saudi women are granted a new right: to have a copy of their marriage contract 

Have fun with the  rare legal concession, ladies.

Bali decides to not cover nude statues for Saudi king’s visit

But they did arrest an orgy and publicly cane a couple for them, as well as deny Netanyahu airspace.

Get foreign political money out of US elections 

They don't mean AIPAC.

Adnan Khashoggi was hardpartying Saudi weapons dealer

The Iran-Contra Affair was what Gary Webb stumbled upon before he was murdered.

"Saudi police shot and killed two suspected Islamic State extremists in the capital, Riyadh, on Saturday. The Interior Ministry said the militants opened fire on police after being surrounded in the capital’s northern Yasmeen neighborhood, forcing officers to return fire. One officer was slightly wounded. The ministry published photos of explosive suicide vests, rifles, and ammunition it said officers found. It also said material found inside the home the two men hid in suggests it was used to manufacture bombs. Saudi Arabia has faced a series of attacks from a local Islamic State affiliate (AP)." 

Sorry to spoil the fun.