Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Maid ‘kept’ prisoner for 10 years

by the Gulf Times

A Sri Lankan housemaid in Saudi Arabia pleaded in a call to a newspaper to be rescued from her employer she says has kept her imprisoned for the past 10 years, the Saudi newspaper reported yesterday. The Arab News said it received the cry for help from Anista Marie, who left the coastal town of Chilaw in Sri Lanka a decade ago to work in a house in the Saudi capital, Riyad ... Marie said her employers beat her whenever she asked to return to Sri Lanka to see her four children or to be paid. The newspaper said the Sri Lankan embassy would contact Saudi officials about Marie’s case. Around 550,000 Sri Lankans live and work in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, many of them as domestic helpers or drivers. They are a key source of foreign currency for Sri Lanka.

The Pakistani president, one of those friends

by Shmuel Rosner from Haaretz

The Pakistani president is one of those friends who has to be repeatedly reminded of his friendship, just in case someone might get a different impression. Like the Russian president, the Saudi king and even the Iraqi prime minister - leaders whose actions do not always reflect the will to assist the White House ... The problem with Pakistan, as far as the administration is concerned, is not the hypocrisy of supporting, financially and politically, a dictator who is refusing to allow a democratic process. This is something the Americans can live with, as they have with their friends in Cairo or Jordan. The problem is that the dictator is no longer useful the way he used to be, and there is no appropriate replacement. Musharraf may have exhausted his usefulness, but for now, he is still necessary.

Saudi government official at heart of eavesdropping case

by Paul Elias from The Associated Press

Soliman al-Buthi is a prominent religious leader in Saudi Arabia, a father of three, and a ranking government official. He's also a terrorist, according to the United States and United Nations. His lawyers argue that much of the evidence against al-Buthi was misinterpreted by National Security Agency officials who eavesdropped on conversations between al-Buthi and his American attorneys ... Al-Buthi and his lawyers argue the terrorist label was wrongly applied to a man who has been investigated by authorities in Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the War on Terror, who found no merit to the claims. "My government knows me very well," he said. "I have been twice interrogated." Al-Buthi says the money ended up at a Chechnya charity for refugees rather than in the hands of terrorists.

FM defends Fayad to US House delegates

by Herb Keinon from The Jerusalem Post

In an unusual diplomatic twist, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not urge US congressmen to fight a proposed massive US arms deal to Saudi Arabia ... "Olmert did not say this was the greatest thing since sliced bread," Berkley said after a press conference in the capital. "What he said was: 'Look, I've got enemies on this side of me, and enemies on that side of me, and it's a matter of priories. The Americans have been working hand-in-glove with my people, and my military people are telling me that even with the sale, we will still retain our qualitative edge - that is their commitment to me.'" ... Rep. Shelley Berkley, a fifth-term congresswoman from Nevada, is one of 115 US representatives who have already signed a nonbinding resolution opposing the Saudi arms deal. She said at the time that she would oppose the deal, even if Israel did.

Shariah-compliant Pan Arab, property indices launched

from the Khaleej Times

Standard & Poor's has launched three new Shariah-compliant indices covering the Pan Arab region and publicly traded property companies in developed and emerging markets. Each Shariah-compliant index provides investors with an investable portfolio while adopting explicit selection criteria defined by Islamic law ... S&P Shariah Indices exclude businesses that offer products and services that are considered unacceptable or non-compliant according to Shariah-law, such as advertising and media, alcohol, financials, gambling, pork, pornography, tobacco, and the trading of gold and silver as cash on a deferred basis.

A tipping point in Saudi Arabia

by Dana Moss and Zvika Krieger from The Christian Science Monitor

Education, for example, had traditionally been firmly under Wahhabi control, with a focus on creating more imams than businessmen. But this won't help a country striving to become an international powerhouse. So private universities – previously shunned by the religious elite because of their relative independence – have recently been legalized, with a half-dozen Western-style institutions slated to open soon ... Abdullah's reforms have been highly limited when compared with Western expectations. The country is still an iron-fisted dictatorship: The much-heralded municipal elections of 2005 excluded women, and the trumpeted majlis (parliament) remains a body undemocratically appointed by the king. Women can't drive, and religious freedom is nonexistent. Fundamentalist forces also remain significant in the kingdom, with characters such as Prince Naif, the ultra-conservative interior minister, still wielding enormous power.