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A step forward: Saudi Women take up active roles in an All female Emergency Call Centre

This is a big shift for the conservative Saudi Arabia

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A Saudi woman works inside the first all-female call center in the kingdom's security sector, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia
A Saudi woman works inside the first all-female call center in the kingdom's security sector, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. VOA
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  • The seven Saudi women, almost all wearing the black niqab over their faces form the first women’s section of an emergency call center in Mecca
  • Saudi Arabia adheres to strict interpretations of Islamic law and tribal custom, requiring women to have male guardians and obey a modest dress code
  • Saudi women are present in multiple fields, so they can also be present in the security sector

Mecca, Saudi Arabia, September 1, 2017: Seven Saudi women sit in front of computer screens fielding distress calls from across Mecca ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage this week, in a first for Saudi Arabia as it tries to expand participation in the workforce.

The seven, almost all wearing the black niqab over their faces form the first women’s section of an emergency call center in the kingdom, which has begun offering more education and employment opportunities to the half of the population that has traditionally stayed at home.

The women verify a caller’s location and request, which could be related to fire, crime, illness or a traffic accident, before passing the information on to first responders.

In the conservative kingdom, that’s a big shift.

Saudi Arabia adheres to strict interpretations of Islamic law and tribal custom, requiring women to have male guardians and obey a modest dress code. They are barred from driving.

However, the Saudi government has begun introducing gradual reforms to open new job opportunities for Saudi women as part of a vision to wean the country off oil — on which it relies for more than 60 percent of its income — and transform society.

“Saudi women are present in multiple fields, so they can also be present in the security sector,” 31-year-old Baara al-Shuwaibi, who studied English at a Mecca University, told Reuters, headphones hanging over her ears.

The women all speak English and received training before starting their jobs in recent weeks. Dozens of men sit in a separate room doing the same work.

“I receive a call, check the location and send the request to the proper authority as fast as possible, especially if it’s an emergency like fire or ambulance,” Shuwaibi said.

‘Step forward’

The National Operations Center in Mecca launched two years ago, becoming the first in the kingdom to unify government response services. There are plans for similar sites in Riyadh, Medina, and the Eastern Province.

This is the first year the women’s section will operate during the hajj, which is expected to attract about two million Muslims from around the world for a week of sacred rituals starting Wednesday.

The world’s largest annual gathering of Muslims has in the past seen numerous deadly stampedes, fires, and riots, and the authorities have been preparing for months to handle any violence, disease or a crash like the one that killed hundreds in 2015.

Major General Abdel Rahman al-Saleh, who runs the operations center, said it receives around 65,000 calls each day during Hajj, 50 percent more than normal.

“We consider the women’s section a step forward to demonstrate that women can work in any place and in any field,” Saleh said.

There are plans to increase the number of women and offer them advanced training, he said.

Hassa al-Badi, who manages the women’s section and has a master’s degree from an American university, said female callers sometimes ask to speak to another woman due to the sensitivity of their request.

“Women are now present in the security sector and, God willing, they will continue to advance,” she said. (VOA)

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The Truth About The Killing Of Khashoggi Will Be Revealed By The Turkish President

Amnesty International called on Saudi Arabia to "immediately produce" Khashoggi's body so an autopsy can be performed.

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jamal Khashoggi
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, delivers a speech at supporters in Istanbul. VOA

Saudi Arabia says Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke Monday by telephone with the son of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi to express condolences for the killing.

Khashoggi died after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is vowing to reveal details about the case in a Tuesday speech to his parliament.

He told an Istanbul rally Sunday, “We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps.”

Erdogan spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone Sunday. Turkey’s state-run news agency said both leaders agree the Khashoggi case needs to be “cleared up with all aspects.”

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(FILE)- Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. VOA

Saudi Arabia called Khashoggi’s killing inside its Istanbul consulate “a huge and grave mistake” and vowed those responsible for it would be held accountable.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News Sunday that Saudi agents “did this out of the scope of their authority,” calling it “a rogue operation.”

The top Saudi diplomat offered his condolences to Khashoggi’s family, but disclosed no new information about how the writer was killed, where his body is or if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the country’s de facto ruler – was involved.

“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up,” al-Jubeir said. “That is unacceptable in any government.”

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Saudi Arabi’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. VOA

Saudi Arabia claims the 59-year-old Khashoggi was killed October 2 after an argument leading to a fist fight — an explanation that has drawn widespread international scorn and skepticism, including from Trump. After he initially seemed willing to believe Saudi accounts, the president now says “obviously there has been deception, and there has been lies.”

Al-Jubeir said in the Fox television interview, “This is an aberration. This is a mistake and those responsible will be punished for it. We want to make sure that we know what happened and we want to make sure that those responsible be held to account.” Saudi Arabia says it has fired five key officials linked to the death and arrested 18 others.

Critics are questioning how a team of 15 Saudi agents could fly to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi and eventually kill him without the crown prince’s knowledge and consent. But al-Jubeir said, “There were not people closely tied to him,” although news accounts have said that several Saudi security officials close to Mohammed were involved.

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This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and made available on Oct. 9, 2018 claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. VOA

Khashoggi was living in the U.S. in self-imposed exile, writing columns for The Washington Post that were critical of Mohammed and Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the conflict in Yemen.

Trump told the Post that Saudi Arabia has been an “incredible ally” of the United States for decades and it is possible the crown prince did not order Saudi agents to kill Khashoggi.

“Nobody has told me he is responsible. Nobody has told me he is not responsible,” the U.S. leader said. “We have not reached that point…I would love if he was not responsible.”

Numerous U.S. lawmakers, including Trump’s Republican colleagues, are calling for sanctions against the Saudis. Turkish investigators say Saudi agents tortured Khashoggi, decapitated him and then dismembered his body.

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In a frame from surveillance camera footage taken Oct. 2, 2018, and published Oct. 18, 2018, by Turkish newspaper Sabah, a man identified by Turkish officials as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, walks toward the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. VOA

Trump told the Post that “something will take place” in response to Khashoggi’s death, but said the United States should not let the incident disrupt a possible $110 billion weapons sale to Riyadh he announced last year.

“It’s the largest order in history,” Trump said. “To give that up would hurt us far more than it hurts them. Then all they’ll do is go to Russia or go to China. All that’s doing is hurting us.”

But one Trump supporter, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, told Fox “I don’t think arms should ever be seen as a jobs program.”

Other U.S. lawmakers voiced skepticism of the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death.

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN he believes Mohammed bin Salman was responsible, saying, “Yes, I think he did it.”

 

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President Donald Trump talks to reporters about journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance prior to boarding Air Force One for travel to Montana from Joint Base Andrews, Md. VOA

A Trump critic, Democratic California Congressman Adam Schiff, told ABC News, “This ought to be a relationship-altering event for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that we ought to suspend military sales, we ought to suspend certain security assistance.”

U.S. officials are faced with reconciling the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death and Turkey’s claim an audio recording exists of Khashoggi’s torture and death. Trump denies U.S. officials have heard the audio or read transcripts of it, but the Post quoted sources saying that Central Intelligence Agency officials have listened to the audio. Verification of it would make it difficult to accept the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death.

European leaders and the human rights group Amnesty International expressed skepticism about the Saudi explanation.

Britain, Germany and France issued a joint statement condemning the killing of Khashoggi and said there is an “urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened.” They said the Saudi explanation for the journalist’s death needs to be supported by facts in order to be credible.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the circumstances around Khashoggi’s death are deeply troubling, and called for a thorough, credible and transparent investigation.

Amnesty International called on Saudi Arabia to “immediately produce” Khashoggi’s body so an autopsy can be performed.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

Amnesty’s director of campaigns for the Middle East, Samah Hadid, said a United Nations investigation would be necessary to avoid a “Saudi whitewash” of the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi’s death. Hadid said such a cover-up may have been done to preserve Saudi Arabia’s international business ties. (VOA)