Ban Over Internet Calls Lifted in Saudi Arabia


The ban that Saudi Arabia had imposed on call applications has been removed. The lift over the ban will be effected from Wednesday onwards. The nation has banned Whatsaap and Skype and other similar apps as they did not comply with their “regulations.” These apps fall under the Voice over Internet Protocol ( VoIP), which the ministry of communications has finally made available to the conservative country.

Since 2011, the restrictions over the internet have increased. In 2013 the Saudi government even explained the reason for the ban stating that they wished to protect their society from negative aspects that harm public interest. They also justified the ban saying it would boost the economical conditions of the state. Reportedly, resident of Saudi Arabia found a way around the ban by using a virtual private network (VPN). But the calls faced connectivity issues often.
Saudi’s three major telecom companies will expectantly take a hit, because of the volume of international calls that are made by a population of 12 million foreigners living there. Saudi Arabia is famous for having blocked several websites and its online censorship- not just pornographic sites but also several other sites that are not supportive of Israel or their country. This is in accordance with the strategy of the crown prince, Mohmmed Bin Salman to breathe some fresh air into all sectors of the economy.
Source: BBC, Telegraph

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on internet calling apps

The Saudi Arabian administration has lifted the ban on voice calls on Skype, WhatsApp and other applications. Voice and video calling apps such as WhatsApp and Skype will be “widely available to users”, said the government in a statement on Tuesday, September 19. “Access to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship – that’s why it is such an important step in the Kingdom’s internet regulation,” said the government further. The objective of this move is to improve business confidence and encourage entrepreneurship as the kingdom transitions into a post-oil era.

The ban was justified by the Saudi Arabian administration in 2013 to “protect society from any negative aspects that could harm the public interest”.

The telecom regulator in Saudi said that residents would be able to use internet voice and video call services from midnight but some residents said that they were able to use Skype and Facetime from early Wednesday morning. Earlier many people in the country used virtual private networks (VPN) to get around the ban , although calls made through VPNs were slow and often crashed.

The lifting of the ban has come after the crown prince of Saudi, Mohammad Bin Salman, launched an ambitious national strategy to diversify the country’s economy and wean it off its dependence on oil.

The strategy, known as Vision 2030, aims at bringing up new economic sectors like tourism, entertainment and telecoms.

Sources: The Telegraph UK, Scroll

Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera on its app in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has requested Snapchat to block access to Al Jazeera’s content within its country. Al Jazeera’s news articles and videos now cannot be viewed on the app’s Discover feature.

Saudi Arabia told Snap Incorporated, that the Al Jazeera Discover Publisher Channel violated local laws. Al Jazeera’s Arabic language channel on Snapchat Discover had been available since May 2017.

On September 17, 2017 a Snapchat spokesperson in a statement said, “We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate.”

Saudi Arabia has one of the largest users for Snapchat nearing eight million. While Al Jazeera is a state funded media company of Qatar, which has been the subject of a boycott by many of the Gulf countries. The boycott was incidentally led by Saudi Arabia. One of the specific complaints against Qatar to justify the boycott was the use of Al Jazeera by the country.

Wall Street Journal was the first to report on the decision to remove the channel. According to Wall Street Journal, ‘the conflict is the latest example of a technology company being pinned in the crosshairs of geopolitics as it navigates censorship of content on its platforms.’

Sources: Al Jazeera, CNBC


Over 2 million Muslims arrive in Mecca for Hajj

Two million Muslims from around the globe have touched base in Mecca for the hajj journey. Two years after a stampede killed more than 2,000 admirers. Shia Muslims from Iran came back to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, after the greatest disaster in years.

A year ago almost 2,300 devotees along with 464 Iranis were among those killed in the stampede, prompting authorities in Tehran to condemn how Saudi Arabia organized the journey.

Despite the tension between the countries neither Iran nor its Sunni provincial adversaries want to drag this rift.The current year’s hajj journey likewise comes when the Gulf is soiled by a political emergency and ISIS keeps on battling in Iraq and Syria.

A blacklist forced on the little yet gas-rich emirate since June 5 has brought about Qatar’s territory, ocean and air to be gravely influenced.

This has likewise had a thump on the impact of hajj-related travel, in spite of the fact that Riyadh declared it was unwinding sure confinements for explorers.

Sourced from The Telegraph and The Economic Times

Woman arrested in Saudi Arabia for wearing miniskirt in Snapchat video

A Saudi woman has been arrested by Saudi police after a Snapchat video of her walking around in public dressed in a miniskirt and crop-top emerged on social media. The woman’s attire goes against the strict Islamic dress code which is enforced upon women of the country.

In the video, which has since gone viral, the woman can be seen walking through a historic fort located in the desert region of Najd, which is often considered to be one of Saudi Arabia’s most conservative areas.

The video evoked significant response on social media and the internet. It sparked the creation of a Twitter hashtag that demanded her arrest, with several people claiming she openly disobeyed Saudi rules, which require all women residing in Saudi Arabia, including foreigners, to wear abayas in public. The abaya is a loose, robe-like over-garment that usually covers a large part of the body. Many women in Saudi also wear a headscarf and veil that covers the face.

Social media is very popular in the country and is used as a space to vent frustrations and gauge public opinion. The protest against the video and the opinions on the woman’s subsequent arrest reveal how deep-rooted and widespread conservative views are, in spite of several recent moves by Saudi Arabia to modernize and get rid of rules that do not belong in contemporary society.

Sources: Washington Post, Glamour

Qatar receives list of demands from GCC to end crisis

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have sent a series of demands to Qatar which it must meet in order to lift the current sanctions placed.

 The list, submitted by an undisclosed official, has come through one of the countries that severed ties with Qatar. The list comprises 13 demands, primary ones including that Qatar shut down its Al Jazeera Network, sever alleged ties with Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and ISIS, scale down diplomatic ties with Iran and shut down a Turkish military base in the country.

 The provisions related to Qatar’s Shiite neighbour Iran additionally demanded that they remove any member from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, trade and commerce is to only be conducted by complying with the US’s sanctions.

 The country has been given 10 days to accept the demands including paying a sum of money, and if it complies, will be audited in the beginning of every month, every quarter from the second year and then annually for the next ten years.

 The list of 13 demands can be found here:  Al Jazeera 

 Qatar is facing one of the worst political crisis in years, after UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with it alleging that it was funding terrorism. It has however denied all allegations of funding terror.

Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC and CNBC

Saudi Arabia replaces nephew with son as kingdom’s new Crown Prince 

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, removed his 57-year old nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, who was next in line to the throne. The King replaced him with his son, Mohammed bin Salman, as the heir. This major reshuffle was announced early on Wednesday.

According to the royal decree issued by the Saudi Press Agency, the newly appointed Crown Prince, who is currently Saudi’s Defence Minister, is also named as the deputy Prime Minister. The decree also stated that the former Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, is fired from his Interior Minister post. Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef is appointed as the new Interior Minister.

The members of the Allegiance-Pledge Commission voted 31 of 34 in the favour of making Mohammed bin Salman the Crown Prince, according to al-Arabiya channel.

According to media reports, the former Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, failed to play an important role in isolating Qatar. He was also slipping away from the public eye. Whereas, the new Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, took major overseas visits including his trip to the United States to meet President Donald Trump in March this year. Mohammed bin Salman, is also overseeing Saudi’s oil company and working to revamp the nation’s economy, reported the New York Times.

As the Defence Minister, the Crown Prince, is responsible for Saudi’s military intervention in Yemen. The Kingdom is leading a coalition of Arab allies and has bombed campaigns aimed at pushing Houthi rebels from Sana’a and is also working to restore the government in Yemen.

The new Prince is also taken a hard line in dealing with Iran. He said, “Dialogue with Shiite power is impossible because it seeks to take control of the Islamic world.”

News Source- The New York Times, Saudi Press Agency, al-Arabiya, Al-Jazeera

Image Source: Reuters