JEDDAH: Pre-marital addiction tests have become a public demand in Saudi Arabia after two homicides committed by men against their young wives in August.
The Saudi Public Prosecution announced the arrest of the perpetrators, adding that the necessary legal actions were taken against them.
But these incidents have sparked discussions across different social media platforms in the Kingdom, with many people calling for compulsory pre-marital addiction tests and psychological evaluations of the mental health of both potential spouses.
Saudi authorities already require pre-marital screening for couples to detect common genetic blood disorders and infectious diseases.
However, calls to expand pre-marital testing to include psychological evaluations are nothing new, with many people arguing that their inclusion would be a successful way to tackle addiction and protect the family unit.
The most recent action to expand the pre-marital testing program was taken within the Kingdom’s Shoura Council in 2019, where some members proposed the inclusion of addiction tests, as well as tests for disorders and mental illnesses.
The proposal was denied because it did not receive enough supporting votes. The objection was supported by some specialists, who said that such tests have low accuracy and are prohibitively expensive.
Nonetheless, drug tests are already required in the case of non-Saudi men marrying Saudi women. Some specialists are now calling to include that requirement in overall pre-marital tests for both Saudis and non-Saudis, and both men and women.
Suzan Abdulsalam Khalil, a psychologist working with the protection unit against domestic violence in Jeddah, strongly supports pre-marital drug testing to detect addiction.
According to Khalil, this change will lead to the early detection of abusers and addicts. “It will protect young women from unknowingly getting married to an addict or mentally ill man, which would be a traumatizing experience for them and harms both parties, but most importantly the woman. Moreover, the situation worsens when there are children involved,” she told Arab News.
From her experience at the protection unit, Khalil has witnessed the devastating impact of a drug-addicted parent on children within the family.
“The behavior of drug users varies greatly before and after they take their dose, and unfortunately, this unstable situation badly affects the children and the family as a whole,” she said. “The psychological evaluation of children of an addict parent is always bad. We also find physical violence marks sometimes, traces of injuries, and bruises on their bodies, and sometimes we refer them to psychiatric hospitals.”
Khalil believes that expanding pre-marital testing is a necessary step in building a healthy society. It will significantly impact divorce and domestic violence rates and will also force addicts to receive treatment and professional help, she said.
She added that women’s reactions to being married to an addict can differ. Some choose divorce, while others try to be patient. But this can result in living an unstable life that includes physical or emotional abuse, which will eventually have an extremely negative impact on children, she said.
• Saudi authorities already require pre-marital screening for couples to detect common genetic blood disorders and infectious diseases.
• The program aims to give medical consultations on the potential transmitting of disorders to future children, and looks to provide couples with options that help them plan for a healthy family.
• However, calls to expand pre-marital testing to include psychological evaluations are nothing new, with many people arguing that their inclusion would be a successful way to tackle addiction and protect the family unit.
Various factors contribute to this complicated situation; however, the social stigma and shame attached to addiction and mental illness leads to negative social norms.
As a result, people with substance use disorder, and sometimes their families, tend to hide the reality behind their situation when it comes to marriage.
Furthermore, lack of awareness about the seriousness of mental health issues contributes to the continuation of unhealthy marriages and damaging social behaviors when dealing with mentally ill members of society.
Therefore, experts say that an action plan to spread awareness and change the culture is urgently needed.
Khalil said that parents, before agreeing to marry their daughter to a proposing man, usually try to investigate the man’s background, manners and moral standards within his work environment and friendship circles.
“But on the other hand, no one ever considers asking about the man’s mental health status or whether he has been diagnosed with a mental illness at any hospital,” she said.
The discussion surrounding an expansion of pre-marital screening highlights a more significant issue for marriage counselor and family therapist Abdulhakim Al-Yousef.
He believes that the real issue underlying the public debate is not whether or not to enforce addiction testing of couples before marriage, but the problematic idea of the possibility of entering a marital relationship with someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
“It is rather more related to the many details that addicts to alcohol or drugs should be aware of, including those close to them,” Al-Yousef told Arab News. “It is important to understand that arriving at the phase of addiction is entering a state of mental illness that requires medical treatment and professional help, therefore entering a marital relationship at this phase is a very serious problem.”
He noted that addiction treatment requires patient admission to a rehab facility to receive appropriate treatment programs for their situation and recovery. It consists of several stages that need commitment, willingness, patience and family support.
He said: “Addiction treatment is a very sensitive matter that cannot happen without medical intervention, supervision and therapy. Marriage is never a solution to such a problem. When one of the spouses is an addict, the other partner cannot take responsibility for his or her treatment.”
Furthermore, the family therapist emphasized that quitting any form of substance abuse after completing the treatment program is not the end of the story, because recovering from an addiction is a lifelong journey. “Once a recovering addict returns to drug use at any later stage in his life, even with a small amount, he will return to point zero,” he warned.
In addition to medical treatment, patients also need cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy sessions to establish a healthier relationship with themselves, their families and the world around them.
As a result, living with a recovering partner is not easy by itself. Therefore, starting a relationship with someone still actively consuming drugs or alcohol is a disastrous mistake, Al-Yousef warned. He places a strong emphasis on transparency between couples before marriage; they must be honest about details related to their backgrounds, personalities, health history and any other aspect that could impact their relationship in the future.
“Getting into a relationship without revealing these details will lead to other multifaceted problems,” he said, noting adding mental illnesses must not be treated as “hidden, dark secrets” between couples. “Surely, every person has the right to have a family and to enjoy a healthy relationship, but that is not possible for addicts unless they break free from addiction under specialist supervision and support,” he said.
For Al-Yousef, addiction detection tests might not directly impact divorce rates and domestic violence rates since several factors contribute to these phenomena.
Nonetheless, if applied, he counts on these tests to raise public awareness about drug and alcohol abuse, and to create momentum in the national mental health sector in the long run.
MAKKAH: During the past few decades the transport sector in Makkah has overcome major challenges by implementing innovative ideas and technology, transforming the landscape of the city.
Dr. Samir Barqa, a researcher specializing in the history of Makkah, said that after God ordered the Prophet Ibrahim to perform pilgrimage, visitors began arriving by foot, horse and camel.
“Transport has evolved over time. People used to walk for months to reach Makkah, with a lot of them dying on the way. Then people started using camels, also known as ships of the desert. Then ‘howdas’ were invented to carry women and the Kiswa to cover the Kaaba. Caravans used to travel by the thousands. Pilgrimage paths and the Zubaidah trail are clear examples of this movement, with camel passageways bearing witness to the importance of these routes,” he said.
Transport underwent a huge revolution after the discovery of oil, leading to the use of cars, buses, aircraft and trains.
“Those who will look at the images of transportation today will see a clear difference and remarkable development, especially in the past 100 years. I had the honor, being a guide serving the pilgrims, to hold an exhibition highlighting the development of Hajj over time. The exhibition included a special pavilion for transport featuring images that showcase the development of this service over time,” Barqa said.
Saad Al-Qurashi, an investor in the transport sector in Makkah, said that transport in Makkah had gone through a major revolution.
Al-Qurashi explained that “whoever examines the transport movement in Makkah cannot but note the importance of the great development that this city has witnessed, a city that receives millions of Muslims from all over the world. The Kingdom was able to overcome this major challenge by launching Makkah buses of the highest standards. We have also the Haramain train, the Holy Sites train and public shuttle-bus transportation, all of which contribute to serving visitors and pilgrims.”
Al-Qurashi said that Makkah differs from other cities because of its difficult topography, which in the past had made the task of cutting the mountains to facilitate access to the central area around the Grand Mosque a major challenge.
He said that the “most important feature of this challenge was the ability of the country to turn the ruggedness of the mountains into tunnels that linked all regions of Makkah.”
These mountains, with their height and structure, constitute a natural barrier and an obstacle to reaching the opposite side of the mountain except by circumventing them; an exhausting, daunting and time-consuming task.
Government agencies searched for innovative ways, methods and solutions to overcome this challenge, resulting in the idea of building tunnels within the mountains.
Al-Qurashi said: “The public bus-shuttle transportation project, implemented three decades ago in the Holy Sites, contributed to ending traffic caused by normal transport systems.”
Makkah is now taking on the challenge to become a smart city with modern technical applications to create an advanced transportation system to further organize traffic movement.
JEDDAH: The Layali Ramadan (Ramadan Nights) festival is the first Ramadan event to be organized post the coronavirus disease pandemic in Jeddah.
Held at Al-Tayebat International City of Science and Knowledge, one of Jeddah’s iconic destinations, the festival has received more than 8,000 visitors since it launched on the first day of Ramadan.
The festival features traditional performances of Al-Musaharati, historical figures who would beat drums to wake people for sahoor; Al-Jissees Hijazi folklore singers; Kariman Al-Ghamdi, who presents the customs of Hijazi weddings; and every Thursday and Friday, there are themed henna nights.
Within Al-Tayebat’s complex is Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum — one of the largest museums in the Middle East — that houses numerous historic and cultural artifacts.
“Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum was chosen to simulate old Jeddah,” TV producer and event organizer Abdulrahman Al-Rifai told Arab News.
“It contains 365 rooms that simulate all Arab, Islamic, European and Greek history, the first, second and third Saudi states; 15 pavilions, and five lanes of Jeddah’s avenues, including Bab Makkah, Haret Al-Sham, Haret Al-Yemen,” he added.
“The museum is very large — it takes five to six days to see it in its entirety.”
Members from the Social Development Bank, which provides financial assistance to individuals and families, and Tarahom, a charitable organization that supports prisoners and their families, also put up stalls at the festival.
Ismail Hamada, owner of Hamada Bakery, said: “It is excellent, after the repercussions of the pandemic, (that) this museum organized the festival.”
Fayza Al-Madhoon, owner of Fayza Fruits, said the museum’s atmosphere is unique. “The festival is wonderful; the museum for me holds very beautiful memories from childhood,” she told Arab News.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister met with the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly on Sunday.
During the meeting, Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Gressly reviewed ways of enhancing joint coordination between the Kingdom and the UN to support regional and international efforts aimed at achieving growth and prosperity for the Yemeni people.
They also discussed joint efforts to support ways to reach a comprehensive political solution to the crisis in Yemen.
The meeting was attended by US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking and the Kingdom’s ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia was recently elected chair of the 25th session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development, a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Council. The Kingdom was represented by Director-General of International Affairs of the Communications and Information Technology Commission Eng. Mansour Al-Qurashi.
The session was held between March 28 and April 1 at the UN headquarters in Geneva.
This achievement reflects the Kingdom’s active participation in international organizations, its contributions to strengthening the digital infrastructure of developing countries, its pioneering role in the field of communications and information technology in the region and its advanced ranking among G20 countries in terms of market capitalization.
During the session, which was held in the presence of many high-level officials, the participants reviewed topics including the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how to harness science, technology and innovation for sustainable civilized development in the post-pandemic world. They further reviewed the progress made in implementing the objectives of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels.
The CSTD, which includes 43 countries, was established in 1992 to offer advice to the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. The commission advises on issues related to science and technology and their effects on development, advancing their policies in developing countries and formulating recommendations and guidelines in this regard within the UN.
The commission is also responsible for the periodic follow-up on the implementation of the objectives of the WSIS.
Saudi Arabia’s nomination to chair the CSTD for the first time since 1992 strengthens the Kingdom’s leading international and regional position in terms of the commission’s work.
JEDDAH: Dust engulfed most regions of the Kingdom on Sunday, as active winds affected visibility and lifted sand into Saudi cities in the north, east and center of the country, with thunderclouds in the southwest.
The continuing impact of dust on the east and center was accompanied by a decrease in minimum temperatures, while dust-inducing surface winds remained active in parts of the north, with a chance of thunderclouds forming over the southwestern heights of Jazan and Asir.
In today’s report, the National Center for Meteorology expected the continuation of the impact of raised dust levels on the eastern and central regions of the Kingdom, accompanied by a decrease in minimum temperatures.
In the central region, surface wind movement is northwestwards, gradually turning west, at a speed of 10-30 km per hour.
Surface winds are also active in the northern parts of the Kingdom, as the NCM issued a warning for Tabuk, with low visibility over the city until 7 p.m.
Surface wind movement on the Red Sea is southwesterly, gradually shifting west at a speed of 10-30 km per hour over the northern part.
According to forecasts, dusty winds will shroud the Jizan and Asir heights, with a chance of thunderclouds in the southwest.
The dust storm in Jizan today reduced the range of visibility, which will last until 6 p.m.
In the south, surface winds are traveling from the southeast to the southwest at 25-45 km per hour.
In the western region, the NCM issued an alert regarding the presence of raised dust and a decrease in the range of visibility on Madinah and its provinces, including Badr, Mahd Al-Thahab, and Al-Henakiyah.
Indications for the center of the Kingdom are that poor weather conditions will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m.
The Saudi Ministry of Health posted on its official Twitter account that dust allergy is a reaction of the body to the microbes present in the atmosphere that may cause chronic sinusitis or severe asthma attacks.
The ministry said that the exposure of some individuals to heavy dust winds might require emergency medical care.
It also advised people to ensure the cleanliness of their homes from the effects of the sandy weather, especially bedrooms, duvets, and mattresses.