SAUDI ARABIA

Escaping poverty by suicide is prevalent in Saudi Arabia

A video has emerged on the Internet that points the finger at a taboo subject in Saudi Arabia: citizens of this rich oil nation killing themselves to escape their miserable existence.

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A man hanging from a balcony in Saudi Arabia. Video posted on youtube bytradalasmar.

 

A video has emerged on the Internet that points the finger at a taboo subject in Saudi Arabia: citizens of this rich oil nation killing themselves to escape their miserable existence.

 

The Saudi authorities prefer to blame psychological problems or a lack of piety for the suicides. But several newspapers dare to expose the real reasons for this drastic action. One hundred such articles have been gathered on the blog of our Observer.

 

Warning:  these images may be considered disturbing.

 

'In the fight against poverty, Saudi Arabia lacks ideas, not money'

Trad Al Asmari is a Saudi blogger and human rights activist. He has recorded a short film on poverty in Saudi Arabia and last year received the "public RSF prize" in the “Best of Blogs” competition.

 

In our society, we often say that had the person who committed suicide been a true believer, s/he would never have done that. I do not subscribe to this explanation. I believe we need to speak urgently about this problem on which the politicians remain silent. In Saudi Arabia, there are no reliable statistics on the number of unemployed or people who live below the poverty line.

 

In Saudi Arabia, it is the Social Affairs Ministry which deals with poverty. Unfortunately, the help that they are giving is no greater than 700 or 800 riyals per person [about 150 euros] and this is only given to families which have absolutely no other means. Cases of suicide are more common amongst low-paid civil servants who earn 1,000-1,200 riyals [180-200 euros]. That is the salary of a police officer, for example, of whom there are 100,000. This is ridiculous in a country in which the cost of a medical appointment is 500 riyals! Furthermore, Saudi households consist of an average of 7-8 people surviving on only one salary. On top of that, factor in rent, as official statistics reveal that 65% of Saudis are not home owners. The concept of a minimum wage does not exist in my country because of a substantial amount of foreign workers who live here - nearly 9 million.

 

'It would have been very difficult for me a few years ago to talk freely about the subject on my blog'

 

The Saudi Minister of Social Affairs once declared that in the fight against poverty what Saudi Arabia lacked was ideas, not money. I think it is true. I believe that the problem of poverty is as much a social problem as it is an economic one. We have to find a model suitable for Saudi society, regardless of the solutions used in other countries. Opening up the possibility for women to work would be one of the solutions; that way, the responsibility for a family would not just fall on the father.

 

I set up a focus group called “National Intellectual Solidarity Initiative” to discuss ideas to combat poverty. There is a new wind blowing in Saudi Arabia which encourages intellectuals to work towards social reform. It would have been very difficult for me a few years ago to talk freely about the subject on my blog."