1. "Teachers object to book showing Jewish children" (Khaleej Times, March 29, 2005)
2. "Staff accuse Saudi hospital of maltreating aids patients" (By Essam Al-Ghalib, The Media Line, March 28, 2005)
[Note by Tom Gross]
In Dubai, teachers and parents are complaining about a textbook ("Friends Forever") that shows a photograph of two Jewish children playing.
Dr Obaid Butti Al Mohiri, the Director of Curriculums Center at the Ministry of Education in Dubai, yesterday said he would order the withdrawal of the book for primary Class I of the Dubai International School if the complaints raised [about the photograph] were found genuine.
According to an article today in The Khaleej Times (a newspaper published in the United Arab Emirates, and which I attach below), it seems that the censors in Dubai check every book for signs of Jews and other transgressions. The article states that the staff employed to check schoolbooks claim they are overworked and cannot check every book, and they need to employ more people for this task.
The Khaleej Times does not explain why it would be wrong to show Jewish children as normal and illustrate that they can be "Friends Forever" just like Arab children.
I also attach another article dealing with life in the Gulf, in which it is revealed that non-Saudi HIV and AIDS patients are being treated in a manner that, according to Saudi hospital staff, worsens their condition and contributes to their death.
-- Tom Gross
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Journalist and Mideast commentator
Teachers object to book showing Jewish children
By Mohsen Rashid
March 29, 2005
Education authorities here have promised to review a book taught in an international private school that features a photograph of two Jewish children sporting plaited hair and yarmulke.
Dr Obaid Butti Al Mohiri, the Director of Curriculums Centre at the Ministry of Education, said he would order the withdrawal of the book for primary Class I of the Dubai International School if the complaints raised were found genuine.
Several teachers of the school telephoned Khaleej Times, complaining against the picture, captioned "We play together; we stick together", featured in the book Friends Forever. The teachers said that of all the pictures in the book, the students reacted sharply to only this picture.
When approached, the Educational Zone took the stand that its role was only mediating between private schools and the Curriculum Centre. The zone receives textbooks from the schools and sends them to the centre for scrutiny.
A source in the school said that these books were imported from outside the country and had not been reviewed.
When contacted, Dr Mohiri expressed anger that the matter was brought to him. "What should we do when we do not have enough staff to review textbooks in more than 400 schools countrywide?"
Dr Mohiri said he had been suggesting for two years to hire adequate staff, but his plea has remained unanswered. "We lack staff to follow up these books at schools as well as compel schools to send these books before distributing them to students," he said.
"What we could only do a year ago was to ask all school managements to review and check these books and submit a written undertaking along with copies of these books to the ministry that they had done so," he recalled.
Dr Mohiri said the ministry had set standards and rule to be adhered to when checking the books. In the event of sighting any violation, the school would be held responsible and the books withdrawn, he said. "Most such violations were discovered by parents, who in turn, notify us."
STAFF ACCUSE SAUDI HOSPITAL OF MALTREATING AIDS PATIENTS
Staff accuse Saudi hospial of maltreating AIDS patients
By Essam Al-Ghalib
The Media Line
March 28, 2005
An investigation into King Saud Hospital for Contagious Diseases here has revealed that non-Saudi HIV and AIDS patients are being treated in a manner that, according to hospital staff, worsens their condition and contributes to their death.
According to medical staff at the hospital, life-prolonging anti-viral medication is withheld from non-Saudi patients there, a practice that one doctor says allows the HIV virus to spread unchallenged. According to sources at the hospital, only Saudis are given these medicines because of their high cost, over SR5,000 (approx. $1,330) for one month’s supply.
"We have all sat and watched patients die a slow death. That is the nature of the disease. The length of our lives is of course pre-ordained by Allah, but we can improve the quality of our patients' lives if we had the proper funding for the medication they desperately need. When it is time for them to expire, they are left to die. In other hospitals they have intensive care units, they have EKG machines, resuscitation paddles, they have proper facilities. Here we have nothing. There is nothing more we can do for a person other than CPR in the event that their heart stops," said one doctor.
"There are no heart monitors here, nor any kidney dialysis machines. There is no 'Code Blue' protocol, which is a special alert to hospital emergency response teams that a patient has gone into cardiac arrest. In fact there are no emergency response teams here at all," he added.
A walk through the male deportation ward revealed that patients are either locked in their rooms or chained to their beds. The doctor described how patients would have to relieve themselves in bed when their calls for help went unanswered throughout the night. "I would come in for the morning shift and find patients lying in their own urine. They said they called out for the nurses for several hours overnight but no one came. After a while some of them started sleeping with empty plastic bottles by their bedside so that they can urinate," he said.
According to the doctor, the Saudi patients that are chained to their bed are under criminal indictment or serving out part of their sentence at the hospital. "This is a government hospital that deals with several Interior Ministry branches such as the police, and the Department of Passports and Immigration," he said.
There is a manned police substation on the property. One policeman could be seen seated on the lawn watching the entrance to the building. The hospital recently hired private security guards after a Pakistani man infected with tuberculosis and HIV escaped. The police arrested him four days later. The doctor said, "He left because he wanted to be with his family."
The male ward at King Saud Hospital is in a single story building where patients are under constant lock and key. There were 14 patients in the ward on this particular day, two Saudis and 12 expatriates. In room 712, six men are housed. Isma'il is the youngest one there. He is a 20-year-old man who hails from Myanmar. He has been dreading his deportation for over a year. He said: "It's very cramped here and we don’t get out much, but what can I do? I can't leave. All I can do is sit here and hope I don't get deported. In my country I may be killed, so I consider this a blessing."
When asked if this young man was given any anti-viral medication during his time at King Saud, the doctor said, "No. He will have to wait until he gets to his own country. It could be a very long time though, but I don't see him staying here for more than three years. A solution has to be found.
"His case is a special case because it doesn't seem like anyone will be coming for him. He will probably be here indefinitely because Myanmar doesn’t have an embassy or consulate here in Saudi," the doctor added.
According to medical staff at the hospital, the Philippines Consulate is the quickest to act when its citizens are diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. Deportation of their subjects does not normally take longer than a month, but in the case of Yemen, it often takes longer than a year.
Agnes Gaffud, an assistant to nationals officer with the Philippines Consulate in Jedda said: "Saudi Arabia wants foreigners, including Filipinos, to be treated in their own countries. We are required to arrange for the deportation of our citizens who are HIV positive as soon as possible so that their treatment can begin in the Philippines. Unfortunately, here the anti-viral medicines are reserved only for Saudi citizens."
A doctor at the hospital confirmed what Gaffud said. "Saudis are the only ones who receive the anti-virals. The cost is over SR5,000 a month and the Ministry of Health has dictated that these medicines only be provided for Saudis. Of course we give the expatriates simple, sometimes over-the-counter medicines to help them cope with some of the symptoms. If they have a headache for example, we give them a paracetamol. We just try to make them as comfortable as possible," he said.
"I don't know if an actual study has been done, but in my estimate I would say a three-month course can increase a patient's life by three to five years, because the anti-virals help stop the HIV virus from multiplying in the patient and becoming full-blown AIDS," he explained.
Dr. Sanaa Felimban is the medical director of King Saud Hospital, the first woman to hold such a position in Saudi Arabia. Dr. 'Abd Al-'Aziz Abalsaud, a doctor at the hospital explained that in his opinion, the problem is not with the hospital director or the medical staff.
He said: "Dr. Sanaa inherited a problem when she was assigned to this hospital. Things have improved over the past six months, but there is only so much she can do. In the past, the solution has been to fire a doctor or two, but that doesn't change anything, in fact it impacts the patients negatively."
Dr. Abalsaud described how patients come to view certain members of the medical staff as family. "When a patient is here for a prolonged period of time, he builds a relationship with the medical staff. When they get reassigned for whatever reason, it serves as a blow to the patients' morale," he explained.
Saudi health authorities last November reported an increase in the kingdom's AIDS cases from 6,787 to 7,808 during the prior twelve-month period. Na'sir Bin 'Salih Al-Khuzeim, head of the state-run Health Control Center, said at the time that 1,743 of those suffering from AIDS were Saudis, 588 of whom have since died as a result of the virus. There are no statistics available on the number of expatriates that have succumbed to the disease prior to deportation.