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Tue 2 Oct 2007 07:14 PM

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Charity appeals for funds to help Saudis in need

Awasser needs $2.7mn if it is to continue with mission of looking after nationals living abroad.

It is hard to imagine Saudi nationals facing extreme poverty in this era of economic boom and by high oil prices, but it seems a significant proportion of its citizens living abroad live in very impoverished conditions, according to a Saudi charity.

Awasser, which looks after the welfare of Saudi families abroad, has reached out to the media for support to help 3,000 Saudi families living in poverty in places like Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and East Asia.  

Abdullah Al-Hamoud, Chairman of Awasser, told Al-Eqtisadiah daily that unless the charity receives additional funding it will not be able to carry on with its mission.

Awasser receives one million Saudi riyals ($267,000) from the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs each year, in addition to Zakah and other donations from Saudi businessmen and philanthropists.

However, Al-Hamoud said the ministry needs to pay at least 10 million riyals if the charity is to continue, and this figure is still well below the 50 million riyals required to fully support those families in need.

Most of the families abroad are believed to be victims of unlawful marriages, Al-Hamoud said.

The government protects the rights of children from marriages between Saudi men and non-Saudi women if it is legal, but the problems arise when the marriage is illegal, he said.

Al-Hamoud has warned on many occasions and several newspapers about the ongoing illegitimate and unlawful marriages that take place abroad.

Some Saudis marry Arab women under weak forms of contractual bond while other marry women without getting prior-permission of the Ministry of Interior, which demands Saudis to obtain an official licence and approval when marrying abroad.

In countries like Egypt, Syria and Morocco, where most of Saudi males prefer to spend their holidays, it is easy for Saudis to marry locals without firm marriage contracts, Al-Hamoud said.

Most of these marriages are known as “Ourfi” marriages, which stands for acknowledged marriages.  

But even if a marriage is legal there might be another problem in that many Saudis do not want to bring their foreign wives to the kingdom, Al-Hamoud said.

“They prefer keeping them outside the kingdom and frequently fly abroad to visit them,” he said, quoted Saudi daily Arab News.

During its two years of operation Awasser has been able to prevent a Saudi woman from working in a nightclub in an Arab capital and provide a monthly salary and housing for her and her three children.

Awasser has also been successful in bringing together eight Saudi families in Egypt, four in Lebanon and one in Sweden.

It has also provided housing and health care for some families in three other countries.

Awasser hopes to open offices in a number of foreign countries in order to meet the social, educational and economic requirements of Saudi families and individuals in those countries.

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