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[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

For many young Saudis, life is all about their apps.


They don't have free speech, so they debate on "Twitter.


They can't flirt at the mall, so they do it on WhatsApp and


Snapchat. Since women are banned from driving, they get rides from car


services like Uber and Careem. And in a country where shops close for


Muslim prayers five times a day, there are apps that not only issue a


call to prayer from your pocket but also calculate whether you can


reach, say, the nearest Dunkin' Donuts before it shuts.


Confronted with an austere version of Islam and rigid social codes


that sharply restrict their lives, young people in Saudi Arabia are


increasingly relying on social media to express themselves, make money,


and even meet potential spouses.


Many of the country's 31 million people, in fact, have


multiple smartphones and spend hours online each day. This explosion of


digital communication has been revolutionary because it's taking


place in one of the world's most tradition-bound places.


"On one level, it looks like any modern city," says Janet


Breslin Smith, who lived in the capital, Riyadh, for five years when her


husband was the U.S. ambassador. "But as your eyes gaze down to


people walking, it almost takes you back to biblical times. People are


dressed as they have for thousands of years."


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]


One of the most powerful nations in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia


is an important U.S. ally in the region. Its influence comes from two


factors: It has more than 25 percent of the world's known oil


reserves; and it's the birthplace of Islam and the guardian of its


two most sacred sites, in Mecca and Medina.


A strict fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism

governs all aspects of life, with the Koran and the teachings of the

Prophet Muhammad effectively serving as a constitution.

Unrelated men and women are completely segregated from one another.


Girls and boys attend separate schools, and separate classes in college.


Females must wear black head-to-toe coverings called abayas in public


once they hit puberty. When they go out, they must be accompanied by a


male relative. Religious police zealously enforce these rules, arresting


and sometimes flogging violators.


Some Freedom on Twitter


The nation is a near-absolute monarchy led by King Salman, a member


of the Al Saud family that has ruled Saudi Arabia since 1932. A push for


reform resulted in local council elections being held for the first time


in 2005, but the councils are largely symbolic and have no real power.


Women, who in recent years have been pushing for basic rights like


driving, will be allowed to vote in local elections this month (see


"A Push for Women's Rights," p. 10).


But it's technology rather than political reform that's


rocking the conservative culture of Saudi Arabia.


The nation has the ideal conditions for a social media boom: speedy


Internet, disposable income from oil wealth, and a youthful


population--more than half of Saudis are under age 30--with few social


options. Unlike China and Iran, Saudi Arabia hasn't blocked sites


like Facebook and Twitter, although it doesn't tolerate commentary


against the government or Islam. The Saudi monarchy appears to have


decided that the benefits of social media as an outlet for young people


outweigh the risk that it will be used to mobilize political opposition.


For now, some of the biggest changes brought by technology have


been in how young Saudis find a spouse. In a society where dating--or


even friendship between boys and girls--is forbidden, marriages have


long been arranged by families. In fact, most Saudi girls have


traditionally met their husbands for the first time when they became


engaged. Now, social media is enabling romance to spring up without


violating traditions outright.


When Raqad Alabdali, a conservative 22-year-old from a Riyadh


suburb, made some melancholy posts on Twitter not long ago, a man she


didn't know responded to her with a private message. They were soon


messaging constantly.


"He kept checking on me to make sure I wasn't sad

anymore, and then we tweeted with each other daily," she says.

They exchanged phone numbers for an occasional call, and she


eventually sent him a photo of herself unveiled, in a white dress with


bare shoulders and eye makeup on her face. He said he wanted to marry


her, so his mother called hers. The couple is planning a family meeting


to make then-engagement formal, Alabdali says. It will be their first


time in the same room.


"I don't have any doubt that he'll marry me or is


serious about me," she says. Why so sure? Her older brother and his


wife met on Facebook.


'A Window to the Outside World'


The boom in social media has also created opportunities for young


Saudi entrepreneurs. Ali Kalthami is in charge of content for a company


called Telfazll, which produces comedy videos for YouTube. The company


now employs more than 30 people and has branched out into commercials,


games, and talent management for its actors.


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]


"A lot of people are stuck to their phones--and really bored,


" says Kalthami.


In a country where movie theaters are banned, YouTube and Internet


streaming have provided an escape from the censors and a way to see


what's going on beyond Saudi Arabia's borders.


"Everything to do with technology is a window to the outside


world," says Hoda Abdulrahman al-Helaissi, a female member of the


Shura Council, an advisory body appointed by the king.


But technology hasn't brought Westernstyle liberalization.


Many young Saudis remain committed to and proud of their culture, and


religious conservatives use social media as adeptly as liberals.


And the power of social media is limited in a society lacking


political rights. The Saudi monarchy takes a hard line against dissent,


doling out punishments viewed as barbaric in the democratic world. For


participating in antigovernment protests three years ago, Ali al-Nimr,


20, was sentenced to a public beheading. Raif Badawi, a young blogger


who called for women's rights and freedom of speech, is serving 10


years behind bars; he's also been sentenced to a flogging of 1,000


lashes.


But most young Saudis are challenging the status quo in more subtle


ways. For Haya al-Fahad, 27, social media has become her livelihood. She


quit her first job after graduating from college because one-third of


her pay went to the driver she needed to get to and from work.


She now works from home, making bracelets she sells online. That


gives her more time to manage her three Facebook pages, three Instagram


accounts, and two Twitter feeds.


"This is my identity," she says, waving her smartphone.


"I don't know how people survived 10 years ago without


it."


Ben Hubbard covers the Middle East for The New York Times;


additional reporting by Patricia Smith.


Saudi Arabia BY THE NUMBERS


51 million


Number of cellphone subscriptions; the country's population is


31 million.


46%


Percentage of the population under age 25, compared with 32 percent


in the U.S.


10%


Unemployment rate, compared with 5 percent in the U.S.


2.4 million


Number of Twitter users-- 40 percent of the total in the Middle


East.


SOURCES: SAUDI ARABIA'S COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION


TECHNOLOGY COMMISSION; POPULATION REFERENCE BUREAU; STATISTA; BBC


RELATED ARTICLE: A push for women's rights.


Women will vote for the first time this month, but what they really


want is to get behind the wheel


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]


On paper, it looks like a sea change for women's rights in


Saudi Arabia: For the first time ever, women will be allowed to vote in


municipal elections Best Insulated Water Bottles this month.


But in reality, experts say, it probably won't make much


difference. For starters, municipal elections in Saudi Arabia


aren't very important since local elected officials have little


power.


And even if the elections mattered more, many women won't be


able to register to vote or get to the polls in a nation where


they're not allowed to drive.


Despite small steps forward, Saudi women are still denied basic


rights that women in other countries take for granted. Under the Saudi


interpretation of Islamic law, a woman's testimony in court


doesn't carry the same weight as a man's. Saudi women need


written permission from a male relative to enroll at a university, to


marry, to have medical procedures, and to leave the country or even


apply for a passport.


"For the entire course of your life, you have to have a man to


give you permission to do basic aspects of your life," says Rothna


Begum, a Saudi Arabia expert at Human Rights Watch in London.


This system affects all aspects of life--and severely limits the


impact of any political reforms. For example, the government has said


that women may run in the municipal elections, but they can't


interact with unrelated men. How can they run for office without


speaking to potential voters?


It's the ban on driving that's troubled Saudi women the


most and drawn the most attention worldwide. Saudi Arabia is the only


country in the world that prohibits women from driving. The


kingdom's ultraconservative clerics say allowing women to drive


would promote "licentiousness." Several years ago, Saudi


activists launched a campaign to lift the ban: Women got behind the


wheel and posted videos of themselves driving as a protest.


Last year, a royal advisory council recommended lifting the


ban--though only for women over 30 who have permission from a male


relative to drive. So far, no action has been taken.


But there's evidence that younger Saudi women are finding


other ways to assert themselves. Excluded from an all-male convention of


computer gamers in Riyadh, a bunch of 20-something Saudi women organized


their own computer gaming convention in 2012. It has drawn 3,000 women


annually.


--Patricia Smith


LESSON PLAN 1: close reading


INTERNATIONAL PAGES 8-11


Lexile level: 1175L


Lower Lexile level (available online): 980L


Social Arabia


A social media boom is rocking the conservative culture of Saudi


Arabia by allowing young people to mingle, find spouses, and express


themselves without violating strict religious and social codes.


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]


Before Reading


1 List Vocabulary: Share with students the challenging general and


domain-specific vocabulary in this article. Encourage them to use


context clues to infer meanings as they read and to later verify those


inferences by consulting a dictionary. If desired, distribute or project


the Word Watch activity to guide students through this process.


2 Engage: Ask students to describe how they use social media and to


name other countries where they think social media use is popular. Ask


whether they'd include Saudi Arabia.


austere


barbaric


fundamentalist


liberalization


mobilize


zealously


Additional Resources upfrontmagazine.com


Print or project:


* Word Watch (infer word meanings)


* Up Close: Social Arabia (close reading)


** Article Quiz (also on p. 8 of this Teacher's Guide)


* Analyze the Graph (also on p. 11 of this Teacher's Guide)


Video: Love in Saudi Arabia


Analyze the Article


3 Read: Have students read the article, marking the text to note


key ideas or questions.


4 Discuss: Distribute or project the close-reading activity Up


Close: Social Arabia for students to work on in small groups. (Note: The


questions on the PDF also appear on the facing page of this


Teacher's Guide, with possible responses.) Follow up with a class


discussion. If you're short on time, have each group tackle one or


two of the questions. Collect students' work or have each group


report its findings to the class.


Extend & Assess


5 Writing Prompt


How do you think your everyday life compares with that of a Saudi


teen? Write a brief essay, using evidence from the article to support


your claims.


6 Classroom Debate


Defend your view: As an ally of Saudi Arabia, should the United


States do more to encourage that country to grant its women greater


freedoms? Why or why not?


7 Quiz


Photocopy or project the article quiz (p. 8 of this Teacher's


Guide).


8 Graph


Analyze a graph on social media use in selected nations, including


Saudi Arabia (p. 11 of this Teacher's Guide).


* Summarize the author's purpose in the first three paragraphs


of the article.


Author's purpose, text structure


(The author's purpose is to introduce the central idea that


Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic law and rigid


social codes do not keep young Saudis from enjoying social media. In


fact, the rigid culture may even give young people more reason to use


social media apps. The author notes, for example, "They can't


flirt at the mall, so they do it on WhatsApp and Snapchat. ")


* Use evidence from the text to explain why social media use has


become so widespread in Saudi Arabia.


Analyze cause & effect, cite text evidence


(Saudi Arabia has oil wealth, so citizens have disposable income


they can use to buy cellphones and other devices. The country has


"speedy Internet ... and a youthful population" with "few


social options." In addition, its monarchy has decided not to block


social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. All of these factors have


contributed to the country's social media explosion.)


* How does the author support the claim that "some of the


biggest changes brought by technology have been in how young Saudis find


a spouse"?


Analyze authors' claims


(The author explains that dating is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, so


families have traditionally arranged marriages. But with social media,


young people are meeting online and getting to know each other before


discussing marriage. He writes, "social media is enabling romance


to spring up without violating traditions outright. " He then goes


on to describe how one couple met via social media.)


* In the article, Hoda Abdulrahman al-Helaissi, a female adviser to


the king, says that technology is a "window to the outside


world." What do you think she means, and why might Saudi Arabia


need such a window?


Make inferences


(Al-Helaissi means that technology gives Saudis a chance to see


what's going on outside of their own country. Movie theaters are


banned, so Saudis are rarely exposed to other cultures. However, social


media, YouTube, and some other forms of contemporary technology are not


restricted.)


* Predict whether social media will lead to democratic reforms in


Saudi Arabia in the next 10 years. Support your response with evidence


from the text.


Make inferences, cite text evidence


(Responses will vary but should be supported with text evidence.


Students may argue that reform is unlikely because the Saudi monarchy


continues to aggressively punish dissenters. In addition, "Many


young Saudis remain committed to ... their culture, and religious


conservatives use social media as adeptly as liberals." Other


students may argue that reform will come soon because social media


allows Saudis to see how things can be, and because women have begun


pushing for rights.)


* Read the sidebar, "A Push for Women's Rights."


What does it add to your understanding of Saudi Arabia?


Integrate multiple sources


(The sidebar illustrates just how restricted women are in Saudi


Arabia. It notes that although women have recently earned the right to


vote in municipal elections, these elected positions hold little power.


What's more, Saudi women are still not allowed to drive and must


have a man's permission to do almost anything.)


QUIZ


Social Arabia


Choose the best answer for each of the following questions.


CHECK COMPREHENSION


1. According to the article, a main reason for Saudi Arabia's


influence in the Middle East is


a its vast oil reserves.


b its Western-style government.


c its alliance with China.


d its booming manufacturing industry.


2. Laws in Saudi Arabia are largely based on


a a 250-year-old democratic constitution.


b the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.


c the whims of the near-absolute monarch, King Salman.


d none of the above


3. Which of these is NOT one of the rules that women in Saudi


Arabia must live by?


a They must be home accompanied by a male relative when outside the


home.


b They must wear a head-to-toe covering when in public.


c They may not drive a vehicle.


d They may not attend college or work outside the home.


4. Which statement best describes the Saudi Arabian


government's stand on social media?


a It blocks most social media sites, including Facebook.


b It permits use of social media sites but is quick to crack down


on anti-government commentary.


c It embraces social media as a tool for Westernization.


d It has created its own social media sites that are in keeping


with Islamic teachings.


ANALYZE THE TEXT


5. Which of these is NOT a central idea of the article?


a Some Saudis are meeting spouses on social media.


b Some Saudis are using social media to make money.


c Social media is bringing democratic liberalization to Saudi


Arabia.


d Social media is giving Saudis a window to the outside world.


6. Which conclusion can you draw from the article?


a Saudi Arabia is on the verge of a religious civil war.


b The Saudi economy is built on the technology industry.


c Islam as practiced in Saudi Arabia is more rigid than in many


Muslim countries.


50/sign=1811394ebe12c8fca0fefe9f9d6af920/ac4bd11373f082023035da514cfbfbedab641b3c.jpg" width="253" />

d Saudi Arabia is slowly moving away from Islamic law.


7. Select the sentence from the text that best supports your answer


to question 6.


a "The nation has the ideal conditions for a social media boom


..."


b "Many young Saudis remain committed to and proud of their


culture ..."


c "A strict fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known as


Wahhabism governs all aspects of life."


d "... it's the birthplace of Islam and the guardian of


its two most sacred sites, in Mecca and Medina."


8. The author mentions that movie theaters are banned in Saudi


Arabia to show


a that social media isn't the only banned media.


b that Saudis have little interest in Western pop culture.


c one reason Saudis are flocking to the Internet.


d one reason young Saudis are leaving the country.


IN-DEPTH QUESTIONS Please use the other side of this paper for your


responses.


9. What kind of changes has social media brought to Saudi Arabia so


far?


10. The author writes that "the power of social media is


limited in a society lacking political rights." What do you think


he means, and do you agree?


ANSWER


1. [a] its vast oil reserves.


2. [b] the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.


3. [d] They may not attend college or work outside the home.


4. [b] It permits use of social media sites but is quick to crack


down on anti-government commentary.


5. [c] Social media is bringing democratic liberalization to Saudi


Arabia.


6. [c] Islam as practiced in Saudi Arabia is more rigid than in


many Muslim countries.


7. [c] "A strict fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known


as Wahhabism governs all aspects of life."


8. [c] one reason Saudis are flocking to the Internet.


GRAPH


Who's the Most Social?


You may think you and your friends spend a lot of time on Snapchat,


Twitter, and WhatsApp, but check out the graph at right. It turns out


that people in a number of other countries use social media more than


people in the United States do. One of the countries where users spend a


lot of time on social media is ultraconservative Saudi Arabia, where


social media sites allow young people to express themselves and interact


online--in contrast to the rigid religious and social codes that govern


their everyday, "nondigital" lives (see article, p. 8).


This bar graph shows the amount of time social media users spend on


social media each day in selected countries. It also includes a global


average for social media use.


[GRAPHIC OMITTED]


ANALYZE THE GRAPH


1. Social media users in Saudi Arabia spend about--hours a day on


social media.


a 2.7


b 3.0


c 3.2


d 3.4


2. Social media users in the U.S. spend more time on social media


than users in --.


a China


b Mexico


c South Africa


d all of the above


3. According to the graph, the global average for time users spend


on social media each day is--.


a 2 hours


b 2 hours, 5 minutes


c Best Insulated Water Bottles 2 hours, 25 minutes


d 3 hours


4. The time users spend on social media in Argentina is about--.


a double the time spent in Canada


b triple the time spent in Japan


c equal to the time spent in Malaysia


d none of these


5. Which conclusion can you draw from the graph?


a Social media use is starting to drop.


b Social media is used across many continents.


c People in Spain spend little time on social media.


d all of the above


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS


1. Argentina currently has more people ages 15 to 24 than it's


had at any other time in its history. How might that "youth


bubble" be connected to the data you see on the graph?


2. Aside from the age demographics of a nation's population,


what factors might affect the popularity of social media in a country?


Why?


3. What's one thing you find surprising or interesting about


the graph? Why does this grab your attention?


ANSWER KEY


1. [b] 3.0


2. [a] China


3. [c] 2 hours, 25 minutes


4. [a] double the time spent in Canada


5. [b] Social media is used across many continents.


http://www.thefreelibrary.com/SocialArabia:socialmediaistransformingthelivesofyoungpeople...-a0437505687
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04 Mayo 2017