- - Tuesday, May 31, 2011

EGYPT

Egyptians decry ‘virginity tests’

CAIRO — Activists and bloggers are pressing Egypt’s military rulers to investigate accusations of serious abuses against protesters, including claims that soldiers subjected female detainees to so-called “virginity tests.”

Bloggers say they will hold a day of online protest Wednesday to voice their outrage, adding to criticism of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took control of the country from ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.


The virginity-test allegations first surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that turned violent when men in plainclothes attacked protesters and the army intervened forcefully to clear the square.

One woman who was arrested spoke out about her treatment, and Amnesty International further documented the abuse allegations in a report that found 18 female detainees were threatened with prostitution charges and forced to undergo virginity tests. They also were beaten up and given electric shocks, the report said.

Egypt’s military rulers have come under heavy criticism from the youth protest movement, which is upset at the pace of reforms that they hope will lead Egypt to democracy.

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi denies intent to deport workers

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s labor minister said Tuesday that only private-sector companies that fail to employ enough Saudi nationals would face restrictions on the renewal of their foreign employees’ work permits, clarifying earlier comments that jolted the business community in the oil-rich country.

Adel Fekieh was quoted by the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat on Monday as saying that foreigners who had been in the kingdom for six years would not have their permits renewed - a move he explained as part of Saudi Arabia’s push to boost job opportunities for its citizens.

Late Monday, the ministry sought to clarify his remarks, saying there was no blanket policy barring the renewal of work permits for long-term foreign employees and that the restrictions were targeting companies not complying with regulations requiring that at least five percent to 10 percent of their laborers be of Saudi nationality.

“Companies that, after requests by the ministry over long years, do not comply with their obligations will not have work permits renewed,” Mr. Fekieh said in an interview with the Arabic satellite channel Al-Arabiya.

Saudi labor officials are looking to begin implementing a new incentive program for the private sector. Under the program, companies would be divided into four categories: “excellent” and “green” for those that comply with the nationality quotas and “yellow” and “red” for those that do not.

The initial remarks sent a ripple of unease through the Saudi business community, which relies heavily on foreign labor in a range of sectors.

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