Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia announced the launch of its first campaign to combat domestic abuse with the inauguration of the first center to protect children, women and the elderly in Mecca on Wednesday.
Sheikh Saleh al Turki, chair of the social development committee part of Mecca city council and head of al Bar association in Jeddah, said the move was in response to a June resolution by the council calling an authority to be established to protect children, women, and the elderly from domestic violence. A number of working groups would also be created to oversee medical, judicial and preventive measures, he added.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, al Turki indicated the center was established with the collaboration of Unicef, with the international body expected to provide financial assistance at a later date, according to an agreement between the two sides. He stressed that admitting domestic violence was a problem and solving it through the new center in Mecca would encourage society to deal with other social problems in Saudi Arabia in a serious manner and increase the likelihood of preventing them from occurring.
Cases of domestic abuse and slavery, denounced in international reports, will not be solved, al Turki indicated by denial, but rather, constructively addressing these problems in a transparent way and encouraging every individual feels responsible for their family and society and their country’s international reputation.
The center will welcome victims of domestic abuse for a temporary period whilst their case was being processed or awaiting peaceful resolution. Several government authorities including hospitals, police, social and educational associations were expected to forward cases. Runaway girls will also be admitted and a study will conducted to determine what causes youngsters flee their homes.
Fatima Salih Ghazali, who will head the center which can welcome up to 151 individuals at one time, told Asharq al Awsat the center would not serve as a permanent shelter but principally to provide a comfortable peaceful atmosphere for those suffering from domestic abuse before a suitable solution is found. Individuals will receive psychological and health support from specialists and receive assurances as to their safety.
Commenting on the center’s finances, al Turki said that an initial study by Unesco indicated $50 million would be necessary, adding that donations from a prominent Saudi figure totaling $160,000 and from a foreign company based in the United Arab Emirates worth $100,000 where expected, in addition to pledges by a number of Saudi businessmen. A wider effort to support charities would solve a host of problems and enable the private sector to assist the government to fulfill its duty to all its citizens, he pointed out.
The permanent authority for the protection of children, women, and the elderly from abuse and domestic violence will be responsible for designing policies and programs to tackle the problem and assist the authorities in dealing with victims. An information center will also be set up for specialists to analyze incidents of family abuse and a hostel will shelter those suffering from abuses and comfort them while they undergo rehabilitation.