GCC News Roundup: Facebook suspends fake pages, Saudi Arabia eases laws on travel for women (August 1-31)

Saudi women are seen in line as they are traveling at the Dammam railway station in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, August  21, 2019. REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed - RC1983891420

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Facebook suspends fake accounts, pages tied to Saudi Arabia

People connected to the government of Saudi Arabia have run a network of fake accounts and pages on Facebook to promote state propaganda and attack regional rivals, the social media giant said on August 1. Facebook said it had suspended more than 350 accounts and pages with about 1.4 million followers, the latest takedown in an ongoing effort to combat “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on its platform, and the first such activity it has linked to the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia enacts laws enabling women to travel freely

Saudi Arabia published new laws on August 2 that loosen restrictions on women by allowing all citizens — women and men alike — to apply for a passport and travel freely, ending a long-standing guardianship policy that had controlled women’s freedom of movement. The Saudi Press Agency stated on August 20 that the Departments of Passport and Civil Status had started enforcing the new Travel Documents Law and regulations, while separate reports indicated that women had been permitted to travel abroad without permission.

Nearly 2 million pilgrims arrive in Mecca for hajj

Saudi Arabia said more than 1.8 million Muslims from around the world arrived in the country prior to the hajj pilgrimage that started on August 9. The Director General of Passports, Suleiman al-Yehya, announced the figure, saying that close to 970,000 male and 868,000 female pilgrims had arrived in the country.

US-Taliban talks resume in Qatar

A United States envoy and the Taliban resumed negotiations on August 22 over ending America’s longest war, after earlier signaling they were close to a deal. A Taliban member familiar with, but not part of, the talks that resumed in Qatar said that U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad also met one-on-one with the Taliban’s lead negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Saudi-led coalition forms committee to stabilize Yemen ceasefire

The Saudi-led coalition said a joint committee was formed between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to stabilize a ceasefire in the Yemeni provinces of Shabwah and Abyan, state TV said on August 26.

Kuwaiti emir holds meetings after health scare

Kuwait’s 90-year-old emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, held his first public meetings on August 26, since falling ill the prior week. He sat down with the crown prince, head of parliament, and members of his cabinet, state news agency KUNA reported.