wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06JEDDAH336
2006-05-01 14:12:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Jeddah
Cable title:  

GENETIC ILLNESSES ON THE RISE IN SAUDI ARABIA

Tags:   PGOV  SCUL  SOCI  SA 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO9770
PP RUEHDE
DE RUEHJI #0336/01 1211412
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011412Z MAY 06
FM AMCONSUL JEDDAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9122
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1362
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1440
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 6461
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 JEDDAH 000336 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

RIYADH, PLEASE PASS TO DHAHRAN; PARIS FOR ZEYA; LONDON FOR
TSOU; DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2016
TAGS: PGOV SCUL SOCI SA
SUBJECT: GENETIC ILLNESSES ON THE RISE IN SAUDI ARABIA
DESPITE PUBLIC AWARENESS EFFORTS

REF: A. JEDDAH 00300

B. JEDDAH 00329

Classified By: Consul General Tatiana C. Gfoeller for reasons 1.4 (b) a
nd (d).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Anecdotal evidence from Consulate General
Jeddah's contacts indicates that the rate of genetic illness
among Saudi children is on the rise, primarily due to the
persistence of consanguineous marriages in the country. This
persistence may be attributed to Saudi parents' efforts to
shield their children from the onslaught of modernization
facing the Kingdom. Despite this, local business groups,
health professionals, and governmental bodies are persisting
in their efforts to raise public awareness of the issue and
to break-down traditional Saudi taboos against discussing
such problems. END SUMMARY

MODERN PRESSURES CAUSE REACTIONARY ATTITUDES



2. (C) The Consul General's discussions with a variety of
Consulate General contacts indicate that the rate of genetic
illness among Saudi children is exponentially higher than in
other parts of the world, primarily due to the persistent
societal support for consanguineous marriages generation
after generation. Contacts attribute this support to efforts
to retain monetary resources within the same family and to a
sense of genetic pride within a particular family-group or
clan. However, in a uniquely Saudi twist, parents, concerned
about the influence of modern attitudes on traditional Saudi
culture and the increasing interaction between the sexes, may
also be pushing their daughters to marry close relatives
because they are a known quantity. With the advent of a
somewhat relaxed social environment, particularly in the
Western province, young men and women are increasingly able
to meet each other at malls and via mobile phone text
messaging.



3. (C) Similarly, archaic approaches to the disabled have
limited efforts to adequately address increases in the rate
of disease. One local Amcit recently reported to the Consul
General that, upon visiting a Jeddah clinic where her own ill
son was living, she observed a Saudi mother whose ten
disabled children were all institutionalized at the same
facility. The Saudi woman, married to her first cousin,
indicated that she would continue to perform her religious
obligation of creating offspring, and if it was Allah's will
that they be sick, so be it.



4. (C) There are many other cases, however, of Saudi parents
abandoning their disabled children. One Consulate contact
recounted to the CG the story of a wealthy Jeddah couple who
divorced immediately following the birth of their mentally
disabled son, and after moving out of the city and both
re-marrying other partners, maintained him in Jeddah, with a
staff of five servants, for the next 17 years. Having never
been visited by his parents (or, for that matter, leaving the
home), the boy had never said a word. Finally, he was taken
by one of the servants to the local Hope Center and later
participated in a program designed to increase motor skills
among the disabled through horseback riding (see reftels).
He now knows the names of his teachers and the word "horse."

TENTATIVE STEPS TO INCREASE AWARENESS



5. (C) Confronting these entrenched social approaches to the
disabled is no small task, though several local businessmen
and health professionals have recently indicated to the CG
that they are attempting to increase public awareness of the
causes and the treatment for genetic illnesses. "This is
topic A among young women," said one contact, a female
medical doctor who specializes in genetic illnesses. She
described a girl that had told her family she would rather
remain un-married for life than wed her first cousin as they
proposed for fear of having a disabled child as many of her
friends in consanguineous marriages do. (NOTE: There is a
strong social stigma attached to older, unmarried women,
whose position in the society is therefore undermined).



6. (C) One local group of businessmen spent four years
pushing the government to require blood tests in the
application for marriage licenses, over the objection of the

JEDDAH 00000336 002 OF 002


ulema (the religious establishment). Though successful, the
measure was ultimately diluted to require the tests but still
allow couples to decide whether or not to proceed regardless
of the results. The Economic and Social Council, under the
office of the Governor of Mecca, supported the requirement
and is also active in promoting the awareness campaign.
"Word is slowly getting out," said another local female
doctor, who is pushing for awareness in this area.



7. (C) COMMENT: During her previous tour in the Kingdom in
the late 1980s, the CG noted a similarly alarming number of
mentally disabled children during visits to some of Riyadh's
clinics. The situation appears to have changed little in the
intervening years, despite the tentative steps to raise
awareness of the consequences of consanguinity. END COMMENT
Gfoeller