May 16, 1995 in Nation/World

Saudis Close Schools For Foreign Children Schools Run By Embassies Apparently Broke Islamic Laws

Associated Press

Authorities have shut down more than 30 schools run by foreign diplomatic missions in the Saudi capital Riyadh, apparently because they were violating local laws, diplomats reported Monday.

About 10,000 expatriate children, mostly Asians and Africans, have been affected by the closures and many foreigners planned to send their families home, said the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity. No American or British schools were affected.

The schools were supposed to reopen Monday after the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday that follows the peak of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest shrine.

However, more than 30 were not permitted to do so. A notice Monday on the front gates of a school run by the Indian mission for more than 5,000 students said it would be closed indefinitely.

Many of the schools have not complied with local regulations that bar them from teaching classes beyond the ninth grade, require boys and girls to be segregated, and require Islamic and Arabic studies to be part of the curriculum. But until now, authorities had turned a blind eye.

The schools are also barred from enrolling Saudi or Muslim children, although many of the Asian and African children are Muslim.

Asian diplomats said Monday they were waiting for instructions from the Education Ministry about how to reopen the schools.

Some diplomats blamed the school closures on the muttawa, or religious police, who have accused the diplomatic schools of anti-Islamic activities including proselytizing, banned in this conservative Islamic kingdom.

The problem seems to be confined to Riyadh. No embassy-run schools in Jiddah, on the west coast, or the oil-rich Eastern Province on the gulf, where large numbers of expatriates work, has been closed.

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