|Abdullah Al Alami|
DHAHRAN — The name Abdullah Al Alami resonates human rights. An avid fan of the famous American writer E.E. Cummings, Al Alami believes in respecting everyone and sharing his knowledge with those around him and afar.
As Cummings once said, “Deeds cannot dream what dreams can do.” Al Alami dreams of a time when there will be no discrimination, no racism and prejudice, which is prevailing in many parts of the world.
Born and raised in Makkah and Jeddah, Al Alami later graduated with a GPA of 3.01 from the Chapman University of California. He was associated with Aramco for 21 years.
Now he writes a weekly column in a local Arabic newspaper. He was the president of Arabian Natural History Association, co-founder of Gulf Venture Capital Association, co-founder of Saudi Cancer Foundation and is the board member of Saudi Society for Promoting Organ Donation.
The list doesn’t end here — he is an advocate for the campaign of women driving. All the tension that this pressing issue has brought, he sheds it by listening to Luciano Pavarotti and reading poetry by Nizar Qabbani.
When asked about what motivated him to lay the foundation of the Saudi Cancer Foundation, Al Alami replied that after the Kuwait-Iraq war the number of cancer cases increased in the Eastern Province.
“People needed guidance and both mental and financial support. With the help of Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd, we assembled a team of doctors, educators, philanthropists and psychiatrists to create awareness about this disease and to help those who cannot afford the expensive treatment. We also provide assistance in pre- and post-treatment trauma. We even have two mobile mammogram vans,” he said.
Al Alami thinks that the younger generation needs to be motivated to help others. “The process should start at the grassroots level. Our youth is capable of doing wonders. During Jeddah floods, young people helped save lives. They even cleaned streets and provided food and shelter to those in need.”
The issue of women driving in Saudi Arabia has been enhanced by Al Alami as he feels that there are times when women are stuck in situations when they need to steer the wheel. For example there is a sick child at home and the family does not have a male member and unfortunately, they cannot afford a driver. There have been road accidents when the woman was unable to drive and save her husband or father. The guilt of not helping a family member when she could is unbearable.
Al Alami says he witnessed many incidents and being a "Good Samaritan," he decided to raise this issue. His book on women driving has received positive response.
“There are few women who are against it too; they have their own reasons for doing so,” he said.
Now with 3,000 signatures presented to the Shoura Council and 30 women in the Shoura, Al Alami feels that “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
When asked about the problems arising if women are allowed to drive, Al Alami says that he traveled and observed all over GCC to see how they are handling this issue and gave his suggestions along with the petition. "There should be proper driving schools for women with female instructors. Traffic department already employs female staff and hiring more women will also show a decline in the graph of women unemployment. Our people have to be trained to let women on the roads."
He thinks road accidents would reduce as internationally women are safe drivers than men. “Hiring of drivers from foreign countries will decrease which costs families and government a fortune every year,” he added.
Another humanitarian work that has been associated with Al Alami is the Saudi Organ Donation Society, of which he is a board member. “It is not easy to convince people for organ donation. We have two Islamic scholars’ fatwas to make people understand that it is not against the religion to donate your organs to save some one’s life. We arrange annual conferences for our cancer and organ donation societies. He also proposed to the Secretary General of the Arab League the establishment of an ‘Arab Center for the Elimination of Violence against Women.’”
His weekly columns, his comments on television channels about different social issues and his humanitarian work have made Al Alami a household name in the Arab world. With a cap full of so many feathers, this polite and kind man is not deterred by challenges coming his way.