Posts Tagged ‘Detainees’

A Man Like No Other

02/03/2012

Saudi Arabia is known in the Western Media as the Kingdom of Silence. I can agree with such claim up till the time when the Internet was first introduced in the country. By the end of the 90s, many Saudis started using the Internet. It was the first time many of them had a chance to say whatever they wish without being worried. It was time when you could say anything you wish so freely. Everything was up to discussion including politics and religion.

Things escalated a bit more than what expected when the Internet was used as a media to gain support for Al-Qaeda inside and outside the Kingdom and to express some extreme opinions either against the Saudi regime or against some of the local minorities like Shia. However, that was not the only negative aspect of the Internet dialogues and discussions. Some Saudi Internet sites adopted very aggressive points of views against the Wahhabi ideology which is a pillar part of the society and political system. It seemed that nothing is away from discussions even the concept of Allah, Prophet Mohammed and Islam itself. The Government cracked down very successfully all Al-Qaeda support websites mainly after the attacks that took place inside the Kingdom back in 2003. However, the more “liberal” Internet forums had their ups and downs but without any cases of arrests of the ones behind them, as I know.

The new freedom of expression developed through the Internet forums brought to the local intellectuals the ideas of human rights. The Kingdom was regularly under the radar of international human rights agencies and NGOs for its less than good record on human rights. The new thing since 2001 was that locals started giving the issue some more attention. Issues like the handling of house maids and “kafeel” system got more criticism by the opinion writers in local newspapers and Internet forums. The blogs also played a very good role in spreading the appreciation of the ideas and values of human rights. Nowadays more Saudis talk about human rights and can clearly see some obvious violations to these rights in many aspects of day-to-day life. The case of detainees who are still in jail without prosecution or specific charges got during last year a lot of attention. The hash tag #e3teqal in Twitter was very active with many stories and news about those detainees. The number of these detainees is not really known but some sources talk about 30,000 of them. The apparent reason for detaining most of them is their potential links to terrorism.

It is unfortunate that the Western media is not covering such stories . It might seem a bit difficult to cover the stories of hundreds or thousands of detainees. But would it be difficult to cover the story of one man? I guess it should not!. This man is called Mohammed AlBjady. Mohammed was not detained for any potential links to terrorism. He now spent a year in detention because he joined a group of detainees’ families in a rare protest near the Saudi Ministry of Interior demanding the freedom of those detainees. Mohammed AlBjady is really a rare case in a country like Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed AlBjady

He is educated and possesses a good financial wealth. However, he always stands by his values and what he thinks is right for him country. He is a father of Lara and Turki. He had no reason to stand by the rights of those detainees except that he believes it is the right thing to do. No one really knows how long Mohammed will stay in jail before joining his wife and kids. No one knows how many others like Mohammed will be needed to really make the issues of human rights in Saudi Arabia of higher priority to both the government and the citizens. What I am sure about is one thing; Mohammed is a man like no other. Mohammed started 12 days ago a hunger strike demanding his rights for a fair trial. Mohammed is really demonstrating a new wave of activism Saudi Arabia never seen before. The question is how much such sacrifices will inspire others in the future to act as bravely.

In solidarity with Mohammed AlBjady two new hash tags started lately in Twitter which are #Albjady and #AlbjadyHungerStrike with the hope of making them trend internationally. More details can be found about the campaign and Mohammed himself through Twitter account: SaudiDetainees

Your highness: If you put your kohl on one day, remember us…!

14/07/2011

This post was first published by the Saudi blogger Hala Al-Dosari. I am re-publishing it in the blog hoping to spread the word about the case of some detainees in Saudi Arabia

This is a translated letter from the mother of the prisoner “Fahad Al-Saeed” to his royal highness, The Prince…

I wondered once about the meaning of a homeland, about its mercy, its compassion for its children, Is it possible for a country to torture its children, to squash them, to steal the flower of their youth?  Can a true country throw its children in the prison with indifference?! After the arrest of Fahad, many things have changed in me, they told me so, my voice became sad and hoarse, my eyes are crying in uninterrupted silence, my face… deep are its scars, so deep they can’t be reached by helping hands, but I asked you by God and my motherhood, If you ever dwell between your cushions, your throne, between your family, your loved ones, I ask you by God… If you ever put the Kohl on (Arabic expression of festivity) please, please … remember us…!

I think you don’t know my son Fahad -your highness-, maybe he is a no body, from the commoners, no one cares for him, even if he dies in one of the deserted alleys, if he dies inside his cell, at your prison, no one will sympathize with him or hear about his story!

They arrested him your highness ages ago, maybe before seven, eight, or nine years, I can’t recall memories anymore, the years of frustration and deprivation in my eyes are all the same… They raided our home by force, they scared me, they scared my daughters, those details are inscribed in our hearts.

After all those years…Is he a lost case your highness? Did you forget about him? Did you sentence him for eternal death?

You did not try him, you did not find him guilty, and you did not set him free, until when is this going to last? Until he ages in your cell and die?

His name is Fahad, he is the only son I have in this world, I cannot see anyone but him, I did not have any aspirations, or ambitions, or wishes, my only wish was … to celebrate his wedding one day, to see my grand children jumping around me, weeks before his arrest we were preparing for his engagement, his fiancé’ -your highness- is still fasting and feeding on deprivation, do you know that he is still waiting for her and she for him? She visited him once in the prison, they insulted her, and degraded her until she earned few moments with him…

Do you know me your highness?  I am his mother, his heaven and paradise; did you have a mother your highness?  Do you realize what motherhood is?  Do you know what is oppression and deprivation? How should I explain the meanings? You have never been subjected to injustice in your life, you never tasted its bitterness, you never been consumed by its fire… I know that my letter is exceedingly emotional, maybe you do not recognize emotions in your world, the world of strict and lethal rigor, but my heart despite all that is a heart of a mother, it’s bustling with passion…

Passion, do you know its true meaning your highness?

I will try to explain to you” the feelings of deprivation” your highness… It is heartburn, it’s a tear that tarnish the hands, like eyes averting from everything, it’s … weeping, weeping, and more weeping…

Do you want me to be honest with you your highness?  Your doors -as you claim- are open after all?

I will be honest, I -by God- Do not like you, and I do not imagine that I would ever like you one day, I will not be a hypocrite, I will not lie to you, and I will not say anything but this, I know -your highness- that you couldn’t care less for the affection of a sixty something woman like me, her soul is close to grave, no one cares about my emotions, I know that, but maybe you will care to know about what I am going to say, my children, no… not just my children, but all my relatives, all of them without an exception, they are sympathetic with us, all of them… They hate your security system, they hate the same system that is supposed to protect the country, they hate particularly certain names, and they loathe them and wish for their demise

I know that is an illegal request, but I vowed for honesty, before… we really used to like you, we never let anyone come in your way, we had an innate sense of protection and loyalty, a naive feeling coming from our heart.. And now I’m starting to lean toward everything that is said in secret against you, I lean toward believing and adopting it and spreading it…

Your highness, please show me your hand…!

They say it’s soft and lush and feels like silk, some of those who shook hands with you have told me, I am not envying you, and I do not wish that you have  a change of fate, but I wanted to tell you about my own fate, my own hand!

My hand -your highness- is convoluted, I swear it’s dead; it lost its vitality along the days…  I go to my son Fahad’s room, my lovely Fahad, I feel his bed, the traces of his foot, his shadow, his smell, maybe he ‘s back, every night I promise myself his return, I watch for his shade, my hand has weathered an blackened from heartbreak…

I do not cry alone your highness; every night…my prayer rug and my black cloak are crying along, they pray with me to find justice from those who wronged us…

My eyes your highness, I started to feel they are weathering and dimming too, am I going to be blind? Cannot see anything but darkness, O’God… I pray to you to let me see Fahad before my eyes go to sleep…

No, I will not be exaggerating and say that my son’s Fahad’s memory is accompanying me every minute, every second, No… I may at few times forget him or force myself to forget him, and I may even have moments where I actually smile, or laugh, but I swear your highness, that every time I laugh at I feel a lump in my throat, a rattle,  a deep pain, and then what?…  The laugh dies on my lips and I see my beloved Fahad’s face… What your highness?… Are we going to forgive you if you release him? I will, I am an old woman venturing in my sixties, I am aged now and tomorrow I will leave, I have lived enough, I do not fantasy more living, maybe we will forgive our humiliation, the terrorizing of my daughters, all the bitter sorrow moments, but….!

But your highness… Do you think Fahad’s heart will forgive you? The flower of his youth? His twenties? The best years of his life, his future… you squashed them, would he forgive you?

Can you bring back his youth that weathered behind the bars of oppression? Men’s oppression?

I wondered once about the meaning of a homeland, about its mercy, its compassion for his children, Is it possible for a country to torture its children, to squash them, to steal the flower of their youth?  Can a true country throw its children in the prison with indifference?

Do you ask me about Joy?

After the arrest of Fahad, many things have changed in me, they told me so, my voice became sad and hoarse, my eyes are crying in uninterrupted silence, my face… deep are its scars, so deep they can’t be reached by helping hands…

Fahad…

My beloved, you know how weak I am, you know for certainty how insignificant I am, I can o nothing to help you, I am a lonely woman, I cannot reclaim your rights, I cannot support you, or take your revenge, but I will do everything I can for you… I will cry for you!

My beloved, I know that tears will not serve you any good, but I will cry for you, that’s in my capacity, that’s what I can, I will write about you, I will plant your story everywhere, I will fight so that people can hear my voice!

But… I will continue to cry for you

I will not hold it from you my beloved, I used to carry a rose in my right hand, a bright white rose, it represents hope and good omen, but.. I no longer hold it, it fell from my hand, no Fahad, my heart did not yet reach despair from God’s mercy, but… my hand is getting weaker, it is shaken, engulfed by tiresome, I have carried that rose long, so long…

Do you know the ultimate hope for me your highness?

No… It is not to release Fahad and the men like him, No your highness, my ultimate hope is to take my revenge from those who treated me with injustice, by Qisas (eye-for an-eye), to reclaim rights, not here, nothing will cure me except standing you and me and all who treated me with injustice together in front of God, to find refuge in his presence, to shout out loud, to pray, to cry, to say… God they burnt my heart, they burnt my blood, they burnt my beloved’s Fahad’s heart, Serve us with justice, heal my heart, God, the just among all just… my God…

I grow tired of complaining your highness…!

I only complain to God alone…

But I plead with you by God and my motherhood, if you ever dwell between your cushions, your throne, between your family, your loved ones, I ask you by God… If you ever put the Kohl on (Arabic expression of festivity) please, please … remember us…!

Written by: the mother of the prisoner Fahad Al-Saeed

For the original letter as published in Arabic:

http://www.alasr.ws/index.cfm?method=home.con&contentid=11937