Posts Tagged ‘Media’

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

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Gaza is still waiting

17/06/2010

It is amazing how one event can change the course of prior events. The Freedom Flotilla sailed from Turkey towards Gaza in a peaceful attempt to break the Israeli siege on Gaza is one of such events. It was really great to follow, through the social networks sites Twitter and Facebook, the support to the mission of the Flotilla and the strong condemnation of the Israeli crime attacking the Mavi Marmara ship which resulted in killing 9 activists.

Yet it really seems odd that the Gaza siege is been there for almost four years. It was supported by the quartet in addition to the Egyptian government and the other so called moderate Arab governments. What happened now to make the siege of Gaza inappropriate and useless? Is it the fact that 9 Turkish citizens were killed? Are they really more worthy than 1.5 million humans living in Gaza? Was it twitter & social media? Or it might be the impact of President Obama (though he is been in the White House since the begging of the year). I’m not really sure, but glad that the world realizes now how unfair is the siege.

Writing more than two weeks after what happened allows a more rational view, I hope. The siege was unethical since day one because it was politically motivated and yet clearly directed against the people rather than the de facto government in Gaza. Resorting to a siege against the winner of a free election, this time happen to be called Hamas, sends the wrong message to the Arab World saying “Either you elect political parties that are up to the Western desires and wishes or you’ll seriously suffer”. The people at this part of the world get lectured a lot on the importance and value of dialogue, yet find out that the lecturer is unable to walk the talk.

On the other hand, I think that the wide delight over the Turkish Prime Minister Mr.  Ardogan action seem a little exaggerated and immature. However, in the Arab World we lack leaders who‏ ‏show much of value or even respect to their citizens. As a result, Mr. Ardogan’s reaction seems heroic. What I’m sure about is that Mr. Ardogan is a professional politician, regardless of his possible ideological drive for such reaction.  He’ll care most for the reaction of what he says and does in Istanbul much more than in Riyadh, Cairo or even Gaza.

Maybe it is very important to mention that the Israeli aggressive action against the Freedom Flotilla demonstrates the normal daily aggression faced by the Palestinians for as long as Israel existed. These actions keep shattering any real hope of diverting the position of Arabs opinion in favor of peace, someday.

On the other hand, some of the newspaper writers in Saudi Arabia who are, rightly or wrongly, considered as liberals did not feel that good about Turkey’s strong reaction to the incident and went into bazaar explanation such as their usual pointing to Iran and showed their worries over the Turkish involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli problems. Their highest concern goes to the worry over the potential influence of Turkey in the region in a manner that makes the reader feel like Turkey is a stranger to the region.  Such point of view reflects the anxiety of some of the regions governments over losing their regional influence, if much of it is really left.

What happened resembles a very strong humanitarian call to everyone around the globe to reconsider their view of what is happening not only in Gaza but also to the Palestinian cause and the usual Israeli claims that keep failing once they face reality.  Individuals can make a difference and collective efforts of individuals in the form of civil societies such as Free Gaza are able to create greater impact. It is true that in Saudi Arabia we lack such societies, yet we can learn and adopt such practices and in the same time create greater pressure into our government to allow the formation of such societies in the near future.

As it is important to realize how much the new media and social electronic networks allowed people to know what happens anywhere momentarily. It is important to realize that it makes it more difficult to be honest and sure about the news that goes around. I must admit that a point of time, I re-twitted a message saying that more than 40 people were killed as a result of the Israeli attack on the Flotilla. Killing one person or ten is surely a crime. Yet, being objective and reliable must be part of using such wide reach communication means.

It is been more than two weeks since Israel killed the nine activists, yet nothing changed much for the people of Gaza. The pressure to lift the siege shall be maintained to allow the people of Gaza to live at the minimum of proper human conditions.