Dr. Ghazi Al Gosaibi’s passing got me thinking. There are certain people in every generation and era that make a person honored to have lived in their time. People who courageously push a nation forward even when the majority of their countrymen are standing still or worse pushing back. These people are rarely appreciated in their lifetime and their initiations only truly valued long after they are lost.
Besides Dr. Ghazi Al Gosaibi, these are today’s people who my grandchildren and great grandchildren will celebrate and honor, people who will be included in history books and classroom discussions. My future Saudi Arabia will be built on the foundation that they are laying. I can’t predict the future, but I can dream.
Wajeha Al Huwaider
An outspoken pioneer of the Saudi women’s rights movement. Unfortunately due to the standing ban on her writing in the local press, many of the women she is fighting for don’t even know her name.
Matrook Al Faleh
A political activist and writer who was threatened and jailed several times. He calls for a constitutional monarchy and more civil rights. Shortly after he was set free, he went back to writing about the terrible conditions other political activists were under in prison and was imprisoned again. He was freed seven months later. That’s what I call perseverance and courage.
Fouad Al Farhan
The first Saudi blogger to taste the bitterness of censorship. In history books, he will be remembered as the first Saudi to utilize the blogsphere for political change. Despite being warned by officials to tone down his writing about the conditions of imprisoned political activists among other topics, he persisted and was imprisoned from December 10 2007 to April 26 2008. His blog was blocked in Saudi Arabia and still is. He became active on other social media including Facebook and Twitter. Recently he has also started a new blog.
Dr. Mohammed Al Zulfa
A Saudi who put his plush and comfortable position as a Shoura Council member on the line by presenting to the government a well-prepared and detailed study calling for lifting the ban on women driving. This was in 2006 and he was severely attacked. There were even cell phonevideos showing how muttawas would crowd around him to “advise” him everywhere he went. You can read my post at the time here.
Abdulla Al Qaseemi
A thinker and writer whose books and name need to be brought back into the light. Al Qaseemi started out as a fervent defender of Saudi grown Islamic fundamentalism in the face of some Egyptian Islamic scholars he had met and studied under when he first left Saudi Arabia in 1927 to study at Al Azhar University. Twenty years later he retracted many of his former ideas and wrote several books and articles that greatly influenced thinkers and decision makers all over the Middle East except in Saudi Arabia where he was denounced and heavily censored.
A landmark book of his is (هذه هي الأغلال) These Are The Shackles
In this video Turki Al Dakheel catches a progressive sheikh, Ahmed Bin Baz, off guard as he reads aloud an unsourced quote from one of the sheikh’s articles that originally was written by Al Qaseemi. Apparently sheikh Bin Baz reads Al Qaseemi but is reluctant to put him as a source for fear of being attacked and rejected like Al Qaseemi before him.
There are of course many more Saudi heroes that I should have included, but these are the dearest to my heart for their sheerpatriotism and sacrifice.