Category Archives: Personal favorites

More Saudi Heroes

A couple of weeks ago I was inspired by Dr. Al Gosaibi’s passing to honor not just him but also other Saudis who have chosen to risk condemnation and more to make an effort for the betterment of fellow Saudis.

Here are some more great Saudi heroes:

Dr. Huda Al Munsour

Dr. Al Munsour was bothered by how widespread the inherited condition Thalassemia was in Saudi Arabia so she decided to do something about it. She proposed that all Saudis considering marriage be tested for genetic diseases. Thus they can make an informed decision before. After years of campaigning and petitioning, she was able to see her idea implemented all across Saudi Arabia.

Amina Fatani

Amina Fatani at the young age of 21, started a campaign to preserve heritage sites. This is especially important as many Saudis do not see any value in these sites. I believe that many great things are to come from Ms. Fatani.

Haifa Khalid

Ms Khalid is a poet and a women’s rights activist. She is the mastermind behind a non-profit organization for divorced women. One of the main issues about divorce in Saudi is that the majority of women are unaware of their rights. Due to women not demanding these rights, sometimes both husbands and judges conveniently forget them too.  That’s where Ms. Khalid comes in. She is a regular on TV and newspapers. She educates women and also appeals to the judicial system to implement more safeguards for divorced women’s rights.

Abdulrahman Allahim

A lawyer unlike most lawyers, he represented the Qatif girl, Fatima and Monsour, the married couple who were forcefully separated, and he raised the first case in Saudi history against the PVPV on behalf of a Saudi woman. He was the 2008 recipient of both the International Human Rights Lawyer Award and the Human Rights Watch Award.

Reem Asaad

Ms.Asaad is a lecturer at a university in Jeddah. She started a campaign to allow Saudi women to work in lingerie shops as currently the majority of these shops are manned by expatriate male workers. I’ve written about her campaign in this post.

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Saudi Heroes

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.

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Ten most beautiful Saudis

10- Dahi al Ali

Designer with his own line called Kalima.

9- Samar Al Moqren

A controversial novelist and opinion writer.

8- Shiekh Mohamed Al Arefe

Although I might not agree with him, there’s no denying that this sheikh is handsome and charismatic.

7- Raja Al Sanea

So fresh-faced and young, no one could have ever expected that she could have produced the book Girls of Riyadh that was initially banned within Saudi Arabia.

6- Yaser Al qahtani

Famous soccer player with numerous endorsement deals including Gillette, Head and Shoulders and Pepsi.

5- Hisham Abdulrahman

Presenter and game show host with a fantastic sense of humor.

4- Saud Al Dosari

Interviewer and radio show host who just gets better with age.

3- Ebtihal Al Mubarack

Bold journalist and women’s rights activist.

2- Muna Abu Sulaiman

TV personality, past Goodwill Ambassador and currently works for HRH Prince Al Waleed bin Talal.

1- HRH Princess Amira Al Taweel

The wife of HRH Prince Al Waleed bin Talal.

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Saudi woman top five blog posts

I dragged these out because I enjoyed writing them and they are representative of a side of Saudi that rarely is shown to the outside world. Click on the header of each for a link to the actual post.

1) The Saudi Supernatural World

In Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in general, people strongly believe in the supernatural world. This world that we believe in is  different right down to its roots from the supernatural phenomena in the rest of the world. There is no emphasis on ancestral spirits or ghosts of dead people. To us dead people are dead and its final, and supernatural phenomena is due to the existence of another dimension that is peopled with creatures called Jinn. This post explains the common beliefs held by most Saudis regarding this.

2) The problem lies within

This post explains why it is that the status quo regarding women rights is maintained.

3) Line 110 or 220 volts?

This is about the tribal divisions and traditions within Saudi society.

4) Blackmail: Saudi style

This is on how some Saudi men make use of the cultural restrictions on women by manipulating vulnerable Saudi women into giving up their photos and blackmailing them with the photos in exchange for sex.

5) The reasoning behind the ban on women driving.

This is a translation of the illogical rhetoric that those supporting the ban repeat over and over and over…

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How to make the case for Israel and win

This is so brilliant and right on that I could not just post a link. I had to copy the whole thing and post it. It was written by Gabriel Ash on the blog Jews Sans Frontieres and you can access the original post at this link.
To the benefit of the many not-very-bright zionist wannabe apologists who read this blog assiduously, I decided to offer a clear and simple method of arguing the case for Israel. This clear and simple method has been distilled from a life spent listening to and reading Zionist propaganda. It is easy to follow and results are guaranteed or your money back.

So don’t hesitate! Take advantage NOW of this revolutionary rhetorical system that will make YOU a great apologist for Israel in less time than it takes to shoot a Palestinian toddler in the eye.

Ready? 1..2..3..GO!

You need to understand just one principle:
The case for Israel is made of four propositions that should always be presented in the correct escalating order.

1- We rock

2- They suck

3- You suck

4- Everything sucks
That’s it. Now you know everything that it took me a lifetime to learn. The rest is details; filling in the dotted lines.

You begin by saying how great Israel is. Israel want peace; Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East; the desert blooms; kibutz; Israelis invented antibiotics, the wheel, the E minor scale; thanks to the occupation Palestinians no longer live in caves; Israel liberates Arab women; Israel has the most moral army in the world, etc.

This will win over 50% of your listeners immediately. Don’t worry about the factual content. This is about brand identity, not writing a PhD. Do you really think BP is ‘beyond petroleum’?

Then you go into the second point: They suck. Here you talk about the legal system of Saudi Arabia, gay rights in Iran, slave trade in the Sudan, Mohammad Atta, the burqa, Palestinians dancing after 9/11, Arafat’s facial hair, etc.

There is only one additional principle you need to understand here. It will separate you from the amateurs. You need to know your audience. If you’ve got a crowd already disposed to racist logic, go for it with everything you have. But if you get a liberal crowd, you need to sugar coat the racism a bit. Focus on women rights, human rights, religious tolerance, “clash of civilizations”, terrorism, they teach their children to hate, etc. Deep down your audience WANTS to enjoy racism and feel superior. They just need the proper encouragement so they can keep their sophisticated self-image. Give them what they crave and they’ll adore you! But be careful not to ‘mix n match,’ because it will cost you credibility.

When you’re done, there will always be dead-enders insisting that abuse of gays in Iran does not justify ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Take a deep breath, and pull the doomsday weapon: You suck!

You’re a Jew-hater, Arab-lover, anti-Semite, you’re a pinko, a commie, a dreamer, a naive, a self-hater, you have issues, your mother worked for the Nazis, Prince Bandar buys you cookies, you forgot you were responsible for the holocaust, etc. The more the merrier. By the time you end this barrage, only a handful would be left standing. For mopping them up, you use the ultimate postmodern wisdom: Everything sucks.

War, genocide, racism, oppression are everywhere. From the Roma in Italy to the Native-Americans in the U.S., the weak are victimized. Why pick on Israel? It’s the way of the world. Look! Right is only in question between equals in power; the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. Ethics, schmethics. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Eat, drink! Carpe diem! The Palestinians would throw us into the sea if they could. Ha ha!

Trust me, that’s as far as words can go. If you followed this method faithfully, you’ve done your work. You should leave the few who are still unconvinced to the forces of order.

Congratulations!
You are now ready to
apologize for Israel like a pro.

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A Hero: Farman Ali Khan

Black Wednesday is what many people have been calling 25th of November when Jeddah got its heaviest rains that resulted in flooding and the death of over 120 people. Videos, photos and articles on the flooding and the damage are aplenty online, but one story I believe has not got its due attention. Farman Ali Khan was a 32 year old Pakistani migrant worker at a grocery store in Jeddah. In his six years in Saudi Arabia, he had only been able to visit his family back home twice. His youngest Jarira, 4 years old, has never seen her daddy alive. This man who had every reason to save himself, as he is his family’s sole provider and yet he set out that day to save as many people as he could.

Farman Ali Khan saved 14 people from drowning. His neighbor told reporters that Farman gave him his wallet and cell phone for safekeeping. He then tied one end of a rope to a pipe and the other around his waist and stood at the edge of the heart of the flooding looking for people to pull out. Those he couldn’t reach swimming and wading, he would reach to them with a wood pole. He kept going back until the water got the better of him and he went under.

Farman left behind his wife and three daughters, Zubaida, 7, Madeeha, 6, and Jarira, 4. And now there is a huge campaign on Facebook with over 22,000 members, the majority of whom are Saudi. They are campaigning for a Jeddah street to be named after Farman, that he be rewarded with the King Abdulazziz Medal and that his family be compensated financially.

To read more about Farman: English, Arabic.

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Saudi Shewolf

This song by Shakira inspired a friend of mine to do something really wild. Thursday night after a social obligation, she tucked her kids into bed and waited until they fell asleep. At about 1:30 am she put on one of her husband’s shmaghs (Saudi head-dresses), opened the garage door and drove out! And this is not some reckless teenager; she’s a working mother in her thirties. She told me that it was the most liberating feeling she had ever experienced. She has a valid driving license and has driven a lot abroad but somehow she says this was different.

As she was heading home at about 4 am, she made a right turn on a major street in Riyadh just as a BMW filled with young Saudi men was making a U-turn on the street she was turning into. She accidentally made eye-contact with a guy sitting in the back. Although she had most of her face masked in the shmagh, just from that one look he somehow knew she was a woman and the chase was on!

random picture for illustration

Suddenly a few motorcycles joined in and she found herself being pushed to the curb with the BMW in front and the motorcycles to her left. The guys in the BMW opened their doors and started to get out, apparently to walk towards her. She says at that moment she suddenly felt possessed. She put her car into park, pushed on the gas pedal a couple of times for effect and then turned the car onto the motorcycles. They cleared out and she sped away. She called her husband and told him the situation. He hurriedly got dressed and waited outside. He saw her coming with her trail of pursuers and she drove right through the garage door as he closed it after her. The BMW stopped at the house and her husband stood his ground and looked at them questioningly. The driver opened his window and said we were just surprised to see a Saudi woman driving. He told them to mind their own business and they drove off. The whole thing was literally like a scene out of a movie!

The adrenaline rush got her through her husband’s lecture and later he couldn’t help express admiration for the driving maneuvers he witnessed. He went as far as to tell her that if they were not Saudis, she should have been a racecar driver.

This post was written with my friend’s permission on the condition that she remains anonymous.

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