The spokeperson for the Saudi ministry of Information, Mr. Abdulrahman al Haza’a today came out on AlArabiya news network and announced that a new bill of laws will be coming out soon to monitor what Saudis write on the internet. When I first listened to it, it kind of made sense since at the beginning he was saying that news websites have to register and apply for a license and in return the ministry would assist with logistics and access. However he then moved on to talking about forums and blogs, saying that these too have to register and apply for a license. What does that mean? He didn’t elaborate and kept repeating that soon a detailed and clear bill will come out. No matter what it means, it is extremely worrisome. Twitter has been going crazy with outrage, questions and rumours on the hashtag #Haza3 which is the spokesperson’s last name. Aren’t our freedoms curbed enough? Am I going to need written permission from my guardian to maintain this blog? Do I need a paper from work too? Do I have to run everything by the ministry before posting? How about if instead of blogging, bloggers wrote the exact same stuff in consecutive Tweets and on Facebook notes, what are they going to do about that? Are we supposed to register our Facebook and Twitter accounts too? Seems to me that instead of fixing the stuff citizens complain about on forums and blogs, someone took it into their head to fix the citizens instead. That’s a twentieth century tactic that just won’t get anyone anywhere anymore.
Update 25 September
In case you missed it in the news, AFP contacted the ministry the very next day and the ministry denied that it will there will be any form of registration required from bloggers and forum owners. They claim that the spokesperson Al Haza’a was misunderstood.
Saudi Arabia was unified and pronounced a kingdom in 1932 so that makes it 78 years old. We’re getting older and wiser. This piece from Reuters covers how Saudi national day has only been recently celebrated because in the past some of our more prominent Shiekhs considered patriotism an unIslamic concept. Fortunately now it’s deemed halal.
I’m going to play this all day tomorrow or at least until the kids scream for mercy. It’s my favorite song about Saudi even though it’s not the official anthem. The meaning is so majestic and passionate, it never fails to lift my spirit.
Google is also celebrating Saudi National Day with a doodle. Thank you Google!
We took the kids and went driving around Riyadh on National Day to see the celebrations. Unfortunately I forgot my camera at home and had to use my cell phone to catch these images. The streets were full of guys hanging out of their car windows with flags wrapped around their heads or waving them. Below are photos and a video of the celebrations:
Some even stopped their cars at the side of the road, got out and danced! There’s a video of this too in which a bunch of young guys parked their truck on the curb and got out and danced with the stereo blasting a national song:
And when we went to Sahara Mall, the muttawa were all out to squelch celebrations. They caught a bunch of teenage girls and took the flags that the girls had thrown over their abayas. And as we were leaving, two mall security officers were holding this guy for the muttawa SUV. As I passed by I raised my camera to take a photo and the poor guy called out to me to go right ahead and take his photo. Hubby lectured the security officers, he told them there’s nothing wrong with letting him express himself as long as he’s not hurting anyone. And the officers said that they are holding him because he offends public decency!
Whenever I’m talking to other Arabs and even fellow Saudis about Saudi Arabia, occasionally the question why is Saudi Arabia called Saudi comes up. And of course the question is not asked for a real answer but rather in a condescending manner. As though it somehow hurts our dignity to be called after the person who unified us. My view is so what? It has always been so in the Middle East. Ottoman Empire is actually the name of the ruler who first unified it and before that Al Umwyeen who reached Spain and the list goes on…etc.
King Abdul-aziz al Saud dedicated his life to realize the largest country in the Arabian Gulf and that was before oil and all its riches. To have the country named after him is only natural, especially considering that that was the way it was back then.
Yes there is corruption and yes we have issues as does every other place on Earth. However when you consider the alternative, we could have done a lot worse. We were a people in the middle of a desert in which even the Turks were not interested, let alone Western colonist who at that time were grabbing land left and right. The majority was illiterate and each region was ruled by a different family. And then in 1902 came along King Abdulaziz who had a vision of a country that he fought for and eventually won in 1932. And that makes this September Saudi Arabia’s 77th birthday. For a 77 year old we have come a long way. In 77 years we have turned this desert into a beautiful and modern country. And that is an accomplishment that I’m proud of.
And if you are one of the run of the mill Saudi-bashers, please respect this occasion and refrain from commenting.
This photo rescued the day for me. This morning while waiting at a stop light in the back of my car, I happened to notice that the car in front of mine had a sticker on its bumper that was a ban sign going across a woman driving. It just got to me. Isn’t it enough that we are not allowed to drive but to have someone rub our noses in it with this sort of thing! What difference does it make to that ignorant fool with a sticker if the driver in the car next to him has a female or male anatomy? And to people who say it’s a matter of freedom of speech, I say grow up. Freedom of speech has limits when it infringes on the rights of others. Would it be OK if he had an anti Muslim driving sticker? Or an anti-Arab driving sticker? Gender is on the same level as religion and race when it comes to discrimination. Anyway this photo made things better. It was taken at a big ceremony last week to mark the official opening of the Princess Nora University for Women. I don’t know who the women are but they are probably university staff. Unfortunately this was not the picture that was published in the newspapers. This was the official photo:
Nevertheless, to have the King stand in the midst of these ladies and take a photo without worrying about the muttawas is a step forward. And then to have this photo openly available online is also another step forward. So one step back (the sticker) and two steps forward still counts as progress.