It’s been a tough couple of years and the topics I’ve posted about recently range from bad to horrible. Since Eid is almost upon us, I’m posting something cheery and fun. One of the most popular posts on this blog is a ten most beautiful Saudis from 2010. So I thought it’s time for the update below. I’ve password protected it to consult with other Saudis before it’s made public on July 26th. I hope you find it worth the wait.
Many Zionists like to think of themselves as modern day pioneers who have had the burden of taking over land and resources of those who are too “savage” to appreciate them. They claim they made “the desert bloom” conveniently ignoring the fact that the Arabs had built great civilizations with rich history on the land that Zionists now occupy. They consider it hypocritical of Americans to condemn how Israel was created when they themselves created a country on a land that already belonged to another. Their justification of since it happened in the past, it’s alright to repeat, is idiotic. This isn’t the seventeenth century and Palestinians are not Native Americans. I love how Gladwell writes that when two countries go to war, there is a 63.6% chance the weaker side will win if they use unconventional means. And if you read the book you’ll find that he goes on to give as his prime example how the Arabs overcame the Turks.
From Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath:
Suppose you were to total up all the wars over the past two hundred years that occurred between very large and very small countries. Let’s say that one side has to be at least ten times larger in population and armed might than the other. How often do you think the bigger side wins? Most of us, I think, would put that number at close to 100 percent. A tenfold difference is a lot. But the actual answer may surprise you. When the political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft did the calculation a few years ago, what he came up with was 71.5 percent. Just under a third of the time, the weaker country wins.
Arreguín-Toft then asked the question slightly differently. What happens in wars between the strong and the weak when the weak side does as David did and refuses to fight the way the bigger side wants to fight, using unconventional or guerrilla tactics? The answer: in those cases the weaker party’s winning percentage climbs from 28.5 percent to 63.6 percent. To put that in perspective, the United States’ population is ten times the size of Canada’s. If the two countries went to war and Canada chose to fight unconventionally, history would suggest that you ought to put your money on Canada.
Today judge Yousef Gharam Allah Al Ghamdi of the Specialized Criminal Courts used the new antiterrorism law to sentence human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair to fifteen years in prison, two hundred thousand Riyal fine and another fifteen years travel ban upon Abulkhair’s release.
For more background on the Abulkhair case and the new antiterrorism law, click here.
Here is some of what many Saudis on Twitter have written about the court’s verdict:
1- Waleed does not deserve this and we do not deserve someone like Waleed defending us. God help him.
ما يستاهل وليد. وحنا ما نستحق يدافع عنا واحد مثل وليد. الله يكون بعونه. #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— سلطان العامر (@sultaan_1) July 6, 2014
2- How are we supposed to create a civil society that supports the government with all of Saudi’s civil society’s leaders behind bars?
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير كيف سنصل الى مجتمع مدني يساند الدولة في الوصول الى بر الأمان وجميع رواد المجتمع المدني خلف القضبان
— عزيزة محمد اليوسف (@azizayousef) July 6, 2014
3- Fifteen years prison for Waleed Abulkhair and before him Albajadi, Alhamid, Alqahtani, Alkhadir, Alsaeed…etc. Reformers and rights advocates are taken down one after the other.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير و قبله البجادي/الحامد /القحطاني/الخضر/السعيد..الخ : تصفية لدعاة الإصلاح و الحقوق والثقافة السلمية !؟
— Matrook Alfaleh (@malfaleh) July 6, 2014
4- God knows that Waleed is a noble man and a champion of the oppressed. All we know of him is honor and honesty.
نشهد الله أنه رجل نبيل ونصير للمظلومين !وما علمنا عليه من السوء إلا الصدق والشرف !. #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— الحميدي العبيسان (@alobisan) July 6, 2014
5- These sentences against citizens who peacefully demanded their rights transforms them in the eyes of the people to activists and symbols of freedom.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير هذه الأحكام ضد مواطنين طالبوا بحقوقهم وبشكل سلمي هي من حوّلتهم في نظر الشعب إلى مناضلين و رموز للحرية
— خلود صالح الفهد (@khulods) July 6, 2014
6- Words seem small against the siege of antiterrorism laws and arbitrary sentencing of a national and peaceful human rights activist.
كل الكلام يبدو صغيراً أمام محاصرة حقوقي وطني شجاع ومسالم بقوانين الإرهاب والأحكام التعسفية #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— بدر الإبراهيم (@Baderalibrahim) July 6, 2014
7- Only in my country are human rights activists and reformers imprisoned while Al Qaeda terrorists are set free and religious police thugs are acquitted.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير فقط في وطني.. يسجن المصلحين والحقوقيين ويطلق سراح ارهابيي القاعدة ويبرأ شبيحة الهيئة !
— جميل العتيبي (@alotaibijameel) July 6, 2014
8- God help you and your family, Waleed. You are known for your fight for freedom and justice.
كان الله في عونك وعون اهلك ياوليد.. ماعرفنا عنك الا انتصارك للحرية و العدالة.. #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— إبراهيم القحطاني (@brhom) July 6, 2014
9- Change will not come from nothing and we will not perish as long as there are free men like Waleed in this country.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير التغيير لا يأتي من العدم و لن يفنى ما دام هناك أحرار في هذا الوطن كأمثال وليد
— أحمد باعبود (@a_baaboud) July 6, 2014
10- We are extremely harsh with those who speak against the country’s policies and then wonder why extremism is born here.
نستخدم أسلوب قاسي جداً مع من ينطق بكلمات تعارض السياسة ثم نتساءل ببجاحة عن أسباب ولادة التطرف هنا #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— عادل الهذلول (@HADL0L) July 6, 2014
11- Human rights activists like Waleed prove that the government is not interested in moderates and reforms.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير أمثال وليد من المناضلين يعرّون السلطة ويوضحون إنها ما تبي إصلاح ولا (إعتدال ووسطية) ولا شيء
— ريما الوابل (@ReemaWabel) July 6, 2014
12- Waleed did not carry a weapon and he did not declare his desire to decapitate men. His only sin was to tell the truth. He will rise above. Please do not forget in your prayers the (imprisoned) members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير لم يحمل السلاح ولم يصرح برغبته بجز رقاب البشر كل ذنبه قول الحق ، ستضل شامخ ، لاتنسوا اعضاء حسم من دعاكم
— Mohammed Al-Ahmari (@al_mafaaa) July 6, 2014
13- Waleed is peaceful and loves peace. He has not killed and has not committed any sin. His gun is paper and his bullets are words. This is not a verdict, it is spite.
مسالم ويحب السﻻم ..لم يقاتل ولم يرتكب الحرام..مسدسه أوراق ورصاصه كﻻم ..ايعقل ان هذا حكم..ﻻ بل انتقام ؟#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير!
— nawaf alanazi (@nownawaf) July 6, 2014
14- There is nothing left to be said. Everything is clear now. This country is heaven for the corrupt and a ditch for reformers.
لا يوجد شيء يقال كل الأمور واضحة الان هذه البلد جنة المفسدين ، و اخدود المصلحين . #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— Mohammed.H.Al-Sahafi (@MODYmar) July 6, 2014
15- No free man, no matter his linguistic and cultural talents, in the current circumstances, has the ability to vindicate Waleed. All glory to Waleed.
ولا يملك أي حُرّ في هذا الظرف القدرة على نصرة وليد مهما بلغ موروثه اللغوي والثقافي. لك المجد ياوليد. #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— أحمد الشهري (@ahmshehri) July 6, 2014
16- Prisons have become an honor and an aspiration for every person who straightforwardly speaks his mind. God help the oppressed.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير اصبحت السجون في بلادنا مشرّفة ومطلب لكل شخص يطرح رأيه بكل شفافية ، كان الله في عون كل مظلوم .
— Abdullah Al qahtani (@abo4kra) July 6, 2014
17- Terrorist and traitors are rehabilitated and then released while human rights activists are imprisoned.
— عبدالرحمن البسام (@albassamah) July 6, 2014
18- Orders of arrests are issued now and again for both liberals and conservative with the purpose of shutting up all Saudis.
اعتقلات تصدر بين الفينه والاخرى لفئات مختلفه بين متدين و لبرالي ،غايتها واحد (اخرس) الجم فمك انت سعودي. #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— مها المحمد (@M_Mha222) July 6, 2014
19- The men in power are creating a heroic figure of Waleed in a country where 60% of the population are under 35 years of age and have much in common with him.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير صاحب الكلمة العليا سيجعل من وليد شخصية بطولية ببلد اكثر من 60%اقل من 35سنة فحياة وليد تشبه حياة العديد
— علياء الهذلول (@alia_hathloul) July 6, 2014
20- In solidarity with Waleed Abulkhair.
متضامنة مع #وليد_أبوالخير
— هالة الدوسري (@Hala_Aldosari) July 6, 2014
21- Did you know that a father who rapes and kills his own daughter is sentenced eight years while human rights activists get more than ten years.
— سعاد (@sososaeedah) July 6, 2014
22- When will the judiciary understand that imprisoning Waleed for his peaceful activism increases frustration and pushes youth to resort to means of violence and extremism?
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير متى يفهم القضاء ان سجن وليد صاحب النشاط السلمي يزيد الإحباط ويدفع بالشباب للجوء لوسائل العنف وللمتطرفين
— Norah_Alrasheed (@norah_nr) July 6, 2014
23- In plain Arabic, in this country you cannot open your mouth or else you are destined for prison.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير بالعربي لاتفتح فمك في هالبلد وإلا السجن مصيرك
— عبدالرحمن الدهمش (@aadahmash) July 6, 2014
24- If Waleed’s prison guards realized how much he has sacrificed to defend human rights, they would kiss his forehead and apologize for their inability to help.
لو يدرك سجانه كم يضحي من أجل الدفاع عن حقوق الإنسان لقبل رأسه ولأعتذر عن عجزه تقديم شئ له #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— عقل الباهلي (@AklAlbahli) July 6, 2014
25- Today we are all Waleed Abulkhair.
اليوم كلنا #وليد_أبوالخير
— Elham Manea (@ElhamManea) July 6, 2014
26- Those who call for the rights of people are imprisoned and fined while those who rob the country of its wealth are at liberty.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير الذي يطالب بحقوق الناس يسجن 15 سنة ويُغرم والذي ينهب ثروات البلد حُر طليق!!
— عبدالله العݠـيل (@Abdullah_akeel) July 6, 2014
27- Waleed is a husband, a father of a month-old girl, a lawyer, a hard-working family man and an active individual in the community ..
All I know of him is his conscientiousness.
زوج وأب لطفلة عمرها شهر ومحام مجتهد.. رجل أسرة وفرد فعال في المجتمع.. لا أعلم إلا أنه يعمل بضمير حي #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— تماضر اليامي Tamador (@TamadorAlyami) July 6, 2014
28- In the law of tyranny, reform is a felony that calls for imprisonment.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير في شريعة الاستبداد، يكون الإصلاح جناية توجب السجن.
— AbdulAziz Al-Asiri (@duasobA) July 6, 2014
29- There was no betrayal. They are peaceful advocates for justice and freedom with a great love for their country. And the result is a fifteen year sentence for Waleed. How can you justify that?
لم يخونوا الأمانة .. كانوا دعاة عدل وحرية بالكلمة الطيبة .. حبهم لوطنهم كبير.. والنتيجة اليوم سجن #وليد_أبوالخير ١٥ سنة . مالكم كيف تحكمون .
— وليد سليس (@WaleedSulais) July 6, 2014
30- Reform and freedom of thought is a bigger crime here than bribery and theft.
— حسناء الحارثي (@H22Hassona) July 6, 2014
31- My country, you have jailed a good man who loves you. How strange you are to rehabilitate bombing terrorists and imprison peaceful activists.
سجنت رجلاً طيّباً و يحبك يا وطني. وطن غريب، يناصح ارهابيين مفجّرين و يسجن مسالمين. #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— إبراهيم (@ibhm) July 6, 2014
32- Read contemporary history and look around .. Has the oppression of peaceful activism led to its termination and social stability or the opposite?
لنقرأ التاريخ المعاصر ولننظر حولنا .. هل ساهم قمع النشاط السلمي في إنهائه و استقرار المجتمعات أم العكس! #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— بدر الجعفري (@BadrAljaafari) July 6, 2014
33- This is violent oppression of those who use peaceful methods and then we are shocked when others resort to assassinations and bombings.
قمع عنيف لمن يستخدم الأساليب السلمية .. ثم (( يتفاجؤون )) عندما يلجأ آخرون إلى الاغتيالات و التفجيرات #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— Mishari AlGhamdi (@mishari11) July 6, 2014
34- Waleed called for reforms and justice and this is the court’s verdict! He is now on the path of the activists and constitutionalists who have gone before.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير وليد طالب بالإصلاح والعدالة فصدر هذا الحكم بحقه! ليلحق بدعاة الإصلاح الحقوقي والدستوري.
— عبدالرحمن الشهري (@Abdurhmanshehri) July 6, 2014
35- This verdict has shaken all who fear for the security and stability of our country. The ruling is shocking and frustrating.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير من يخاف على أمن وطنه واستقراره يهز كيانه هذا الحكم حكم يثير الدهشة والتساؤلات والحيرة !!
— إبراهيم المديميغ (@imodattorney) July 6, 2014
36- When a country is too small to contain the free, prison becomes an honor and distinction.
— الدكتور علي العُمري (@dr_alialomari) July 6, 2014
37- It is to be expected. The greater the government’s fear of rights activists, the greater its thirst to imprison them. As long as the fear remains, so do their names.
أمر متوقع كلما زاد خوف الحكومة من المطالبين بالحقوق كلما زاد تعطشها لسجنهم وكما يبقى الخوف تبقى اسماءهم #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— سُهى القحطاني (@Soha_alq) July 7, 2014
38- They keep making the wrong wager. They have never won since Albajadi, Alqahtani and Alhamid and now Waleed. Waleed’s ideas and words pledge that every day there will appear a new free patriot.
يراهنون على خيارات خاطئة ولم تنجح رهاناتهم منذ البجادي حتى الحامد والقحطاني والان وليد. كلمات وأفكار وليد تعاهدهم أن كل يوم ثمة وطني حر جديد
— ثمر المرزوقي (@thumarm) July 6, 2014
39- Waleed, we will remember your name while the names of the oppressors will be forgotten or will fall in shame. The story of your faith and resilience will always stand.
وليد: سنتذكّرك ، سيبقى اسمك.. و أسماء الظالمين إما ستُنسى أو ستدنّس بعار.. و تبقى قصة صمودك وإيمانك #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— Mohannad Najjar (@MohannadNaj) July 6, 2014
40- Waleed, I rule that you are free and will never be conquered. I rule that you are more of a patriot than all of the MOI’s employees behind the fake Twitter accounts combined. This is my ruling as one of the people.
حكمي عليك أنك حر لم ترض بالمهانة حكمي عليك أنك وطني أكثر من البيض أجمع هذا هو حكمي عليك و أنا واحد من الناس @WaleedAbulkhair
— Fahad Abalkhail (@fahadabalkhail) July 6, 2014
41- People who instigate jihad and terrorism deserve prison and not patriots who want reforms and the betterment of our country.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير من يستاهل السجن من يحرض الشباب عل الجهاد والارهاب وليس من يحب وطنه ويريد لها الخير والاصلاح
— سحر حسن نصيف (@Da7eyatAlmojtam) July 6, 2014
42- ISIS is knocking on our doors, Egypt is exploding in anger, Bahrain is unstable, Kuwait is witnessing civil movements and we are pursuing people and imprisoning them.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير داعش تقرع الأبواب..مصر تنفجر غضبا .. البحرين غير مستقرة .. الكويت فيها حراك .. واحنا نلاحق الناس نسجنهم
— سلطان الجميري (@SultanAljumeri) July 6, 2014
43- I worry that such harsh ruling on those who have never taken up violence will have dire consequences in the end.
أخشى أن مثل هذه الأحكام القاسية على من لم يتخذ العنف منهجاً له يوماً .. تساهم في صناعة ما لا يحمد عقباه #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— بدر الجعفري (@BadrAljaafari) July 6, 2014
44- Governments that fight peaceful human rights activists so that they succumb to it, push the naive to violence. However this fight will only increase the resilience of the free and highlight their causes.
السلطة التي تحارب السلميين لكي يرضخوا لها؛ هي تدفع السذج للعنف، لكنها تزيد الأحرار صمودًا وتبرز قضاياهم… #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— أبوفارس يحيى العسيري (@abo1fares) July 6, 2014
45- God help Waleed! He shouted the truth while we remained silent. He championed the oppressed while we failed them. He defended the imprisoned while we cowered.
اللهم جازي وليد عنا كل خير ، فقد صدع بالحق حين سكتنا ونصر المظلوم حين خذلنا ودافع عن المعتقل حين جبنا. #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— عمر بن عبدالعزيز (@oamaz7) July 6, 2014
46- Waleed Abulkhair is a defender of human rights who we are proud to say has consistently defended human rights for years. He has defended many and today we must all stand by him.
— عبدالعزيز الحصان (@AHussan) July 6, 2014
47- Fifteen years for speaking about corruption cases and reforms? He never defected, incited violence, stole or murdered! How can this verdict be?
١٥ سنة عشانه يتكلم عن إصلاح وقضايا فساد، ما عمره كفر ولا حرض على عنف ولا سرق ولا قتل .. وش الحكم هذا ؟
— Dr.Waleed AlMajed (@WaleedMjd) July 6, 2014
48- ِEvery day Waleed spends behind the bars of the oppressors will be another day of victory for Waleed. Waleed will not be the last station in the peaceful struggle for dignity.
#السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير كل يوم يقضيه وليد أبو الخير خلف قضبان المستبد هو إنتصار له، وليد لن يكون أخر محطات النضال السلمي الشريف
— Nader Al-Otaibi (@Naderotb) July 7, 2014
49- Time will prove that the banner of freedom has not fallen, and the struggle will continue. The bet is on the resolute!
سيثبت الزمن أن لواء الحرية لم يسقط، والمسيرة ستستمر والرهان على صاحب النفس الأطول!! #السجن_خمسة_عشر_عاما_لوليد_أبوالخير
— Fahad Al-Fahad (@Foxy_ksa) July 6, 2014
50- Your smile is stronger than their shackles. Waleed was sentenced to fifteen years for calling for reforms. He never carried a weapon. He was concerned for his country and so he was repaid with prison!
إبتسامتك أقوى من قيودهم الحكم على وليد ١٥ عام سجن لأنه طالب بالإصلاح، لم يرفع سلاحا، خاف على وطنه فكان جزاؤه السجن! pic.twitter.com/0c9FM92cOG
— صلاح الحيـدر (@SalahAlHaidar) July 6, 2014
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The authorities knew all along that Waleed Abu al-Khair was guilty. They just needed something better to charge him with. So on April 15, even as the prominent human rights lawyer stood before a judge, accused of harming the country’s reputation and other offenses, they had him arrested right there in the courtroom for something that would really stick: breaking the country’s new antiterrorism law.
Saudi Arabia has been hugely successful in combating terrorism — there have been no major attacks within its borders since 2004, when militants assaulted the American Consulate in Jeddah in an incident that left a dozen people dead. Thus, many people might be puzzled why the government has even bothered to pass the Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, which went into effect in February. But like so many government actions of late — including the legal fishing expedition against Mr. Abu al-Khair — the legislation has little to do with fear of Al Qaeda and much to do with fear of the Arab Spring. Click here to read on.
The first time I came across Waleed Abulkhair’s name was about five years ago, when I was following Samar Badawi’s case. Badawi was being abused by her father, and despite medical and psychological reports from Saudi hospitals and shelters proving this, a court ruled in her father’s favor and sent Badawi to prison on charges of disobeying her father.
For seven months, Waleed Abulkhair desperately tried to get her released, but to no avail. He then proposed that they go public, with an online campaign about Badawi’s situation. She agreed, and the ensuing publicity shamed the courts into releasing her within six days from the start of the campaign, which immediately went viral. Abulkhair proposed marriage to Badawi, and it took six months of court procedures to release her from her father’s guardianship to Abulkhair’s. One of my favorite interviews is a 2011 BBC radio program featuring the couple, during which they talk about their love. Badawi is currently eight months pregnant with their first child.
Read on by clicking here.
Today at the Riyadh Book Fair, Dr. Aisha Al Mana and Dr. Hissa Al Sheikh sat down to sign their book documenting the first demonstration to lift the ban on women driving on November 6th, 1990. Dr. Madiha Al Ajroush was there too with her camera and was kind enough to share the photos she took here. Dr. Al Ajroush had participated in the 1990 demonstration and is the only Saudi woman to take part in every single demonstration and movement to lift the ban on women driving since the first one. She’s also a renowned photographer who has at this year’s book fair an aisle named in her honor.
I’m currently in the process of translating the Sixth of November book. Scroll down to read a sample of the book in English.
Sample from the book:
At around 2:30 in the afternoon of November 6th 1990, a good crowd of women started showing up at the parking lot of the Safeway supermarket. Some were driven there by their drivers and others were driven their by their husbands or sons. Once at the parking lot, the chauffeurs, husbands and sons relinquished the cars to the women. The number of women outnumbered the number of cars available. There were forty-seven women and fourteen cars taking part in the demonstration. Not all of the women knew each other and some had never met before that fateful day.
Every woman with a valid driving license obtained from abroad assumed the driver’s seat in each car while the other women got in the passenger’s seats for support. As the prayer call for the afternoon prayer began, the women started their cars. Their husbands, sons and drivers stood in the parking lot, in silence, watching. The simplicity and justice of the movement lent it a reverence that enabled the women to trust in each other and have the courage to act together in their shared cause.
The women started driving their cars one after the other. At the head of the demonstration was a car driven by Wafa Al Muneef followed by another driven by Dr. Aisha Al-Mana. They started on King Abdulaziz street and went on to Ouroba street and then took a left onto Thalatheen Street. The stop lights slowed some of them down. The cars at the beginning of the movement would every once in awhile slow down so that the cars behind could catch up, as they had decided that they would stay together. The scene drew spectators both pedestrians and other car drivers. They stood in shock and disbelief but did not interfere with the procession.
Emboldened by the fact that the police had not stopped them or paid them any attention, the women at the head of the demonstration decided to drive another round. It was at the beginning of the second round that the police finally intervened and stopped the women. The police stopped the women’s cars one by one in a line against the pavement in front of The Riyadh Palace Function Hall on King Abdul Aziz street. The presence of members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Religious Police) shortly followed the appearance of the police.
The first thing the policemen did after stopping the demonstration was to ask the women to produce their driving licenses. One woman quickly handed over a valid driving license she had obtained from the U.S.A. Faced with this awkward situation, the perturbed policemen called for their superior who arrived just as the members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice did. The Commission members requested that the police entrust the women and the investigation over to the Commission. The women opposed the idea completely and the police refused as well.
This was published as part of the annual Wilson Center’s Middle East Program celebration of International Women’s Day. You can find articles by women from all across the Middle East. I highly recommend Hala Al Dosari’s article on page 7.
The year 2014 marks the third year since the Arab Spring began in early 2011. Three years in and women in the MENA region are just now beginning to find their bearings and leave their mark. While women in the rest of the world were making strides in women’s rights, women in the Arab world had but only a few victories here and there that were never generalized or widespread to all. Fortunately, things have now changed dramatically, especially for Saudi Arabian women.
Although the same obstacles, including the guardianship system and gender segregation, are still in place, the difference now is in the virtual opportunities. Grassroots movements in Saudi Arabia have finally come into their own. Saudi women have mastered social media and its tools and are now using them to organize in a country where people are imprisoned for participating in public civil societies. Saudi women are not only taking advantage of these tools for women’s rights issues but also participating in the national discussion about human rights in general and the rights of Saudi citizens.
Through the ongoing grassroots movement of the October 26 Saudi women driving campaign, Saudi women (and men) put to rest the myth that the country is made up of a backward, misogynistic people ruled by a progressive governmental elite. Now they are showing the world that Saudis are capable of peaceful civil movements regardless of whether or not the government is ready or willing to accept that they are no longer subjects but citizens. Through the use of social media, Saudi women and men are now able to gather and discuss their issues without the threat of being arrested for breaking political or gender segregation rules. They are now able to find one another and organize with others who have the same civil and human rights goals. The usual tribal, gender, and regional divisions no longer apply. And from where I am sitting, I can see that Saudi people are taking full advantage of these virtual opportunities.