The iniquity of imposing a ban and fees

One of the biggest misconceptions about Saudi Arabia is that the ban on women driving is societal. As a matter of fact, women driving is only prohibited in the cities. In traditional rural areas, women drive with no objections by society or government. If tribes living their traditional lifestyles in their villages have no objection to women driving, why would their more modern urban counterparts object? The answer is they don’t either. Women and men across the country have defied the ban either by driving or speaking out with no societal consequences but rather governmental. People have been suspended from their jobs, imprisoned and banned from travel simply for wanting the ban lifted. There is no definite answer as to why the government will not allow each woman to choose for herself whether or not to drive. However, there have been a few analyses as to why the ban is so strictly implemented. One of these is this article by Dr. Mohammed bin Saud AlMasoud published in Aleqtisadiah Newspaper on 19/July/2014. Here I’ve translated it for everyone:

Screenshot 2015-09-26 22.59.22

Lifting the ban on women driving will result in big losses for many. The campaign Women Driving is More Chaste addresses the abnormality of permanently imposing a strange man on Saudi women. The success of this campaign will be challenged by three institutions. These institutions will most likely constitute pressure lines to prevent women from obtaining the human and civil right of driving their own cars.

First: Fee-charging government bodies

– One and a half million drivers’ visas worth two and a half billion SAR (six hundred sixty-six million USD).

– The General Passports Department earns one and a half billion SAR (four hundred million USD) from residency fees.

– Health insurance fees bring in a minimum of seven hundred million SAR (a hundred eighty-six million USD).

Thus, the Interior Ministry will lose approximately five billion SAR (a billion and three hundred thirty-three million USD) if women driving were to be legalized. These enormous returns will start to dwindle and fall until ultimately they become nothing. It’s no wonder that the Interior Ministry is not overly enthusiastic about the idea of lifting the ban and are firm and strong against women who attempt to exercise their right to drive.

Second: Taxi companies

The vast majority of this companies are owned by elites. 85% of their business depends on women seeking transportation in the bigger cities. These businesses generate unbelievably huge sums that reach to five million SAR (a million and three hundred thousand USD) a month. Naturally, if women were allowed to drive, this enormous financial resource will gradually dry up. Hence those millions a month will be no more. Again, it’s no surprise that these elites would not be too excited or happy to see the ban lifted. This is what happen in Qatar when they lifted the ban on Qatari women driving. The taxi companies’ profits fell to a quarter of what they were. It is especially worrying for the Saudi companies now that taxi charges rose a 100% in the cities after fees on foreign recruitment rose.

Third: Recruitment agencies and airlines

When we talk about one and a half million visas then we are also saying one and a half million flights worth up to three billion SAR (eight hundred million USD), as well as one and a half million recruitment contracts valued at eight billion SAR (two billion USD) minimum. The price of recruiting one driver from abroad is about eight thousand SAR (two thousand USD) which adds up to thirteen billion SAR (three and a half billion USD). That is a number that would be difficult to let go. Experts are forecasting that under the current ban the number of drivers is expected to double to three million foreign drivers. Thus, these profits will also increase a 100%.

All the billions mentioned above are paid by Saudi families and specifically Saudi women, not once but many times over. What’s more, financial penalties up to twice the original cost are imposed if there is any delay in payment. For example, the driver’s residency renewal fees double if they are not paid on time.

Hence, we have so many winners at the expense of Saudi women. Women, who are weak, tender, helpless citizens in need of protection and care, represent 60% of humanity’s workforce, and yet women have to bear all these consequences. Since the ban on women driving is implemented with threats of firmness and strength against all who defy it, it would only be fair to revise all these driver recruitment fees and fines. These fees add up to about six billion SAR (one and a half billion USD) paid by Saudi families, in particular, Saudi women because drivers are imposed on them by necessity.


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Municipal Elections 2015

Dr. Hatoon Al-Fassi, Cofounder of Baladi Initiative

Dr. Hatoon Al-Fassi, Cofounder of Baladi Initiative

Thursday was the last day for candidacy registration in Saudi Arabia. Don’t get too excited! The elections are only for municipal council seats. But it’s still a start. This is the third round of municipal elections in history and

Dr. Aisha Al Mana, Dean of Mohammed AlMana College for Health Sciences and Dr. Hanan Al-Sheikh, pediatrician

Dr. Aisha Al Mana, Dean of Mohammed AlMana College for Health Sciences and Dr. Hanan Al-Sheikh, pediatrician

the first to allow women to vote and run. The inclusion of women is not the only progress. This round, the municipal election winners will be a bit more than the nominal seats they were in the past and will have a little more say in the budget and performance of the municipalities. For example, in the past the head of the municipality is also a voting member of the council. It doesn’t matter which way he votes or even if he abstains because the ultimate decision is made by his office once the issue leaves the council. However, this time around, the heads of municipalities are no longer council members and only a non-voting coordinator from the head’s office is allowed to attend. Other changes include lowering the age requirement to eighteen and raising the educational requirement of candidates from literate to a high school diploma. Also the number of elected versus appointed council members has changed. Instead of half elected and half appointed, now it will be two-thirds elected and one-third appointed.

Many have expressed that participation in these elections is futile. They point out that previously elected officials have not had any real impact. Others claim that many of those that were elected, were voted in for reasons other than merit such as tribal and religious affiliations.

Naseema Al Sada and daughter, activist

Naseema Al Sada and daughter, activist

This has also been evident in the current election with Shiekh Al-Mutlaq, member of the Saudi Highest Islamic Council, telling people that they should vote for their relatives regardless of merit unless those relatives release them from the obligation. However, others are more farsighted including the Municipal Affairs elections spokesperson, Mr. Jadeeh Al Qahtani, who told Al-Riyadh newspaper that the experience gained from the elections will enable the country to conduct any type of elections. And he’s right. After this round, the country will have 35 thousand Saudi men and women across the country who are trained to conduct elections. A million and twenty thousand men are already registered voters from the previous two elections. In this third round, there were over half a million new registrations. Overall, there are 1,750,149 registered voters, with women making up 22% of the total. Nominations for the seats ended yesterday with 16% going to women nominees. Some areas have released their numbers:

Area Women Men Total
Riyadh 236 1051 1287
Eastern Region 65 451 516
Qaseem 78 533 611
Madina 129 528 657
Total 508 2563 3071

municipal elections nominees

The names of those whose nominations are approved and finalized will not be released until November 29th. Afterwards the candidates have to be careful about their campaigns. According to the bylaws, their campaign spokesperson has to be approved by the Ministry. The candidates have to also be careful that their campaign program does not contain anything “seditious.” In 2005, Salman Al Sulayman candidacy was disqualified because his campaign program included his support for lifting the ban on women driving. Both men and women candidates are not even allowed to include their personal photo in their campaign programs.

voting and driving cartoon

Hind Al Zahid, Director of Eastern Region Businesswomen Center

Hind Al Zahid, Director of Eastern Region Businesswomen Center

The small number of women voters and nominees is partly due to difficulties in registering including the fact that they will be arrested if they drive their own cars. Some of these difficulties were eloquently explained in an article by Maha Akeel. Other difficulties include the prohibition on civil societies and political assembly. Civil societies are illegal and Saudis who create them face legal consequences. For example, both Waleed Abu Alkhair and Dr. Mohammed Al Qahtani are currently serving long prison sentences for starting nongovernmental organizations that promote and advocate human rights. Women participation in the municipal elections had their own government independent advocates; Dr. Hatoon Al Fassi and Fowziya Al Hani started the Baladi Initiative to advocate for women participation in the municipal elections in 2010. A year later, King Abdullah decreed that women will take part in elections. The Baladi Initiative since then has worked on raising awareness about the importance of women participation through lectures, workshops, and media appearances. ْ

Dr. Thoraya Al Obaid, Shoura Councilwoman

Dr. Thoraya Al Obaid, Shoura Councilwoman

Unfortunately once the elections were coming up, these efforts were abruptly stopped by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The Baladi Initiative had started workshops for women who planned to run and for potential women campaign managers. The workshops were free, open to all and planned for all the major cities. As soon as the first one began in Riyadh, the Ministry issued a statement that anything pertaining to the elections has to be either run or licensed by the government. And since the Baladi Initiative is non-governmental then all of their lectures and activities became now illegal. Fortunately this did not discourage these bold women. Since they could not do anything on the ground, they took their movement online. They do interviews on TV to encourage participation and used social media to get the word out.

Sahar Nasief, author and activist, and her mother

Sahar Nasief, author and activist, and her mother

Many influential women also had their photos at registration taken and posted to encourage other women to do the same. Some of these leading women’s registration photos are included in this post. If you click on a photo, it will take you to either their Twitter profile or an online bio.

There weren’t that many objections to women participation. Sheikh Abdulrahman Al Barrack issued a fatwa that women’s participation is prohibited. However this is the same sheikh who issued an earlier fatwa claiming that Muslims not adhering to and believing in gender segregation are apostates who should be killed. So far, no one has been executed. He also called soccer the “mother of all sins” and a “Jewish conspiracy against Muslim.” Yet soccer remains the country’s national and by far most popular sport. Others from the religious establishment took a more politically savvy approach. Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Fowzan encourages good Muslim women to run for seats in case a female quota is implemented. This is so “deviant” and “westernized” women do not get any seats. However, if there is no quota then Sheikh Al Fowzan states all devout Muslim men and women should vote for men. Thus no woman gets a council seat. Three videos came out and were widely shared on social media and Whatsapp calling on all “morally vigilant” men to register for the elections to ensure that no women are voted into the councils. The most telling part about these videos is how men and women are represented graphically. The men are portrayed singularly and hold their heads high looking straight ahead while the women are covered, in groups, in profile and with their heads bowed down.

Screenshot of how women and men are portrayed in videos against women participation

Screenshot of how women and men are portrayed in videos against women participation

So far there has been little indication that people are acting upon the religious establishment’s advice. There were a few minor reports of vandalism at locations for women registrations but nothing serious.

Considering that this is the first time for women to take part and how new Saudis are to the whole democratic process, it’s so far been an auspicious start for the future of political participation in Saudi Arabia.


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Saudi Heroes

Saudi Heroes was inspired by the original Saudi hero, Dr. Gazi Al Qosaibi. These lists highlight Saudis who take stances or work hard in the unselfish pursuit of the betterment of the Saudi people. In this sentence, you’ll find links to the first Saudi heroes post, the second, and the third.

Dr. Tawfig Al Rabiah


Dr. Al Rabiah, Minister of Commerce and Industry, is famously known as “the minister of the people.” He earned this title by mainly abolishing the usual ceremony that surrounds Saudi ministerial positions. He rarely wears the black and gold cloak that sheikhs traditionally wear as a status symbol. He enters the ministry through the front door instead of using a secret back entrance. He even makes a point of taking the stairs so that both ministry employees and the general public can have access to him longer as he enters and leaves his office. When he first took office in 2011, he did not make the usual unlikely-to-ever-materialize-ten-point-five-years plan announcements. We began to feel his presence through the public closures of restaurants for compromised sanitation and violated food regulations. Then he streamlined consumer complaints and facilitated the public’s follow-up of complaints. He removed the glass windows between the ministry’s bureaucrats and the people they are serving. Overall he’s a man who does his job well which is, unfortunately, unusual in the Saudi public service sector.

Waleed Abulkhair


Abulkhair is an independent human rights activist. Many know him as Raif Badawi’s lawyer. He’s also the lawyer who fell in love with one of the strongest Saudi women I know, Samar Badawi. He proposed to her towards the end of the seven months she spent in prison for not obeying her abusive father. He’s a lawyer who’s the first and in many cases the only to defend those who have the government as their plaintiff. He founded an independent human rights organization called the Saudi Arabia Monitor of Human Rights. Unfortunately, since Raif’s arrest, Abulkhair has fared worse. He is the first in Saudi history to be tried and sentenced under the new terrorism law and is currently serving a fifteen years sentence. His charges include undermining the regime, inflaming public opinion, insulting the judiciary, harming public order, founding an unlicensed organization, and violating the anti-cybercrime law.

Dr. Latifah Alshaalan

Al-Shaalan is one of the first thirty women to be appointed to the Shura Council (national consultative assembly). Appointments to the Shura are lucrative and renewable. Understandably this leads many on this board to be diplomatic about their views. That is not the case with Al-Shaalan. She warms my heart with how unlike the majority she will call a spade a spade. Despite being reprimanded for attempting to discuss the women driving ban, she did not shirk from attempting it again. She was also outspoken against a recommendation to raise the childbirth rate to bulk up military recruitments. Another issue she dared to bring up is the revision of the Interior Ministry’s terrorist rehabilitation program. She commended the official number of only 12% returning to terrorism after their release. However, she stated that it should be improved. Above is a tweet she wrote last Women’s Day. It translates to “The road is long and treacherous for Saudi women, but women will continue to work on their rights, change perceptions and move the still waters rather than beat themselves up and cry.”

Dr. Ibrahim Al Modamaigh


Dr. Almodamaigh is a fatherly figure. Even interrogators cannot help but respect his calm and knowledgeable demeanor. This patience and wisdom also come across on Twitter. When most would have been frustrated, Dr. Almodamaigh respectfully responds to even trolls. He has taken advantage of that platform to educate Saudis about their rights. Some have told me that they cannot form a final opinion on local political topics until they’ve seen Almodamaigh’s position on the issue.

Dr. Almodamaigh is a Harvard doctorate graduate. He did not attend his graduation in protest over Harvard’s position on Israel’s 1982 attack on Lebanon. He has a history of taking similar stands. He is one of the first signatories of the 1990 Civil Rights petition demanding the monarchy allow a parliament elected by the people. He was appointed to the Human Rights Commission but soon resigned due to its glaring lack of government independence. Currently, he has his law firm. He leads the defense of human rights activists charged with establishing government independent human rights groups such as the members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). He also defended those prosecuted for criticizing a government body such as the three lawyers who were tried for tweeting about the Ministry of Justice’s incompetence and for retweeting a cartoon on the same matter.

Aziza Al Yousef

Screenshot 2015-04-18 14.18.56

AlYousef is one of the most generous people in Saudi Arabia. She is generous with her time, money and hospitality. She has hosted lectures on everything from the Saudi economy’s current situation and future prospects to the life of literary figure Abid Khazandar. She has taken part in all the women driving campaigns since 2011 not only by driving and getting caught but also by supporting other women who do. Her catering business always prioritized employing Saudi women years before it was a national agenda. She is bravely outspoken on fighting terrorism through Arab nationalism. She is the only Saudi woman to attend eight sessions of the ACPRA trials. If I were to sum her up in one sentence, I would say she is one of those rare human beings who lead by example rather than talk. When Jamjoom on CNN asked her why she took part in driving movements, she replied that we are sick and tired of waiting to be given our rights, it’s about time we take them.

Essam Al-Zamel


Al-Zamel is known as a Saudi Twitter “big fish.” With thousands of influential followers in the political and business sectors, his tweets have weight. He is also a fellow blogger. His day job is entrepreneurship with a focus on online startups. However, he’s on this list for his undying championing of taxing “white land.” Only 30% of Saudis own their homes. Everyone else rents. Meanwhile, the rich have a tendency to hoard large undeveloped plots of urban land (white land) as riskless investments. These amassed undeveloped plots lead to land shortages, which in turn drive property prices up. To discourage this practice, Al-Zamel advocated that these plots be taxed. Since 2011, Al-Zamel has been campaigning and raising awareness by taking part in a movie on the topic and through his social media accounts. He has been unrelenting and consistent in a culture with a limited history of political advocacy. Usually, in Saudi Arabia, a person who takes up a cause gives up within a year. Many in Saudi don’t realize that governmental changes in most corners of the world require years of campaigning. Even after the Saudi government announced that it will impose a white land tax, Al-Zamel did not just celebrate and move on. He has since written tirelessly about the implications of how this tax is implemented. He is currently working on educating people about the importance of it being high enough to impact the real estate market and that it be imposed indiscriminately on all.

Dr. Tawfiq al-Saif


Al-Saif is a researcher and writer with a doctorate in political science. He’s authored books in Arabic and English. He is a Saudi hero because much of what he’s said and done for the past few decades is to alleviate sectarianism in Saudi. Al-Saif is a minority Shiite in a country that is considered the center of Sunni Islam. This is a country where, without fear of reproach, government paid sheikhs can issue statements titled “Shia sect an evil among the sects of the Islamic nation, and the greatest enemy and deceivers of the Sunni people.” He spent his teens and early twenties in Iran, Syria and Britain as part of an opposition movement for Shia rights in Saudi. However, when Saddam Hussein came calling with offers of funds, a radio station and even a plane, Al-Saif’s movement turned him down. They responded that despite their differences with how Saudi is governed, they are patriots first. After the Gulf War, Al-Saif’s movement made peace with the government and returned home without fear of prosecution. Since then, Al-Saif has patiently and consistently raised awareness from within about the plight of the Shia minorities while emphasizing the importance of human rights for all. He wrote and signed major petitions that called for national reforms not specific to Shiites. He even had the poise and forbearance to sit through a debate with a mutawa on whether or not Shias should enjoy the same rights as Sunnis. But my personal favorite moment in his interviews is when he is accused of being sectarian himself. With his decades of anti-sectarian stances, he could have vehemently denied it. Instead, he responds that like everyone else he struggles to rid himself of these intolerances.

Aqal Al-Bahili


Al-Bahili is a writer and activist whose history goes back decades. His wife, Nora Al-Ghanim writes about him in a book on the 1990 women driving protest:

“After hardly a year of working as an elementary school teacher, my family moved to Riyadh. There, I was married off to a former political prisoner, Aqil Al Bahili. I had always wanted to marry a man who appreciated women and respected their rights, and fortunately my wish came true as my husband was a staunch advocate of women’s rights. None of my family members, nor my relatives had any history of, or connections to social and political work, with the exception of my husband. He was imprisoned for political reasons during King Faisal’s era. He was in prison for five years before he was released. Soon after his release we were married…I will never forget my husband’s role throughout the turmoil and how he stood by me. I would never even have taken part if it were not for my knowledge that he would be there for me.”

With the recent clamp down on any form of criticism or activism, Al-Bahili is one of the few who still dares to speak up. His tweets, his interviews and his call-ins on shows are downloaded and shared widely on Whatsapp and other more private forums. He has an uncanny ability to assess the public mood. One of his more bold and comprehensive interviews is an hour-long interview he did six months ago. In it, he makes a statement many within the country would only whisper in private; he says the Saudi people want a mechanism through which they could monitor the government and hold it accountable. He also spoke boldly about the people’s aspirations for a constitution and an elected parliament. At the end of the program, people were allowed to tweet in their questions. One person asked how he could still walk free after publicly saying that we can’t expect the rich to pay taxes on their undeveloped urban land plots when they don’t even pay their electricity bills. Al-Bahili’s response was to simply laugh. Fearless.

Adel Faqih


Faqih is another minister worthy of hero status. Faqih is a women rights advocate who has been able to implement and expand the King Abdullah decree of allowing women to work in lingerie shops. Most people think that the biggest obstacle to women working in malls is religious fundamentalism. However, upon implementation, it became obvious that the perception of fundamentalism among Saudi society is exaggerated. In the span between the 2011 decree and 2013, the official number of Saudi women in the private sector grew from 42.4 thousand to 454.3 thousand. Saudi women and society at large proved not too conservative for these jobs. These numbers indicate that the main obstacle was and remains lack of opportunity. Meanwhile, those opposing Faqih are fringe fundamentalists and mostly business owners. Replacing cheap foreign labor with untrained more expensive Saudi women is not a transition that employers welcome. Most foreign labor comes from poverty stricken countries. These workers tend to be more forgiving than Saudis about work hours, health insurance and salary. So no wonder these business owners would not be too keen on the change.

Sami Al-Hussayen


Al-Hussayen was a computer science Ph.D candidate at the University of Idaho when 9/11 happened. He was later caught up in the Patriot Act witch-hunt and was eventually deported. This scenario could have gotten much worse in many ways. The false accusations and the interruption of his hard earned studies could have led him astray. Instead, he came home and currently teaches computer science at a technical college in Riyadh. Al-Hussayen is a Saudi hero because rather than wallowing in bitterness he co-founded a non-profit educational platform, Rwaq. He created the platform with another Saudi hero, Fouad Al-Farhan. On this platform, they cut through all the financial and bureaucratic obstacles of further education. They also enable people from all over the Arab world to generously share their expertise. All this at no cost to no one but themselves.

Hissa Hilal


Hilal is a poetess with a long history of publishing under the pseudonym, Remia. Her talent was resilient enough to withstand the patriarch Bedouin society she grew up in. In her teens, her notebooks were taken away and set on fire. This did not deter her. She made use of any mode of communication available to her at the time including landlines and fax to send her poetry to magazines and newspapers. Eventually, her talent shined through and got her own regular two-page spread in a weekly Kuwaiti magazine. She moved on from there to be the first Saudi woman editor of the poetry and prose page in Al Hayat newspaper. Although, all of this merits her to be a Saudi hero, she’s on this list for another accomplishment. In 2010, she participated in the fourth season of a popular competition called The Million’s Poet. She took third place based on the viewer’s votes. However, if the show were based solely on the judges votes, she would have won. Regardless of her placement, she used this platform to address misogyny and extremism. While her fellow contestants wrote poems about their love conquests, Hilal bravely wrote hers about the psychological torture of polygamy and the evilness of fatwas. She was inevitably attacked and slandered in the media. In response, she used the last poem of the program to state that her intellectual freedom is like a bird that no one can catch.


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Ten Most Beautiful Saudis 2014

These are the top ten most beautiful Saudis in descending order. This list does not reflect my personal opinion. It is the result of extensive consultations with dozens of Saudis on social media and off. Enjoy!

10- Nadine Al-Budair

Al-Budair has her own show on the Rotana Network. She is known for her socially liberal public stances especially concerning women rights and  the religious police.

Nadine Al Budair

Nadine Al Budair

9- Razan Alazzouni

Alazzouni is a fashion designer whose dresses have been worn by celebrities like Paris Hilton, Emma Roberts, and Kelly Osbourne. Besides being extremely talented, she’s also very disciplined and passionate about her clothing line.

Razan Alazzouni

Razan Alazzouni

8- Saud Al-Dosari

Al-Dosari is an interviewer and radio show host whose heart-throb status spans generations.

Saud Al-Dosari

Saud Al-Dosari

7- Abdullah Al Jumaah

Al Jumaah is an author and university lecturer. His book signing at the 2013 Riyadh Book Fair was cut short because he was mobbed by women. Saudi women have spoken.

Abdullah Al Jumaah


6- Khalid Al-Faryan

Al-Faryan uses his looks for good. He started with mini-sermons on Keek and then moved to Youtube and Twitter.  He does them in both Arabic and English.

Khalid Al-Faryan

Khalid Al-Faryan


 5- Reema Abdullah

Abdullah is an actress who shocked Saudi society by taking on the role of a woman who marries four men. The scene when she explains to a friend why three husbands aren’t enough is unforgettable. This season she performs the leading role in a Bedouin series. This photo of her in costume drove a man to offer a reward of half a million riyals to the person who convinces her to marry him.

Reema Abdulla

Reema Abdullah


4- Turad Sindi

Sindi started his career as presenter but since then he has become a Youtube star with his show Hashtag.

Terad Sindi

Terad Sindi


3- Suha Nuwailati

Nuwailati is a newcomer but she’s hard to forget once you’ve seen the show she co-hosts with three others called Subscribe.

Suha Nuwailati

Suha Nuwailati


2- Princess Ameerah Al-tweel

Al-Tweel came onto the world stage as wife to one of the richest Arab men, HRH Prince Waleed bin Talal. Since then they’ve divorced but she’s kept her status set to influential. She’s currently chairwoman & CEO of Time Entertainment and chairwoman co-founder of Tasamy.

Amira Al-Tweel

Princess Ameerah Al-Tweel

1- Badr Alzidane

Alzidane is what you get when you combine killer looks and social media savvy. He started as a radio show host but did not become a household name until he started Keeking. He currently has over a million followers on Twitter and a game show on the MBC network.

Badr Alzidane

Badr Alzidane



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The Big Reveal of the Ten Most Beautiful Saudis 2014

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.


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Put Your Money on #FreePalestine

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.



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Saudis’ reaction to Waleed Abulkhair’s fifteen year sentence

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.

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?

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.

4- God knows that Waleed is a noble man and a champion of the oppressed. All we know of him is honor and honesty.

5- These sentences against citizens who peacefully demanded their rights transforms them in the eyes of the people to activists and symbols of freedom.

6- Words seem small against the siege of antiterrorism laws and arbitrary sentencing of a national and peaceful human rights activist.

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.

8- God help you and your family, Waleed. You are known for your fight for freedom and justice.

9- Change will not come from nothing and we will not perish as long as there are free men like Waleed in this country.

10- We are extremely harsh with those who speak against the country’s policies and then wonder why extremism is born here.

11- Human rights activists like Waleed prove that the government is not interested in moderates and reforms.

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.

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.

14- There is nothing left to be said. Everything is clear now. This country is heaven for the corrupt and a ditch for reformers.

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.

16- Prisons have become an honor and an aspiration for every person who straightforwardly speaks his mind. God help the oppressed.

17- Terrorist and traitors are rehabilitated and then released while human rights activists are imprisoned.

18- Orders of arrests are issued now and again for both liberals and conservative with the purpose of shutting up all Saudis.

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.

20- In solidarity with Waleed Abulkhair.

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.

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?

23- In plain Arabic, in this country you cannot open your mouth or else you are destined for prison.

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.

25- Today we are all Waleed Abulkhair.

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.

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.

28- In the law of tyranny, reform is a felony that calls for imprisonment.

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?

30- Reform and freedom of thought is a bigger crime here than bribery and theft.

31- My country, you have jailed a good man who loves you. How strange you are to rehabilitate bombing terrorists and imprison peaceful activists.

32- Read contemporary history and look around .. Has the oppression of peaceful activism led to its termination and social stability or the opposite?

33- This is violent oppression of those who use peaceful methods and then we are shocked when others resort to assassinations and bombings.

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.

35- This verdict has shaken all who fear for the security and stability of our country. The ruling is shocking and frustrating.

36- When a country is too small to contain the free, prison becomes an honor and distinction.

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.

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.

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.

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.

41- People who instigate jihad and terrorism deserve prison and not patriots who want reforms and the betterment of our country.

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.

43- I worry that such harsh ruling on those who have never taken up violence will have dire consequences in the end.

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.

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.

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.

47- Fifteen years for speaking about corruption cases and reforms? He never defected, incited violence, stole or murdered! How can this verdict be?

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.

49- Time will prove that the banner of freedom has not fallen, and the struggle will continue. The bet is on the resolute!

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!


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