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February 25 2014

Pakistan, Stay Out of Syria's Civil War

A day after a tiny news items titled, “Saudi Arabia ‘seeking Pakistani arms for Syrian rebels” appeared in Pakistani newspapers, political blogger Ahsan Butt posts a provocative piece warning Pakistan's foreign policymakers against tiptoeing into Syria's affairs.

In “This is not our war (The Syria Edition)” on the Five Rupees Blog, Ahsan writes:

What Pakistan is doing vis-a-vis Syria is one of the dumbest things Pakistan has done in a long time, and that’s really saying something. The Syrian civil war, tragic as it is, has nothing to do with Pakistan. Pakistan has no interests in that conflict. None.

Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide Pakistan-made anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets. Ahsan warns:

Is it wise and advisable to wade into a sectarian civil war two thousand miles away?[...]

Just examine the trajectory of sectarian violence over the last decade.

He explains that any interference in Syria will force the Pakistani state to pay attention to rising sectarian violence in the country:

What are the possible ramifications for such a policy on sectarian violence in Pakistan? Is it likely to exacerbate and make more deadly sectarian cleavages or the opposite?

Ahsan lists four more provocative questions which you can read here.

February 09 2014

Campaign to Demand Saudi Nationality Gender Equality

A campaign aimed at enabling the children of Saudi women to be granted the Saudi nationality is currently underway.

The Campaign to Amend Article 7 of the Nationality Act demands granting Saudi nationality to children whose mother is Saudi and whose father is not. Currently, only children whose father is Saudi are granted the nationality. This means that the children of Saudi mothers, whose fathers are of another nationality, cannot benefit from public education and health coverage, among other perks.

The campaign website shares this example [ar]:

سيف بن يزن، كغيره الكثير، ابن مواطنة سعودية من أب غير سعودي. لا يعرف وطناً غير المملكة العربية السعودية. حصل على الثانوية العامة بمعدل 98٪. بعد ذلك حاول ان يدرس الطب ولكن مُنع من تحقيق هذا الحلم بحجة أنه “أجنبي” لذلك اضطُر إلى أن يكمل تعليمه في احدى التخصصات الأخرى المتاحة للأجانب “في نظر النظام” في ذلك الوقت. فالتحق بكلية الحقوق “القانون” بجامعة الملك عبدالعزيز. وفي عام 2010 تخرج من جامعة الملك عبدالعزيز مع مرتبة الشرف بمعدل 4.69 من 5. ثم قرر مواصلة تعليمه في الخارج. لكن مرة أخرى، برنامج الابتعاث لم يقبل ضمه نظراً لأنه من “الأجانب”. إيماناً بأهمية العلم، قرر والده أن يرسله على حسابه الخاص للدراسة، وبذلك اقتطع والده من دخل العائلة وتحملت العائلة مشقة مالية مُرهِقة. حصل على ماجستير القانون التجاري الدولي من جامعة بوسطن ثم حصل على قبول بجامعة هارفرد وألتحق بها. الآن يعيش الحلم واقعاً بدراسة ماجستير القانون في جامعة هارفرد.

Saif bin Yazen is, like many others, the son of a Saudi mother and a non-Saudi father. He does not know any home but the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He graduated from high school with an overall 98 percentage. He tried to study medicine but he was prohibited from that dream for being a “foreigner” and because of that, he had to join a different field to complete his education in one of the specialties that are open to foreigners (according to the law then). He joined the Rights College at King Abdulaziz University and in 2010 he graduated with an honours degree with a 4.69 out of 5 GPA. He decided to complete his education abroad, but, again, the Scholarship Program did not accept him because he was a “foreigner”. Since his father believed in the importance of education, he decided to pay his son's expenses, which the family had to bear with very expensive costs. He got the Masters degree in International Commercial Law from Boston University and he was accepted to and joined Harvard.

Article 7 states the following:

يكون سعوديا من ولد داخل المملكة العربية السعودية أو خارجها لأب سعودي، أو لأم سعودية وأب مجهول الجنسية أو لا جنسية له أو ولد داخل المملكة لأبوين مجهولين، ويعتبر اللقيط في المملكة مولودا فيها ما لم يثبت العكس.

Those who were born inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or outside it are considered Saudis if their father is Saudi or their mother is Saudi and their father is of an unknown nationality or with no nationality or was born for unknown parents. Illegitimate children are considered born in the Kingdom unless proven otherwise.

The campaign has launched a petition and called people to sign it.

Twitter user @Delilah_SD commented:

We grant [the Saudi] nationality to football players and singers, and those who do not belong and who have never done anything for the nation, and the children of a Saudi mother are not grated the nationality!

Abdull Yazan adds:

Women are half of society. They are the ones who give birth to and bring up the other half.

And Jameel concludes:

Isn't it a shame when a Saudi woman has to go to the Immigration department to get a visit permit for her own son?

February 04 2014

Saudi King Outlaws Religious Groups

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree which imposes prison sentences on Saudis who fight outside the country and on those who are “members of religious and extremist groups.” The decree incited different reactions on social media networks.

Thousands of Saudis have joined the civil war in Syria, including young fighters, and the Saudi media has been debating who to blame. The decree also comes after Egypt has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.

The official Saudi News Agency reported:

Whoever participates or is involved in hostilities outside the Kingdom or joins radical religious and intellectual groups or currents, will be sentenced by no less than three years and not more than twenty years in prison. However, the punishment will be increased to no less than five years and no more than thirty years in prison for armed forces servicemen, a royal order stated here today.

The Arabic decree, however, did not mention “radical religious group,” but rather “religious and extreme,” which induced criticism for the vague language that it uses. Some Twitter users even started a hashtag: “King Abdullah outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood group.”

Political science academic Khalid al-Dekhayel stated that the decree does actually outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood:

The specification of “religious groups or those that are declared terrorist nationally, regionally or internationally” includes the Muslim Brotherhood after it was declared so by Egypt.

Saudi Twitter user Sultan al-Fifi noted the paradox in citing Sharia law to outlaw religious groups:

Based on the purposes of the Islamic Sharia, we will criminalize those who join the Muslim Brotherhood which trades religion for political gain.

Twitter user Abdullah al-Awlah posted a newspaper headline from the 1960s when Saudi Arabia supported the Muslim Brotherhood against the nationalist regime in Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser. The headline reads: “Prince Faisal: The Muslim Brotherhood struggled for the sake of Allah by their souls and their money.”

It means that anyone who says this will be punished:

February 03 2014

Human Rights Video: 2013 Year in Review

A video by WITNESS on the Human Rights Channel of YouTube wrapped up some of the most significant protests and human rights abuses of 2013. Dozens of clips shot by citizens worldwide are edited together to show efforts to withstand injustice and oppression, from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, Cambodia to Brazil.

A post on the WITNESS blog by Madeleine Bair from December 2013, celebrates the power of citizen activism using new technologies including video, while readers are reminded that the difficulty of verification and establishing authenticity remains a big obstacle.

“Citizen footage can and is throwing a spotlight on otherwise inaccessible places such as prisons, war zones, and homes,” says Bair. “But given the uncertainties inherent in such footage, reporters and investigators must use it with caution.”

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

January 28 2014

Saudi Arabia Jails Palestinian Poet for ‘Atheism and Long Hair’

Saudi Artist Ahmed Mater shared this photograph on Twitter in support of Fayadh

Saudi Artist Ahmed Mater shared this photograph on Twitter in support of Fayadh

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh is in a Saudi prison, allegedly for spreading atheism – and having long hair. The poet, raised in Saudi Arabia, was arrested five months ago, when a reader submitted a complaint against him saying that his poems contain atheist ideas. The accusations were not proven and he was released, only to be arrested again on the 1 January 2014.

Fayadh's case is making the rounds in media and on social networks, with condemnations coming from Arab writers from across the region. Some of his friends wrote online that the real reason behind his arrest might be due to the video he filmed five months ago of Abha's religious police lashing a young man in public.

Currently, the poet is still in jail with no evidence to the accusation or details of a coming trial. The following reactions clarify his case and express condemnations from Saudi writers, artists, and others standing in solidarity.

#أشرف_فياض التحرش بالذات الإلهية وتطويل الشَعر…فقط عندما تتوقف هذه التهم المضحكة/المبكية يمكننا أن نبدأ الحديث عن الحقوق والحريات ووو

@reem_tayeb: Ashraf Fayadh is accused of ‘harrasing the Godly self and letting his hair grow long.. when these laughable-sad accusations stop, we can start talking about rights and freedoms.

#أشرف_فياض اعتقاله ليس الا اعلان اننا وصلنا الى ما وصلت اليه اوروبا في العصور المظلمة !!

@MohammdaLahamdl: Ashraf Fayadh's arrest is an announcement that we have reached what Europe faced in the Dark Ages.

هل تعتقد أن إيمانك حقيقي وأنت تعتقد أن الله كائن قابل للتحرش به ؟! #أشرف_فياض

@WhiteTulip01: Do you think your faith is real when you think God can be harassed!!

أشرف_فياض معتقل بتهمة الالحاد!!وهل الكفر تهمة!! وهل الايمان إجبار!! هذا اذا افترضنا صحة التهمة أصلا

@MusabUK: Ashraf Fayadh is detained for atheism. Is atheism a charge? Is faith enforceable? That's if we assume the charge is true.

إن وجود #أشرف_فياض في السجن، مع المجرمين، والقتلة، لأنه شاعرٌ فحسب، لا يعنى سوى أن العدالة مسألة ترفيّة لدينا، سلطة وشعبا

@b_khlil: The fact that Ashraf Fayadh is now detained with criminals and killers just because he is a poet, tells us that justice is only a privilege to us, both as people and the regime.

15 تهمة ملفقة للشاعر والفنان #أشرف_فياض تبدأ بالإلحاد وتنتهي بإطالة الشعر، لماذا ؟ لأنه قبل 5 أشهر صور هيئة أبها وهي تجلد شاب أمام الناس

@turkiaz: The poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh is imprisoned for 15 charges, including atheism and long hair. Why? Because he filmed the religious police as they were lashing a young man in public.

#أشرف_فياض الى اعلامنا ، هل ننتظر ، القليل من المهنية ستفي بالغرض. قضية اشرف فياض علي وشك ان تكون في صفحات كل المحطات العالمية قريبا

@AhmedMater: To our media: should we wait? Some professionalism would do. Ashraf Fayadh's case is going to be on the front pages of international media soon.

تحولت التحقيقات مع الشاعر أشرف فياض بعد عجز المحقق أن يثبت شيئا من الاتهامات إلى أسئلة حول لماذا تدخن ؟ ولماذا شعرك طويل قليلاً ؟

@mohkheder: When the interrogator couldn't prove any accusations against Ashraf Fayadh, he started asking him why he smokes and why his hair is long

January 27 2014

Congrats Tunisia on the New Constitution!

Bloggers from across the region paid tribute to Tunisia for adopting a new constitution, three years after the ousting of dictator Zeine el Abidin Ben Ali.

The country, the first to join the so-called Arab Spring, is on the right path, they say.

Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia congratulates Tunisians:

Algerian Megari Larbi follows suit:

From Egypt, Mohamed El Dahshan laments the situation in his own country:

The comparisons with Egypt continue.

Borzou Daragahi tweets:

And Israeli Elizabeth Tsurkov chimes in:

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt adds:

January 19 2014

Saudi Arabia Jails Palestinian Poet for “Atheism and Long Hair”!

Saudi Artist Ahmed Mater shared this photograph on Twitter in support of Fayadh

Saudi Artist Ahmed Mater shared this photograph on Twitter in support of Fayadh

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh is in a Saudi prison, allegedly for spreading atheism – and having long hair. The poet, raised in Saudi Arabia, was arrested five months ago, when a reader submitted a complaint against him saying that his poems contain atheist ideas. The accusations were not proved and he was released only to be arrested again on the 1st of January 2014. The case of Fayadh is making the rounds in media and on social networks, with condemnations coming from Arab writers from across the region. Some of his friends wrote online that the real reason behind his arrest might be due to the video he filmed 5 months ago of Abha's religious police lashing a young man in public. Currently, the poet is still in jail with no evidence to the accusation or details of a coming trial. The following reactions clarify his case and express condemnations from Saudi writers, artists, and others standing in solidarity.

#أشرف_فياض التحرش بالذات الإلهية وتطويل الشَعر…فقط عندما تتوقف هذه التهم المضحكة/المبكية يمكننا أن نبدأ الحديث عن الحقوق والحريات ووو

@reem_tayeb: Ashraf Fayadh is accused of ‘harrasing the Godly self and letting his hair grow long.. when these laughable-sad accusations stop, we can start talking about rights and freedoms.

#أشرف_فياض اعتقاله ليس الا اعلان اننا وصلنا الى ما وصلت اليه اوروبا في العصور المظلمة !!

@MohammdaLahamdl: Ashraf Fayadh's arrest is an announcement that we have reached what Europe faced in the dark ages.

هل تعتقد أن إيمانك حقيقي وأنت تعتقد أن الله كائن قابل للتحرش به ؟! #أشرف_فياض

@WhiteTulip01: Do you think your faith is real when you think God can be harassed!!

أشرف_فياض معتقل بتهمة الالحاد!!وهل الكفر تهمة!! وهل الايمان إجبار!! هذا اذا افترضنا صحة التهمة أصلا

@MusabUK: Ashraf Fayadh is detained for atheism. Is atheism a charge? Is faith enforceable? That's if we assume the charge is true.

إن وجود #أشرف_فياض في السجن، مع المجرمين، والقتلة، لأنه شاعرٌ فحسب، لا يعنى سوى أن العدالة مسألة ترفيّة لدينا، سلطة وشعبا

@b_khlil: The fact that Ashraf Fayadh is now detained with criminals and killers just because he is a poet, tells us that justice is only a privilege to us, both as people and the regime.

15 تهمة ملفقة للشاعر والفنان #أشرف_فياض تبدأ بالإلحاد وتنتهي بإطالة الشعر، لماذا ؟ لأنه قبل 5 أشهر صور هيئة أبها وهي تجلد شاب أمام الناس

@turkiaz: The poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh is imprisoned for 15 charges, including atheism and long hair. Why? Because he filmed the religious police as they were lashing a young man in public.

#أشرف_فياض الى اعلامنا ، هل ننتظر ، القليل من المهنية ستفي بالغرض. قضية اشرف فياض علي وشك ان تكون في صفحات كل المحطات العالمية قريبا

@AhmedMater: To our media: should we wait? Some professionalism would do. Ashraf Fayadh's case is going to be on the front pages of international media soon.

تحولت التحقيقات مع الشاعر أشرف فياض بعد عجز المحقق أن يثبت شيئا من الاتهامات إلى أسئلة حول لماذا تدخن ؟ ولماذا شعرك طويل قليلاً ؟

@mohkheder: When the interrogator couldn't prove any accusations against Ashraf Fayadh, he started asking him why he smokes and why his hair is long

January 18 2014

Lebanese blogger spoofs Study on Middle Eastern Women Dressing

The question “How should Middle Eastern Women Dress in Public” posed by the University of Michigan is attracting hilarious spoofs online. The content is so rich that an additional post to our first one was necessary.

When Washington Post Max Fisher shared the original image on Twitter, he wasn't expecting this response by WSJ blogger Tom Gara:

But the spoof that got the most attention was undoubtedly Karl Sharro's of KarlreMarks:

Interviewed on PRI, he explained his motivation:

“It's almost like putting Muslim women on a scale from 1 to 6, from being fully covered to not being covered at all, which I think is pretty absurd.”

January 09 2014

How Should Middle Eastern Women Dress in Public?

How should Middle Eastern women dress? The way they want

How should Middle Eastern women dress? The way they want

This question, posed by a University of Michigan study, is drawing laughs – and criticism online. Most reactions came after this report on the Huffington Post.

The survey, conducted in seven “Muslim majority countries”, details what people think is an acceptable dress code for women in public in their countries. According to the poll, the majority of people in those countries, “do not think a woman should fully cover her face.” In Saudi Arabia, for example, 63 per cent of those polled said a woman should wear the veil which covers the face, but reveals the eyes – a common dress code for women in the conservative kingdom. Respondents from Lebanon and Turkey preferred women not to cover their faces – or hair.

On the Washington Post blog, Max Fisher notes:

Veiling is such a sensitive issue in much of the Middle East because, in many ways, it's about much more than just clothing. It's about religious vs. secular identity, about the degree to which women are or are not afforded equality and about embracing or rejecting social norms that are seen as distinctly Islamic.

On Twitter, the reactions are more fierce.

Palestinian Lena Jarrar asks:

M Ibrahim adds:

Hend, from Libya, takes several jabs at the poll. She tweets:

And Egyptian Mohamed El Dahshan joins the fray, saying:

And Siddhartha Chatterje wonders:

December 15 2013

Saudi Political Dissident to Be Flogged, Judge Rules

This post is part of our Special Coverage: Reformists on Trial in Saudi Arabia

Judge Issa al-Matrudi sentenced Saudi human rights activist Umar al-Saed to four years in prison and 300 lashes for his peaceful activism with the leading independent human rights organization in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Political and Civil Rights Association (ACPRA).

Al-Saeed, 24, was arrested on April 28th after refusing an interrogation without a lawyer. Currently, seven members of ACPRA are imprisoned.

Umar al-Saed outside the interrogation office via @181Umar

Umar al-Saed outside the interrogation office via @181Umar

The sentence was made during a secret session held on Thursday [December 12, 2013].

Back in March, a judge decided to dissolve ACPRA and sentenced two of its founders, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid, to 10 and 11 years in prison respectively. In June, another co-founding member, Abdualkareem al-Kadr, was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.

In previous sessions, the judge denied al-Saeed access to his lawyers. After, al-Saeed had refused to talk as long as his rights were violated, the judge decided to postpone the trial. And on Thursday, he suddenly decided to rule.

ACPRA published a statement [ar] with a transcript of a phone call al-Saed had made to his lawyer:

أخذت من السجن اليوم الساعة الثامنة صباحا وبعد أن قيدوني واركبوني السيارة, توجهوا بي إلى المحكمة, أدخلوني مكتب القاضي وكان خاليا, دخل القاضي عيسى المطرودي وقال: لديك جلسة اليوم. السعيد: أنت لم تحدد موعد في الجلسة السابقة, ووكيلي يحضر إليك كل أسبوع يسأل عن الجلسة القادمة ولم تحدد موعد, و الآن تريد عقد جلسة سرية! أنا أرفضها. القاضي: ليست سرية, وهذا الباب خلفك مفتوح! السعيد: الجلسة العلنية من شروطها أن تكون بموعد مسبق حتى يحضر وكلائي ويدعى الجمهور. القاضي: أنا رئيس الجلسة و أنا من يحدد هل هي علنية أم لا. السعيد: سبق الحديث عن هذا الموضوع وإعادة الكلام لا يفيد, لذلك أنا سأمتنع عن الحديث مطلقا.

Today at 8 AM I was taken from the prison to a car after being handcuffed. They took me to the court and they brought me to the judge's office which was empty. Judge Issa al-Matrudi came and told me: “You have a session today”. al-Saed: “You did not specify a timing in the previous session and my lawyer comes every week to ask you about the next session, but you did not specify any, and now you want to hold a secret session! I reject that!” The judge: “No, the session is not secret. The doors behind you are open.” al-Saed: “For a session to be public it has to be announced before so my representatives can attend and people can witness.” The judge: “I am the head of this session and I am the one who decided whether it is public or not.” al-Saed: “We have talked about this before and repeating what has been said is useless and thus I refuse to talk at all.”

In addition, ACPRA published an article that al-Saed wrote in prison [ar] in which he says:

أنا المعتقل المفتخر بصنيعه عمر بن محمد السعيد أتلو لكم دوافعي ومسببات سجني وهي كرهي للظلم واختلاق الألم والتعاسة في وجوه الناس واستغلال جمودهم و استغفال عقولهم والحيلولة دون أرزاقهم ولوازمهم الإنسانية (تعليم مواكب للعصر/ وظيفة كريمة/ سكن مناسب) إزاء مطامع شخصية شرسة محتمية بالسلطة لتأمين هذه المناهب والفساد.

I am the proud prisoner Umar Mohammad al-Saed. I present to you the motivations and reasons behind my imprisonment: my hatred towards injustice, suffering, misery, taking advantage of people's silence, treating them as if they were fools and denying them their human needs (modern education, decent jobs and housing) for personal brutal gains supported by the authorities to protect theft and corruption.

Twitter user Sultan al-Fifi commented on the flogging sentence:

It is normal for those who consider the people a herd of sheep to consider flogging an appropriate punishment for anyone that disobeys the shepherd.

ACPRA member and al-Saed's brother Abdullah al-Saed tweeted:

This unjust sentence is an honor to Umar al-Saed and disgrace to Judge Issa al-Matrudi.

This post is part of our Special Coverage: Reformists on Trial in Saudi Arabia

December 11 2013

Saudi Airlines Still has Manual Levers for Plane Seats

Saudi Muna AbuSulayman complains about the use of manual levers in Saudi Airlines aircraft seats:

December 08 2013

Infinite Detention Legalized in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia just approved a law which allows judges to detain people indefinitely.

Back in September 2012, a committee within the appointed Saudi Consultative Assembly proposed removing the limit on detention without a court case after it had been a maximum of six months. Back then, the proposal was criticized by human rights advocates because it could legalize the abuses of the so-called War on Terrorism and open the door for a wider crackdown on dissidents. The amendment proposed allows judges to extend the detention infinitely even if no case was filed against the detainee.

On November 22nd, the Saudi king approved this amendment among others turning it into a law which came into effect on Friday, December 6th.

The issue of arbitrary detainment has always incited criticism for the Saudi government. Independent human rights sources say that there are over 30,000 arbitrarily imprisoned people [ar], who were arrested without a warrant and have not had access to lawyers and a trial. Many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.

The governmental Human Rights Commission held a meeting in which they thanked the King for approving the amendments. Al Riyadh newspaper reported [ar]:

وأشار المجلس إلى أن صدور هذه الأنظمة الثلاثة تؤكد النهج السليم الذي سارت عليه المملكة منذ تأسيسها في ترسيخ دعائم الحق والعدل، موضحاً أن تلك الأنظمة ستحقق، بإذن الله، نقلة جوهرية في مسيرة نظام القضاء الذي كفل حفظ الحقوق وصونها، وستسهم في تطوير أجهزة القضاء.

The board noted that issuing these three regulations confirms that the kingdom has been taking the correct path to promote rights and justice since it was founded. [The board] noted that these regulations will, God willing, radically transform the judiciary which protects rights and they will contribute to improving judicial institutions.

Activist Mohammad al-Abdualkareem explained the consequence of the amendment:

Article 114 allows the judge to imprison the suspect without any limit as he sees fit. Someone could be imprisoned for five years without a trial and then found innocent without any compensation.

Twitter user Sultan al-Fifi criticized the amendment citing a previous court case in which the judge was very repressive against political activists:

Adding a condition of a judge's warrant before infinite detention is not a guarantee when the judge tells [political activist] al-Hashmi: You deserve [to be killed by] a sword, but I commuted the sentence to 30 years in prison.

November 21 2013

Saudi Prisoner Interview Raises Controversy Over Arbitrary Detainment

A controversy over the issue of arbitrary detainment rose after the popular Saudi TV show MBC 8 PM ran an interview with Waleed al-Sunani, a prisoner who has been imprisoned for eighteen and half years for his ultraconservative Jihadist religious views.

The interview was filmed back in July, and the airtime was delayed two times. In the interview, al-Sunani explained why he denounces his citizenship and allegiance to the Saudi state, describing modern states as being fundamentally secular and accusing Al Saud rulers of being agents to the Unites States and enemies of Islam. He also confirmed his support for Al Qadea in its operations within Saudi Arabia and in fighting the American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The issue of arbitrary detainment has always incited criticism for the Saudi government. Independent human rights sources say that there are over 30,000 arbitrarily imprisoned people [ar], who were arrested without a warrant and have not had access to lawyers and a trial. Many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.

Some Twitter users thought that al-Sunani is a merely a literal representation of the state-supported Wahabbism. Religious scholar Hakem al-Mutiri tweeted [ar]:

I will submit some fatwas [religious edicts] of Najid major scholars a hundred years ago regarding the Gulf people enrollment under the British projection which confirm that al-Sunani is completely bounded by it.

He then followed by a series of fatwas that attack the early British influence over the Persian Gulf region and incite people to resist it.

Saudi blogger Bader al-Rashed sarcastically tweeted:

When al-Sunani is saying is what we studied in the [religious curriculum]. The difference is that most students were drawing on their desks when the teacher was explaining it.

Saudi columnist Ibrahim al-Qahtani criticized the choice of an ultraconservative figure rather than many imprisoned moderate human rights activists such as the members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Suliman al-Rushodi:

Before you leave the prison, go to al-Hamid, al-Qahtani and al-Rushodi's cells. It is your chance to expose them to every Saudi and Muslim.

Saudi blogger Msaaid al-Rushiad commented:

It is very obvious that those who planned this episode had a goal, and it is also very obvious that the [outcome] was contrary to what was expected.

November 17 2013

Riyadh's Rain Floods Saudi Capital

Residents of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, were first pleased with the drizzle that started on Saturday afternoon (November 16). A few hours later, it was no longer enjoyable but rather scary when the rain flooded the city.

Here are some of the tweets and photographs shared yesterday, which show flooding. Many commented how a rich country like Saudi Arabia has a poor infrastructure, which cannot handle rain.

November 13 2013

Ethiopians: #SomeoneTellSaudiArabia to Stop Immigration Crackdown

On November 4, 2013, Saudi Arabia began enforcing a crackdown on illegal immigrants. Saudi Arabia is believed to be home to more than seven million foreign workers and their families. The Saudi government issued an amnesty period in April 2013 giving illegal immigrants seven months to gain legal status or leave the country.

Immigrants from Ethiopia, a Sub-Saharan African country, are one of the most affected by the crackdown, which has resulted in riots and violence. The Ethiopian government is repatriating its citizens living in Saudi Arabia illegally after it was reported that an Ethiopian was killed by Saudi police.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia Tedros Adhanom acknowledged the right of Saudi Arabia to expel illegal immigrants but condemned the use of force and rape against Ethiopian immigrants as it has been reported on different news and social media sites.

Below is a video posted on YouTube by user Amharictube showing mass exodus of immigrants in Saudi Arabia:

A petition has been created on MoveOn.org to alert the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International about the plight of Ethiopian immigrants in Saudi Arabia.

Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia online have been using the hashtag #SomeoneTellSaudiArabia to condemn the treatment of Ethiopian immigrants in Saudi Arabia.

Mahlet (@Mahlet_S) noted that immigrants are not criminals but job seekers:

Addis Standard (@addisstandard), a monthly magazine in Ethiopia, wrote:

Some users revisited the historical relationship between Islam and Ethiopia. Hafsa Mohamed (@hafsamohamed1) pointed out that:

Kali (@KaliDaisyy) wrote:

Pschologist Antonio Mulatu (@AntonZfirst) referred to advice given by Prophet Muhammad about Ethiopia:

The relatonship between Ethiopia and Muslim dates back to the time when Ethiopia provided a safe haven to Muslims who were fleeing persecution from the rulers of Mecca. Bilal ibn Rabah al-Habash, one of the foremost companions of Muhammad and the first Muezzin, the person who recites the call to prayer, was Ethiopian.

Ethiopia is home to Harar, which is considered the fourth holy city of Islam, with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines.

Ethiopia is also the site of the First Hijrah, the migration of Muslims to escape persecution, in the history of Islam.

However, anoof (@anoofesh) from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, disagreed with the comparison between Ethiopia immigrants in Saudi Arabia and Muslim immigrants in Ethiopia:

Melak Mekonen (@melak_m) observed that:

Lee Jasper (@LeeJasper), a member of Respect Party in the UK, saw the plight of Ethiopian immigrants similar to that of Palestinians under Israeli occupation:

جبرتينهو (@iabj) opined:

Ethiopian human rights specialist based in Geneva, Switzerland, Yehenew Walilegne (@YeheneWalilegne) opposed Saudi Arabia's candidacy to the United Nations Human Rights Council:

Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Cuba won seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, November 12, 2013.

anoof told Ethiopians:

November 09 2013

Saudi Women Insist on Driving Despite Ban

Saudi women continue to challenge the driving ban imposed on them in the absolute monarchy.

This video shows a woman named as Azza Al Shammasi driving in Saudi Arabia on November 9.

Saudi Women to Continue to Challenge Driving Ban

Now that the Saudi government's position on the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia is clear, activists intend to continue to challenge the ban and “focus their effort on changing the government’s position instead of spending time trying to convince observers that society is not against lifting the ban.”

On Riyadh Bureau, Ahmed Al Omran writes:

Probably the most interesting outcome of the campaign was the decision of the Ministry of Interior to take a clear position on the matter. After years of vague statements by Saudi officials who emphasized that driving is a social issue and laws in the country do not ban it, spokesman Mansour al-Turki was forced to explicitly announce that they do not allow women to drive.

He adds:

Several women have tried to send cables to King Abdullah about driving. However, that effort again appears to be hindered by the Ministry of Interior.

Saudi Arabia is the only country which prohibits women from driving.

21km of Jeddah's 655km coastline accessible to public

Do you live near the sea but feel it's unreachable? That is the case for people living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Ahmed Al Omran tweets:

November 07 2013

Saudi Releases Writer Tariq Al Mubarak

Saudi writer Tariq Al Mubarak, detained for supporting women in their right to drive in the absolute monarchy, has been released.

Tamador Al Yami tweets:

November 04 2013

Saudis Banned from Travelling .. to Mars

Mars is off-limits to Saudis, says religious scholar Shaikh Ali Al Hekmi. Photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Mars is off-limits to Saudis, says religious scholar Shaikh Ali Al Hekmi. Photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Did you know that travelling to Mars is forbidden [haram], or a sin? Saudi religious scholar Shaikh Ali Al Hekmi told Al Hayat newspaper that travelling to the red planet is off limits to human beings, whose life should not be squandered.

The fatwa (religious edict) was issued following an announcement by Mars One project that it was organising a one-way trip to the planet, in the hope of creating the first human settlement there. According to Al Hayat, six out of 477 Saudi citizens who have applied for the trip (of a lifetime) have been accepted for the mission.

On Twitter, Saudis took jabs at the ridiculousness of some fatwas coming out of the absolute monarchy under the Arabic hashtag #الاشتراك_في_رحلة_المريخ_حرام, which translates to Participating in the Trip to Mars is Haram.

@mthaail jokes:

When? Where? Why hasn't anyone informed me? How do I register with them?

And the jokes continue:

I hope they open an office for the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice [religious police] on Mars. And while we are on the topic, what is the religious law for mating with aliens?

Ms Doshe suspected that the fatwa was issued to distract Saudis from the recent clampdown on the women driving campaign. She tweets:

Don't try to change the topic. We are still on the women driving issue

Blogger Khaled Abdulrahman says driving on the Saudi capital Riyadh's roads is more dangerous than travelling to Mars:

Riyadh's roads are a more dangerous adventure! Member of the Saudi Scholar's Higher Council Ali Al Hekmi sais that taking part in the trip to Mars is forbidden in Islam because it is a mission that will likely end in the demise of its participants

Dr Mohamed bin Abdulaziz adds:

I advise you to leave Earth as it is being stifled by religious scholars. Mars is part of God's land. I had hoped that they would forbid the theft of money

Areej asks:

What is acceptable for you except for polygamy and abusing women under the guise of rehabilitating them and cursing people under the pretext that you are zealous for religion?

And Muteb Al Amari addresses the scholar saying:

No one has asked for your opinion. Thank you.

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