Saudi activists launch a daring and bold move to support human rights

For the first time in Saudi Arabia, a defense team for jailed Saudi activists are observing, and calling for a two-day public hunger strike to protest the detention without charge of human rights activists. The Saudi and Arab media ignored the group’s call but the group started Facebook and Google groups and a special Web site ( where they disseminate information about the strike and coordinate campaign efforts.

The activist said in a statement they distributed online: “Saudi Justice system and legal procedures (e.g., Criminal Procedure and Arrest and Detention Laws) had failed to render just judgments to jailed Saudi human-right activists who have been arrested with no official indictments, and incarcerated indefinitely in solitary confinements with no right for an attorney or access to habeas corpus.”

“After exerting all means to get fair treatments to the constitutional movement’s detainees, the defense teams decided to observe a 48-hour hunger strike. The proposed strike will take place on Thursday and Friday, 6-7 November 2008, in protest against flagrant human-right violations for all detainees in Saudi prisons who have been deprived of their basic rights as guaranteed by Criminal Procedure Law and Arrest and Detention Law …” the statement added.

“Our demand is quite simple: either to set the detainees free or instantly grant them fair and public trials.”

Apparently for fear of repercussion, very few Saudi bloggers picked up the story and placed the campaign banner on their blogs. Saudi Jeans and Esam Mudeer are among the few.

This move is very risky and the participants face serious consequences, especially because strikes and demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia.

Interestingly, all of the campaigns Web sites are accessible from Saudi Arabia, at least so far.

The local and almost all of the Arab media ignored the event, but the activists managed to draw the attention of international media including CNN, Washington Post and France24.

The campaign’s Facebook Arabic group‘s membership grew from 11 in the first day to 376 in just 3 days (173 members in the Facebook English group) and the participants who publicly signed up to participate in the strike reached 26.

While it is obvious that activists throughout the world would use the Internet for activism and advocacy, the Saudi case has three interesting issues:

    1. The Saudi activists live with one of the most repressive Internet regimes in the world, yet the campaigners managed to utilize the online resources available to them to win supporters from inside and outside the country, and to get the attention of foreign international media.

    2. The Saudi activists use the online campaign not just to highlight their grievances and advocate reform, but also to perform an equally challenging task: to counter the government-endorsed fatwa (Islamic edict) that hunger strikes are not permissible in Sharia law. The campaigners have effectively used online tools to present well-documented research that Islam does indeed permit hanger strikes when necessary.

    3. The fact that the campaign’s Web sites are currently accessible from Saudi Arabia does not necessarily reflect tolerance from the authorities to this movement, but could be a trap to find out who the supporters and sympathizers of the movement are.

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3 Responses to “Saudi activists launch a daring and bold move to support human rights”

  1. Esam Mudeer Says:

    Thanks for your fair view of the first public hunger strike in Saudi Arabia.

    You wrote: “The fact that the campaign’s Web sites are currently accessible from Saudi Arabia does not necessarily reflect tolerance from the authorities to this movement, but could be a trap to find out who the supporters and sympathizers of the movement are.”

    Even if that is the case, it does not scare us a bit. Let me assure you, though, that those who kidnapped our top activists and threw them into jails without charging them of any thing yet do not need to set an online trap for the rest of us.

    At any time, they could snatch any one out of his home or office with no official indictments, and incarcerate him indefinitely in solitary confinement with no right for an attorney or access to habeas corpus. They did this to many before us and they could do it again to many more as they please. Sadly, this is the horrible state of affairs.

    Am I going to wonder if I am going to be next and start to fear my own shadow each time I talk or walk around? Or will I chose to STAND TALL? Like those jailed activists who did not see sunlight for 20 months. But as we go on a hunger strike this Nov. 6th, we feel as if their shadows are large and free, extending beyond prison walls. Those who caused them injustice are the ones worried today, not us. The word has gotten out big and it’s gonna go out bigger and bigger.

    What if I tell you that this strike is making history in my country and a list of firsts already? The other day we hade the first Saudi family to go on a hunger strike: a mother and 6 of her children. Their father is one of the top 1men detained in Saudi jails without charge or trial since Feb. 2007. Yesterday, 9 more family members of 2 men among the detained activists joined in and submitted their full names. They scared of no traps any more.

    And let me tell you that blocking a website in Saudi Arabia does not happen over night. It takes weeks under a rigid bureaucracy like ours. At first, and since the call for a public hunger strike is new, those who would wish to block out sites did not think it will get all of this media attention. They hoped to let this die quietly in the World Wide Web where it actually gained momentum especially on Facebook.

    I assure you that you will hear much negative talk in the Saudi controlled press against Facebook in the coming few days to scare our youngsters from joining the strike. Also, some few religious figures who support the detention of human rights activists and justify it with twisted fatwas, they too, will soon launch a wild campaign against all forms of online social networking.

    Trap or no trap, we have reached the peak of no return going down back to accepting the statuesque. Our spirits are high despite genuine concerns for our personal freedom or safety. Since I was 5 yrs old, my late granny taught me that the one who ends up falling in any trap is the one who sets it up in the first place. But I am not on a strike to wish any one fall down. As much as we want our activist set free, we want to save those who detained them as well, save them from themselves, so that together we can save our country and make it better and better.

    This hunger strike is our silent invitation and good-will message to you and to the rest of the world. It is to let you know that there are strong Arabian Muslims in spirit, as I hope to be one, who would rather resort to this way of protesting injustice than shed blood or cause harm.

    We, people of the homeland of Islam, have finally awakened the true spirit of our faith TO SAVE THE DAY AND MAKE NICE HEADLINES NOT BLOODY ONES. We hope to live today’s good news as a reality in our day-to-day lives from now on.

    But can the world hear us? Do you want to? Will you give us the benefit of the doubt? Do you really care about the masses in my country, the ones called ‘the silent majority’?

    Since the call for the hunger strike, I have been feeling as if my lungs are filled with all of the air on this globe and I am suffocating no more. I am silent no more.

    Esam Mudeer
    Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

  2. Esam Mudeer Says:

    Today, Saudi authorities blocked my blog because of my participation in the local hunger strike What could they do next?

  3. adam Says:

    keep it up!!! truth and justice and understanding among our cultures will bring us closer together in ways that the governments will never be able to control!!!