Movements Monday TwitterChat Summary: Lessons on #SaudiRights with Young Activists from the Kingdom
As part of the ongoing Movements Monday series focusing on digital human rights activism around the world, this past week Movements.org joined a panel of young Saudi activists to discuss the building momentum for human rights reform in Saudi Arabia. The January 14 TwitterChat took place two years to the day after Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee his country by popular uprisings and was granted safe stay in one of the world's most repressive nations.
The chat was insightful from the start, with activists describing the biggest obstacles to reform in the Kingdom. Answers ranged from fear of speaking out to the use of blasphemy prosecutions to silence dissent.
There are young activists arrested for their writings on Twitter, such as Yahya Wadi'i, Badr thawab, Muhannad Mohaimeed#SaudiRights— jihad abdullah (@CheJihad) January 14, 2013
#SaudiRights any peaceful demonosteation is banned in saudi arabia. 3— طلال صالح(@freedom_Yard) January 14, 2013
The lack of free speech, and the fears about what happens if you speak out, means that gaining a good understanding of what's happening inside the country is extremely difficult, especially for those living outside. Many media reports, it seems, are not trusted by activists.
#SaudiRights partially yes, but still there are a series of questioning and public trial for activists who are making impact on public.— zanah al shehri (@ZanahAl) January 14, 2013
Where to turn, then? Al Jazeera; the Al-Hiwar channel, which is stationed in London; and human rights groups like Amnesty International got shoutouts, but social media and personal blogs were the overwhelming favorite. That's an amazing fact given the lack of free speech in Saudi Arabia, as well as a testament to the bravery of activists and ordinary citizens who are willing to speak out from both within and outside of the country.
#SaudiRights never ever go to govermental media. I will recomend aljazera channel.— طلال صالح(@freedom_Yard) January 14, 2013
A question about the Royal family and how much support it has inside the country prompted a mixed bag of interesting responses.
— عبدالرحمن♫♪┘|∵|└♫♪ (@3bdurra7man) January 14, 2013
Despite the serious obstacles, many Saudis are willing to speak up for the fundamental rights they want to see in their country. When asked about what those were, the respondents cited the basic, universal human rights that most of the world, and international law, recognize and protect.
#SaudiRights People of SA needs to know that they are born free and all are equal, they need to know their basic human rights— Wafa' (@WafaGal) January 14, 2013
#SaudiRights Saudi activists from different backgrounds should unite against the oppression of the government.— Wafa' (@WafaGal) January 14, 2013
#SaudiRights that governments are there to serve you not to torture you .— Wafa' (@WafaGal) January 14, 2013
Freedom of thought, conscience and religionis a human right #SaudiRights— Wafa' (@WafaGal) January 14, 2013
Freedom from torture is a human right #SaudiRights— Wafa' (@WafaGal) January 14, 2013
#SaudiRights the case of all prisoners of conscience should be priory to all activist .
— عزيزة اليوسف (@azizayousef) January 14, 2013
Long for gender, sectarian, tribal, & political divisions set aside &rights respected on basis of our common identity as humans#SaudiRights— Bayan (@BintBattuta87) January 14, 2013
#SaudiRights. The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation in Islam and we should all protect it— عزيزة اليوسف (@azizayousef) January 14, 2013
#SaudiRights. Women should start to understand their rights and demand them what is good yesterday is not good enough today— عزيزة اليوسف (@azizayousef) January 14, 2013
The activists encouraged others to speak out, too. Media, civil society, and governments around the world should be pressured to stand up and pay attention to the scale of injustices in the Kingdom.
we see how Western nations can pressure the government only forwomen driving, but do not do it for a man tortured in prison #SaudiRights— jihad abdullah (@CheJihad) January 14, 2013
this makes us marvel at the hypocrisy that comes from these countries, what the most important car or human #SaudiRights— jihad abdullah (@CheJihad) January 14, 2013
the Saudi regime won't go on with his lack of respect for #SaudiRights if the world spoke about the abuse.— Wafa' (@WafaGal) January 14, 2013
Finally, many of the respondents said that despite the ongoing arrests, threats, and violence, there may be hope for reform in the Kingdom. We've seen online efforts build momentum—hashtags like #Women2Drive and #Tal3mrak have flourished—and even emboldened some to take to the streets demanding change in the Kingdom of Repression. These activists see hope.
#SaudiRights we believes in ourselves and oue ability to make the change. First step is to increase puplic awaernees about human rights.— طلال صالح(@freedom_Yard) January 14, 2013
What can be done next? Continue to read about, write about, and talk about the Saudi situation.