I recently visited Global Voices Online, a very interesting collaborative site that organizes and highlights blogs from around the world. Since I already explored Iranian bloggers in my very first blog post, I decided to hop across the Persian Gulf and explore Saudi Arabia’s blogging world. I was curious as to how similar the two countries were in terms of freedoms and restrictions.
One of the major recurring themes that I came across was the repression against women. Saudi Arabia Women Rights is a blog that raises awareness of the lack of rights. I was actually pleased to see that some men were outraged by the government’s rulings. One of my favorite blogs was saudijeans.org, written by 24-year old Ahmed Al-Omran who resides and studies in Riyadh. He focuses on the country’s social and political issues, and also stands against repression towards women.
In a country where so many restrictions are set, blogging is a gateway to expression for many in the middle east. It is, in a way, a small revolution. As expressed in UK Financial Times:
The movement appears to have caught more conservative members of the establishment off guard, by introducing new tactics to the political scene as well as a new spirit of activism among young Kuwaitis.
However, bloggers in the region need to be cautions of what they post. A perfect example of someone who may have gone too far was Fouad al-Farhan, who in December 2007 was the first Saudi Arabian blogger to be arrested because of his criticism of corruption and call for political reform. Farhan also ran into trouble with the authorities in 2006 when he tried to start a group to protect bloggers’ rights. The executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information even stated:
“When the Saudi authorities arrest a young man writing maturely and is against terrorism and calls for reformation, it is a serious indicator for how far are the fanatic and those opposing freedom of expression and reformation are taking over in Saudi Arabia.”
A contributor of Global Voices Online outlined al-Farhan’s situation perfectly.
This may be a revolution, indeed.