Head of CPVPV weeps, Head of NSHR talks

  • Sheikh Abdul-Latif Al-alsheikh, head of CPVPV, joins the growing crowd of weeping clerics, though unfortunately we don’t have a video of the incident. The tears were spilled during a meeting with his staff as he recalled a conversation with King Abdullah. Al-alskheikh said the king asked him to avoid using violence against citizens. Al-alsheikh also commented on the Nail Polish Girl issue, saying the story has been exaggerated. “The world is making airplanes and we are telling a woman to leave the mall because she is wearing nail polish,” he exclaimed.

Nail polish photo

  • Arab New interviews Moflih al-Qahtani, chairman of NSHR, to talk about the society’s latest report that was published yesterday. “Our report is in support of the Kingdom’s efforts worldwide to sustain its positive image among international human rights organizations,” he said. I thought the goal was to highlight the human rights situation in the country in order to improve it. Silly me.
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NSHR new report, Crown Prince health, Madawi and Nail Polish Girl

  • The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) published their third report on the human rights situation in the country. Their previous two reports were well received, and this one will probably get the same reception. The report’s main theme is that the government executive bodies have failed to meet the ambitions of King Abdullah. At the end of the report, NSHR provided a list of recommendations including suggestions for partial elections of the Shoura Council as well as limiting transgressions by security forces and CPVPV members against citizens. Full text of the report in Arabic is available here (PDF)
  • Crown Prince Naif left the country last week for “routine medical checkups,” according to the state news agency. His deputy, Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz, told local media Saturday that “Prince Naif is fine, I spoke with him last night. He is in good health and will come back soon.”
  • Madawi al-Rasheed says Nail Polish Girl is no hero because her confrontation with the Commission was not “grounded in demands for both personal freedoms and political and civil rights for men and women. Until then, Saudis and the rest of the world will continue to watch YouTube clips of futile disconnected incidents, grounded in sensationalism and imagined heroism,” she says. Rana Jarbou, on Twitter, disagrees: “I highly respect Madawi Al-Rasheed, but I find the ‘Nail Polish Girl’ more relevant to my plight as a ‪Saudi‬ woman.”

Saudi Jeans Turns 8, Nail Polish Girl

Saudi Jeans turned 8 earlier this month. I did not mark the occasion with a post as I usually do, but I thought I would give the blog a facelift. As you can see, the redesign features (much) bigger typography with content taking center stage. It is still work-in-progress, so I will be polishing this over the next few days.

Speaking of polish, you probably have already seen the nail polish girl video. If you haven’t, here it is:

Eman al-Nafjan already wrote a good post about it, but I thought I would add my two halalas. What makes the incident interesting is not just that the girl is standing up to the Commission members (other women have done it in the past) but that she also tells them they have no right to chase her, she documents the whole thing on video and threatens to expose them on social media. She then reports them to the police who seemed pretty confused over what to do about it.

Abdul-Latif Al-alsheikh, the newly appointed chief of the Commission said the incident will be investigated. “We do not accept transgressions or mistakes by Commission members, but we also do not accept transgressions against them at all,” he told Sabq which reported that the Commission is now seeking legal action against the girl. This has become a trend: conservatives who for a long time despised government regulations because they are “man-made laws” are now using such regulations to sue people at courts where they are sure to find sympathetic judges to rule in their favour.

Update on Kashgari’s Case

Just a quick update on the Hamza Kashgari case since many people have been asking: The young man is now in detention, his family visited him and he is reportedly in high spirits and being treated respectfully. Several sites and petitions have been set up to support him and call for his release.

Prominent human rights lawyer Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem has announced that he will defend Kashgari, arguing that he will push for this case to be handled by a committee in the information ministry instead of a Sharia court.

Meanwhile, several people on the right are claiming that Hamza is a member what they believe is a “sleeping cell” to spread atheism among Saudi youth. Al-Hayat has a thinly sourced story saying public prosecutors are likely to summon people that supported or agreed with Kashgari, which opened the door widely for something like a witch hunt.

People like Mohammed al-Hodaif are accusing Abdullah Hamidaddin of being the cell leader but so far they have failed to provide a strong evidence to support their claims.The two men faced off on TV today where al-Hodaif threatened Hamidaddin, who is currently traveling to the US, to return to the Kingdom for a trial in a Saudi court.

Here and there

  • The Guardian sent their south Asia correspondent Jason Burke to Saudi Arabia for a special series on the country. While I think the overall reporting of the series leaves something to be desired, it was the third part of the series that made the headlines locally. Sheikh Saad al-Shethri (remember him?) said he intends to sue the paper because he claims that they misquoted him.
  • The families of detainees protested earlier today outside the ministry of interior. A number of men, women and children have been arrested. ACPRA condemend the arrests and repeated their call on the minister and senior officials to be fired and tried.
  • Rasheed Al-Khiraif notes the decrease in fertility rate in the country and asks if Saudis need to use contraceptives. I think the answer to that question is pretty obvious.
  • It’s funny/sad how local media are finally able to discuss things like closing shops during prayer. I wrote about this here on the blog six years ago.
  • Eman al-Nafjan takes a moment to reflect on what happened regarding the issue of women driving over the past few weeks. Good read.

On June 17

  • Saudi women did drive on June 17. More than 50 of them drove, and the day went by peacefully for the most part. Check out my post for NPR’s Two-way blog to read more and hear from some of the women who got behind the wheel and defied the ban.
  • I somehow made Foreign Policy’s Twitterati 100 list for the most influencial people on Twitter, and what’s great about it is that I’m in good company.
  • Speaking of Foreign Policy, they published a good piece by Ebtihal Mubarak looking into the historical background of the demands for women driving in the country.
  • Remember when I asked if there was hope for Saudi Arabia? ColdRevolt thinks there is none. She says, “Our society is not only backward for debating a basic human right, but looking at its reaction to the revolutionary movements across the Arab world, and the uprisings in Bahrain specifically… it’s absolutely hopeless.”

More and more on women driving

  • Photographer Reem Al Faisal mocks the ban on women driving in Arab News by calling women to start riding… camels. “OK, we give up and allow the men to drive cars and allow us what was never denied our grandmothers – camels. Let every household own as many camels as they wish or can afford. Open up schools to teach women how to ride and house and maintain a camel.”
  • Head of the human rights committee in the Shoura Council said the topic of women driving is not open to discussion, even though some citizens have presented a petition to the Council about it. “Women driving is a minor issue,” he said. “It is not a priority for the Council.” This contradicts what his boss said last week. I will ask again: why are we talking about this as if Shoura matters?
  • Farzaneh Milani: “The Saudi regime, like the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the military junta in Sudan and the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, ordains the exclusion of women from the public sphere. It expects women to remain in their “proper place.””
  • Good to see Saudi comedians featured in the New York Times. They are doing some really interesting, creative work. They deserve all this attention and more. Related: my piece on the rise of Arab American standup comedy.
  • This chart from The Economist has been making the rounds on the interwebs. It basically shows the biggest military spenders in the world. According to the chart, Saudi Arabia spends 10.4% of its GDP on defence.
  • Last week I started a summer internship at NPR in Washington DC. My first byline on appeared on their website last Saturday. You can read the story here. As an intern, I’m not allowed to post opinion online. I will still be posting stuff here, just not my personal opinions.