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.”
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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.

Bogus Trends

Trend stories are some of my least favourite kind of stories in the media. Even worse, many of these trend stories tend to be bogus. “The bogus trend story thrives thanks to the journalists who never let the facts get in the way when they think they’ve discovered some new social tendency,” says Slate’s Jack Shafer.

It is said that one is an exception, two is a coincidence, but three is a trend. However, when it comes to Saudi Arabia and its infamous religious police two is more than enough to make a trend, apparently. During the last week, international media went crazy over two little stories about attacks on the members of Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) aka Haia.

haya_logo_inverseMany reporters who worked on these stories from abroad called their sources in the Kingdom asking them the same question: Does this incident (and later these two incidents) indicate a shift in attitude by the public towards the religious police? Regardless of the answers they got, they somehow came out with pieces along the line that Saudi people have had it and are finally rising up against Haia.

Sorry to disappoint you guys, but I really do not think this is the case. The talk about a revolt against Haia is a gross exaggeration. What these stories suggest is not an anti-Commission revolution but rather a change in the press. Few years ago these kind of stories won’t make headlines; now they do. Local media cannot be blamed for hyping up Haia stories because, well, they sell. It is outside observers and self-appointed experts that should be blamed for falling for bogus trends.

Watch this

Okay, so here are three videos that have been making the rounds on the local interwebs lately:

This is a commercial for the Saudi teleco giant Mobily. As with most of their ads, it is of high production quality. But that’s not what make it interesting. What makes it interesting is the fact that it stars Prince Abdullah bin Meteb, the grandson of King Abdullah. This is the first time a prince appears in a commercial, and some people think such thing signifies a change in the way members of the Saudi royal family conduct themselves. I don’t know. I mean, can’t this be just a sports sponsorship deal? Prince Abdullah is a professional rider who could use a sponsor for such an expensive career, and Mobily is a for-profit company who wants to improve their image and make more money. I, for one, did not raise an eyebrow when I saw the tv ad.

In this video, a man who allegedly belongs to the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is seen ambushing a jalsa which is basically a small gathering where people entertain themselves with music and dancing. The bearded man snatches the oud from the singer’s lap with a swift move, and then smashed it to the ground in a scene more commonly associated with rock concerts. So much for calling to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.

The Cube is a popular British game show. For some reason, the Saudi state TV thought it was a good idea to bring it to their screen. The Saudi version is the same as the British one, except that our version has a nutty host who keeps on screaming. This video was put together by fellow blogger Raed al-Saeed, who previously produced Schism and Why Gaza children don’t deserve to be killed. I wonder if what he did is legal under the new e-media law proposed by MOCI :P

  • Sheikh Ahmed Bin Baz is the son of the former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and he has been saying some interesting things for someone with a famous lastname. Saudi Gazette profiles the young upstart scholar.
  • A Saudi embraces Islam. Seriously. He says his American mom, whom he has been living with for the past 23 years, did not mind because he is an adult and can do whatever he wants. Now imagine if it was the other way around. Would his Saudi father accept his son’s decision to become Christian? Hmmm… UPDATE: here’s the story in English from Saudi Gazette.
  • The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice detained two males and three females on charges of “khulwa.” How come?! They are five people! How in hell they were in “khulwa”? Somebody stops these morons before people start shooting them.

Brutality

So few days ago in Dammam some members of the religious police somehow got the impression that they could storm a women’s public restroom on the courniche to arrest someone. They went in and moments later emerged dragging a girl who was crying, screaming and begging them to leave her alone. She tried to run away but fell on the ground. The Haya’a men apparently thought it was okay to hit and kick her, so they did that in the street while people were watching, then they carried her and threw her in the back of their jeep.

Al-Hayat daily, who published the story on Monday, said they tried to contact Haya’a offices and spokesmen in Dammam and Riyadh for comments but none of them returned the calls or text messages. Probably we were overoptimistic when we hoped that the new head of the religious police would keep his men under control. Probably.

UPDATE 23/12/09: According to al-Watan daily, the girl has been released. The newspaper quoted security sources who said the girl was arrested based on the suspicion of a khulwa, while the boy who allegedly was with her managed to escape. The haya’a in the EP declined to comment on the case. The police said they received the case and they are searching for the boy.