More than 100 days have passed and Prof. Matrook al-Faleh is still detained following his arrest last May. His situation remains the same: in solitary confinement and yet to be allowed to meet his lawyer. No official statement has been released on why he was arrested, but it is widely accepted that his detention is related to an article he published online on the poor conditions of Buraida General Prison where fellow activist Abdullah Al-Hamed was jailed for the past six months.

Al-Hamed was serving a sentence by a court in Qassim which found him guilty on charges related to women’s demonstrations last summer. He has completed his sentence and was released few days ago. His friends hosted a dinner to celebrate his freedom earlier this week, and I was lucky to be invited and have the honor of meeting him and other political and social activists.

It was clear that he lost some weight, but his spirits were not shaken at all. He spoke briefly and thanked those who supported him. He also said that we must not forget about other jailed activists, especially the lesser known ones, who deserve to be defended too. Being jailed unfairly for a just cause is not a bad thing, he said, and for this nation to advance, some of us has to pay the price. When I was introduced to him, he talked to me fatherly and gave me some advice. He told me that I should never work alone, and that I must let my family and friends know about my activism so they can help me if something went wrong.

One important note he made and I want to emphasize here is that we, as citizens who want to reform our country, must learn how to work together, regardless of what differences we might have. Yes, we have liberals and Islamists, and they have different views on different issues, but in the end of the day there are also things we all agree on, like the importance of justice, representation and human rights. We should not allow our disagreement over some details drag us to bitterness and enmity.

I have no doubt that Abdullah al-Hamed is one of Saudi Arabia’s greatest men. Abu Bilal, as he is known among his friends, has been actively working for the past 20 years to make this country a better place, and despite all the hardships he has gone through over the this time, including jail and travel bans, he remains determined and committed to his message. His work is absolutely an inspiration to me and many people who share his dream of a brighter future for this nation.

13 thoughts on “Greatness

  1. “He also said that we must not forget about other jailed activists”
    Also the jailed and non-activists who were only jailed for suspicions, and they are many :(

    Thank you for informing us about your meeting & his advice.

  2. لو لم يكن عظيما لما تعرض لكل هذه البهاذل فللعظيم قلبان قلب يتألم وقلب يتأمل

  3. A great post about one of the very few great men in our country.

    Thank you Ahmed for reminding me about people who I keep forgeting about either intentionally or without intention.

    AlHamed and AlFaleh are paying the high price for the rest of us to at least think about helping our country to improve.

    As of uniting the efforts for reformers regardless of our differences, it is a great goal that needs lots of work to become reality. I will accuse you and myself (as just an example) that when we indicate a mistake or a shortfall by others that our criticism in many occasions is not constructive and reflects strong negative feeling towards the other party. We need to have trust and common agreed upon goal for the unity of reformers. We need to remember that without a group work, we will keep point fingering each other and no change will keep being.

  4. I agree that people have to work together and get past some differences to accomplish shared objectives. I believe he gave you good advice. I just pray those activists will be freed to enjoy themselves and spend time with their families.

    This is supposed to be the month of mercy for Muslims…Ramandan. I hope it holds true for these brave activists…that oppressors will find the mercy in their hearts to free them.

    What is preached is not always practiced :-(

  5. Thanks for sharing this interesting post. I’m really glad that I found your blog recently. I enjoy reading a Saudi perspective. It is different from what I expected … but a GOOD different, imho! :-)

    Great advice from Al-Hamed … quite inspiring to all who want to change the status quo. I enjoyed reading about these brave men.

  6. The best thing said is what the professor advise you to do but failed to do so himself, to keep your family and friends aware of your activity and whereabouts…A message could go into vain if not announced to all and gain support from enough people, we definitely don’t have an active civil society movements… I’m sorry that such academic figures are behind bars and more sorry that their message is not known to all…
    I know that your message is to call for human rights and public reform, so I’ll watch your back Saudi jeans…

  7. I’ll simply quote for now:

    Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is in prison
    Henry David Thoreau

    Humankind cannot stand very much reality
    T. S. Eliot

    Resolve to be thyself; and know that who finds himself, loses his misery.
    Matthew Arnold

  8. I applaud your efforts to advance the cause of human and civil rights– your commitment is clear throughout your blog. I have several questions, and I hope you’ll take no offense as my curiosity and interest are sincere. I sometimes see contradictions in human rights activism, so I ask: Do you think cultural differences result in varied understandings of human rights? In other words, do cultural considerations limit our ability to understand what constitutes oppression in another society, and are there instances when we do not act to support universal human rights citing deference to culture or when we act precipitously from a lack of cultural insight?

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