- Fouad al-Farhan wrote a very good blogpost, analyzing the different types of Saudi students abroad, and offering some invaluable advice to the boys and girls of KASP. What I find incredibly disheartening and slightly funny is how some commenters there totally ignored the whole gist of the post and focused instead on Fouad’s choice of words, despite the fact that the words they found objectionable were not meant for a specific person(s). It just shows you how some people here can be extremely oversensitive, unbelievably easily offended, and absolutely thin-skinned.
- Last week coincided with the fifth anniversary of King Abdullah’s ascend to the throne. Many congratulatory ads have been published in newspapers. Many overly praising items have been written and broadcasted. But leave it to fellow blogger Ahmed Ba-Aboud to put things in perspective. “King Abdullah, don’t listen to them,” he says.
- Two guys at the grocery store checkout counter. Their groceries include a large soda bottle aka “family size” bottle. They are told they can’t buy it because, like many other things in the country, it’s for families only. Hilarious, but I won’t be too surprised if it happens in real life. It is exactly this kind fanaticism we are particularly good at.
- My good friend and fellow blogger Fouad al-Farhan has finally decided to restart his blog after more than two years of hiatus. During these two years, he experimented with Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, but he eventually admitted that there is nothing like blogging as a platform for personal publishing. Fouad is one of the most prominent people in the Saudi blogosphere, and I’m sure the whole blogging community is delighted to have him writing at length again. Welcome back, Fouad! You have been missed.
- Abdulrahman al-Hazzaa, deputy minister of information and culture, keeps pushing for MOCI’s proposed law for regulating news websites in this column for Okaz daily. His latest argument: we are not ready for the freedom offered by such websites. We’ve heard this argument before. Government officials like al-Hazzaa keep telling us that we are not ready for civil society, not ready for elections, not ready of democracy, etc. We are pretty much not ready for anything, until they say we are, which, depending on their whims, can be next decade, next century, or sometimes never.
- A little housekeeping note: the short linky posts are open to comments again. When I redesigned the blog earlier this year, I decided to close comments on these posts as an experiment. As part of the experiment, all posts are open to comments now. Let’s see how that goes.
Someone at CITC has decided to go on a blocking spree this morning and went to ban access to the alfarhan.org, freefouad.com and Horyiat blog. After detaining Fouad Al Farhan for more than 100 days because he spoke his mind, now they are trying to stop people from reading his ideas. Pathetic.
The authorities are yet to reveal the reasons for the detention, and a spokesman for MOI told CNN Arabic last week there was on update on the case. The blockage is indicative of the mentality behind the detention and it also a sign that it will last even longer.
They are wrong if they think the blockage will stop people from getting information about this case and all violations on human rights here. They are wrong if they think the blockage will stop us from raising Fouad’s issue over and over again until he is free and back to his family and friends. We know how to get around your stupid censorship, and if you block two or three blogs we can launch hundreds of new blogs.
Detained Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan has been allowed to make a phone call to his wife yesterday, FreeFouad.com reported. His wife said Fouad told her that he is in a good shape and his morale is high. He said he is hoping that authorities would soon allow others to visit him in jail. The website also said that Fouad would like to thank all those who supported him and his family during these tough times.
This is the post I wanted to use for my first participation in the Fouad’s Week event, but unfortunately I don’t have time to translate it now. So I will repost these quotes that I translated last month:
It is only the feebleminded who would use guns and violence to deliver his message.
We desperately need a time of calmness and reconciliation between the different leaderships in our society: Islamists, liberals and the government.
If you were a free citizen and think you have the right speak your mind on what is happening in our country and have something to say, be brave and say it in your real name.
In Saudi Arabia, there is no guarantee that you won’t be arrested because of your frankness and speaking your mind on your blog. But there is also no guarantee when you hide and write in internet forums using a pseudonym.
My advice to anyone that cares about common interest and is angry over what is happening in our country and keeps on writing at internet forums using a pseudonym is to join the blogging world and write using his real name to contribute positively in building the Saudi blogosphere.
I received a copy from the letter sent by Fouad to his friends a few days before his arrest. This letter provides some details on the reasons behind his arrest. Here’s the text of the letter:
I was told that there is an official order from a high-ranking official in the Ministry of the Interior to investigate me. They will pick me up anytime in the next 2 weeks.
The issue that caused all of this is because I wrote about the political prisoners here in Saudi Arabia and they think I’m running a online campaign promoting their issue. All what I did is wrote some pieces and put side banners and asked other bloggers to do the same.
He asked me to comply with him and sign an apology. I’m not sure if I’m ready to do that. An apology for what? Apologizing because I said the government is liar when they accused those guys to be supporting terrorism?
To expect the worst which is to be jailed for 3 days till we write good feedback about you and let u go. There may be no jial and only apologizing letter. But, if it’s more than three days, it should be out. I don’t want to be forgotten in jail.
Don’t worry Fouad, we are here for you and we will do our best until you’re free and back to your family and friends. We will not forget you.
Fouad Al Farhan, a leading Saudi blogger, has been arrested in Jeddah about two weeks ago. The reasons behind the detention of Al Farhan remain unclear, but it is known that he had to shut down his blog previously after being harassed by some authorities. He remained on hiatus for a few months, but he decided later to come back and continue blogging because he believes that freedom, justice and equality are values worth fighting for. I have met Fouad a couple of times and I have interviewed him for Global Voices.
Fellow bloggers and friends are launching a campaign to release Fouad. More details about the campaign and what you can do to support him can be found here.
I hope that Fouad would be released soon to come back to his family and friends. This country needs more people like him, people who love their country and want to see it thrive and advance.