I woke up around 5:30 this morning on the beeping of my iPhone which received a short message from the wife of my friend and fellow blogger Fouad al-Farhan telling me that Fouad has been released and that he is back home with his family now. That’s great news and this is just how I wanted to start my morning!
The good news made me less nervous and more relaxed about giving my presentation today. I’m doing some final revision now and should be standing on the stage in the main room at the Hilton Hall to speak in a couple of hours.
It has been a month since you were detained, and I miss you. It has been a rough month for the rest of us here, but it is certainly nothing compared to what you have had to go through and still do. They told us you were detained because you violated non-security regulations. Gibberish, to say the least, but that’s what we were told. I really don’t know what kind of law you violated by merely exercising your God given right of free speech, and I don’t know when calling for freedom, justice, peace and moderation has become a crime.
But here is what I know. I know that all these values you called for are worth fighting for. I know that we believe in a just cause, and that tomorrow belongs to us, not them. I know that no matter how long the darkness lasts, the sun will rise again. I want you to know one thing: I am here for you. I will keep supporting you and I will do my best until you are free again and back to your family and friends. You will not be forgotten.
Sami Ben Gharbia has been working on a randomizer badge for Free Fouad campaign that will display and randomize some of Fouad’s quotes. Sami asked me to help him with translating these quotes, and I thought it would be good to post them here too so you can learn more about Fouad and what he believes in.
First, here’s some selected quotes:
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.
And here’s a list of 25 reasons for blogging Fouad presented after he came back from his hiatus:
Why Do We Blog?
1. Because we believe we have opinions that deserve to be heard, and minds that should be respected.
2. Because societies do not progress until they learn to respect opinions of their members. And we would like to see our society progressing.
3. Because blogging is our only option. We do not have a free media, and freedom to assemble is not allowed.
4. Because we want to discuss our opinions.
5. Because we think.
6. Because we care.
7. Because blogging has had a positive effect on other societies and we want to see the same result in our society.
8. Because blogging is a reflection of the life of society members. And we are alive.
9. Because blogging is gaining increasing attention from media and governments. We want them to listen to us.
10. Because we are not scared.
11. Because we reject the cattle mentality.
12. Because we welcome diversity of opinions.
13. Because the country is for all, and we are part of it.
14. Because we want to reach out to everyone.
15. Because we refuse to be an “echo”.
16. Because we are not any less than bloggers in other societies.
17. Because we seek the truth.
18. Because our religion encourages us to speak out.
19. Because we are sick and tired of the Saudi media hypocrisy.
20. Because we are positive.
21. Because blogging is a powerful tool that can benefit society.
22. Because we are affected and we can affect.
23. Because we love our country.
24. Because we enjoy dialogue and don’t run away from it.
25. Because we are sincere.
The news of detaining Fouad Al Farhan was not shocking to me because I knew that he has been interrogated and harassed before, but it was certainly disturbing. Although we have seen bloggers in Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt arrested and jailed, I thought this won’t happen here because a) Saudi Arabia don’t usually jail journalists (they ban them, but they don’t throw them in jail) and b) I thought those arresting citizens who exercise their right of free speech should be wise enough to choose their battles.
Bloggers, journalists, free speech advocates and human rights activists do not carry guns and explosives trying to undermine the government. They are merely exercising their God given right to express themselves freely in the hope of reforming this country and making it a better place. It is a very sad reality when you have people like Fouad who deliver their message of peace and justice detained this way, while extremists in websites like Al Sahat and others are free to poison the minds of youth with a dangerous message that is full of hate and violence.
I have no doubt that King Abdullah is pushing for a reformist agenda. However, it is very unfortunate that some elements in the government are not happy with this agenda because it could curb their powers and change their status. That’s why these elements are so threatened by freedom of expression and therefore try to stifle this freedom even if that means violating basic human rights, national law and international accords.
Let’s pray for Fouad to return to his family and friends, and let’s hope, again, that justice and common sense will prevail soon.
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.