The view from Riyadh – Saudi Jeans

Ahmed, a pharmacy student in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, maintains the excellent “Saudi Jeans”, a link blog that looks and feels a little like Scripting News, if only Dave Winer lived in the Middle East and read dozens of Arabic newspapers every morning.

In between posts on everything from the role of SMS in the middle east versus the US and aspirin as an anti-coagulant (he is, after all a pharmacy student), Ahmed has focused on two themes lately: the changing role of women in Saudi society and the increasing tendency of the ISU (Saudi's Internet Service Unit) to block sites he's interested in using.

Recent posts on women in Saudi have featured Ghada al-Idreesi, who was just named manager of DHL's customer support centers in Saudi Arabia, links to articles about the possibility of allowing women to drive, and to an Al-Hayat interview with female author Hildaa Ismail.

In the past week, Ahmed has complained about difficulties accessing numerous websites, including TinyURL, Flickr, and the Internet Archive's wayback machine.

Fortunately, Ahmed's access to his own blog hasn't been blocked… yet. Ahmed's tendency to take sensitive religious and political issues directly head on makes him one of the most exciting voices in the region, but one could imagine that his comments must ruffle some feathers. Here's his take on a recent exhibition of art as his college:

he dean of of College of Pharmacy at KSU have opened an exhibition at the college's main lobby. The exhibition, called “Pulse of the Nation,” is organized by the students’ committees of the college. Please note that when someone says the term “The Nation” in Saudi Arabia, it does not necessary mean the Saudi nation, but it does necessary mean the Islamic nation. Now, one may ask: what an exhibition about Islam has to do with pharmacy?” Here comes the answer: The two have nothing in common. Also, one may thinks College of Pharmacy is filled with atheists, but this is not believable.

The reason for organizing such exhibition at the the college is because the organizers, the students’ committees, are dominated by the Islamists. They have been in control of these committees in the College of Pharmacy, as well as the other colleges of the university, for years. They were behind the banning of musical concerts, plays and other cultural activities. This point was one of the points Dr. Hamza al-Mizeini mentioned in the article that made one of the Islamists in the university sue him.

The administration of the college should consider closing the offices of these committees and shut them down, as they have done with the academic adviser office, because I can't see any real activities in there. Actually, these offices have become a relaxing spot for those Islamists to drink beverages, eat snacks and chit-chatting the latest news of Sheikh Usama Bin Laden.

We've got high hopes that Ahmed might agree to do a roundup of great Arabic blogs in Saudi and the region for Global Voices – we'll keep you posted.

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