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Saudi Arabia: Hunger Strike Draws Attention to Jailed Reformers Plight

Saudi Arabia's human rights activists started a two-day hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of 11 reformers and activists languishing in Saudi jails without trial – or access to a lawyer.

The strike, on November 6 and 7, was announced on a Facebook group (Ar), entitled The Largest Strike in Saudi Arabia to Free Opinion Prisoners and Campaigners for Justice. A similar group can be found here, in English.

The Arabic group has so far attracted 529 members, the English a little over 300, and their actions have drawn the attention of mainstream media around the world.

Like in neighbouring countries, activists are resorting to the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook to keep the world abreast with their struggles back home.

Witness’ The Hub posts the following video, featuring Saudi journalist Ebtihal Mubarak who speaks about the campaign and the plight of the activists:

Chris Michael has more here.

According to Saudi Jeans:

The defense team declared their observance of a hunger strike in solidarity with following jailed human right activists from the constitutional movement and civil society in Saudi Arabia:

1. Professor Matrook H. Al-Faleh, political science professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, detained by security forces in May 19, 2008.
2. Attorney Suliman Ibrahim Al-Reshoudi, former judge and human-right advocate, detained in February 2, 2007.
3. Attorney Dr. Mousa Mohammed Al-Qarni, former university professor and human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
4. Professor Abdulrahman Mohammed Al-Shomari, former professor of education and human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
5. Dr. Abdulaziz Suliman Al-Khereiji, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
6. Saifaldeen Faisal Al-Sherif, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
7. Fahd Alskaree Al-Qurashi, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
8. Abdulrahman Bin Sadiq, Human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
9. Dr. Saud Mohammed Al-Hashemi, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
10. Ali Khosifan Al-Qarni, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
11. Mansour Salim Al-Otha, human-right activist, detained in December 12, 2007.

The blogger further adds:

This act of peaceful protest is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia and I believe this is the least we can do for those people. Please join the call and spread the word.

In another post, Saudi Jeans writes about the reactions he received when he announced the strike:

When I posted about the hunger strike last week, I did not expect that anyone would try to talk me out of it. But some people actually did. Some think it is not a worthy cause; some think it is pointless and would have no effect; and some told me they have been intimidated by what they described as “aggressive campaigning” online. To those I say: forget the hoopla; forget the banners; and forget all the coverage.

You think I’m doing this to get media attention? I don’t need media attention. I already have the media attention. I see the hunger strike as my little personal gesture to the detainees. I don’t know what it would mean to them or if they even know about it, but it certainly means something to me. It means that I do not accept injustice. I means that as much as I’m proud of this country, I’m disappointed by how it repeatedly fails to live up to its highest standards. It means that I believe we are better than this and we deserve better than this.

While he agrees there are other deserving causes which need attention, such as Saudi Arabia's 75 detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Saudi Jeans notes:

If you think this hunger strike will achieve nothing and therefor don’t want to participate that’s okay, but please don’t try to make of it what it is simply not. If you decided to participate, then think why you are doing it; don’t just follow the crowd blindly, and be sure that you can make the case for this. It will be more meaningful and far more rewarding.

Crossroads Arabia links to international media coverage on the story here.

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