Monday, February 21, 2011

From SaudiWoman: The Arab Revolution Saudi Update

The following is a reprint of a post from SaudiWoman:

Remember, in a former post, when I said that Saudis were captivated and shocked by what happened in Tunis and Egypt but hadn’t collectively made up their mind about it? Well it appears that they have. Everywhere I go and everything I read points to a revolution in our own country in the foreseeable future. However we are still on the ledge and haven’t jumped yet.

I know that some analysts are worried particularly of Saudi Arabia being taken over by Al Qaeda or a Sunni version of the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Calm down. Besides my gut feeling (which is rarely wrong), the overwhelming majority of people speaking out and calling out for a revolution are people who want democracy and civil rights and not more of our current Arab tradition based adaptation of Sharia. My theory of why that is, is that Al Qaeda has already exhausted its human resources here. The available muttawas, are career muttawas (fatwa sheikhs) and minor muttawas (PVPV) of convenience both paid by the government and do not want the current win-win deal between them and the government to sour. So it’s unlikely that they would actively seek change. Actually quite the opposite, they will resist and delay as much as they can. Fortunately the winds of change can’t be deterred by a PVPV cruiser.

Last night Prince Talal Bin Abdul Alaziz, the king’s half-brother, did a TV interview on BBC Arabia that was widely watched and discussed. In it he warned of an upcoming storm if reforms aren’t dealt with right now. He used the word “evils” to describe what would happen if King Abdullah passed away before ordering the required changes. Prince Talal also strongly advocated a constitutional monarchy and democracy as long as it’s similar to what they have in Kuwait and Jordon. However he hinted that there were people in the ruling family who do not believe in change.

This whole past week was eventful. The first political party to form during King’s Abdullah’s reign, the Islamic Umma Party, has been arrested. According to the party’s released statement, they were informed that they would not be released until they sign a document promising that they will abandon all political aspirations.

In Qatif, a Shia majority area in Eastern Saudi, there is talk that there was a protest demanding the release of political prisoners yesterday. Ahmed Al Omran from SaudiJeans tweeted a pamphlet that was being distributed in Qatif, calling for protests today, Feb 18th, at 8pm.

A hashtag on Twitter, #EgyEffectSa, about the effect of Egypt on Saudi was popular, with a lot of courageous Saudis speaking their mind. The common thread across most of the tweets was for human rights, freedom of speech, democracy and government accountability.

Saving the best for last, a 6100 strong and growing group on Facebook has been started. The group is only for Saudis and you need to be approved to join. I’ve translated their demands:

The People want to Reform the Government Campaign

To support the right of the Saudi people and their legitimate aspirations:
1 – a constitutional monarchy between the king and government.
2 – a written constitution approved by the people in which governing powers will be determined.
3 – transparency, accountability in fighting corruption
4 – the Government in the service of the people
5 – legislative elections.
6 – public freedoms and respect for human rights
7 – allowing civil society institutions
8 – full citizenship and the abolition of all forms of discrimination.
9 – Adoption of the rights of women and non-discrimination against them.
10 – an independent and fair judiciary.
11 – impartial development and equitable distribution of wealth.
12 – to seriously address the problem of unemployment

Impressive, right?! And if these demands aren’t met, according to a lot of the discussions on the group’s page, there will be a protest in Riyadh on Olaya street March 11th. I was also impressed by their code of conduct in which they committed to no sectarianism, no violence or incitement to violence, and no hate speech.

Everyone is holding their breath and delaying doing anything drastic until the King is back. Reports vary, some say he is expected Monday, others say Wednesday. Either way, whatever he does when he gets back will decide the fate of our country. In my opinion, the least he can do is draw up and announce a clear succession that will carry the throne from the brothers’ generation into their sons’. As this is an area of great concern and instability for Saudis because we fear that without a clear and public succession, we might have a civil war between factions of the ruling family. King Abdullah should name names such as heir1 then heir2 then heir3…etc so that the fifth or sixth is a ten or twelve year old. Thus stability is maintained fifty years into the future. Another thing that needs to be done is to aggressively fight corruption and promote transparency and accountability for everyone no matter who they are. If these two issues are taken care of as soon as he gets off the plane, then I predict that things just might calm down and a lot of people won’t be so anxious for change. If not, then the campaign above will just grow bigger and bigger and many more will crop up until eventually the Saudi people will cross the revolution threshold.

Please click here to go to SaudiWoman's blog and read the more than 100 comments on this post.


  1. The author is really cool. But some of the commentators are just posting stupid words.

  2. Susie...what an update! It' nice to get one from someone who lives there. I sure hope, if this happens, that the lives of women can finally change for the better. I have missed your posts....hope all is well.

  3. If only wishes could be granted! One can always hope though.

  4. thanks for this nice post 111213

  5. thanks for this tips

  6. thanks for this tips

  7. This is interesting.. I have been following the Egyptian revolution. One common fear that is expressed is that the "Muslim Brotherhood" which is a fundamentalist group may take over and impose Sharia law there. Dunno how far it is true but really most of what we know about the middle east is western media related and that has its own biases. But yes, I am very curious to know and where this will all lead into... Nice blog

  8. That revolution threshold seems a bit too high for KSA but current events provide excellent grounds for Saudis to request reforms. I hope they don't miss this opportunity and especially the youth could organize to ask for more freedom and justice.

  9. The world is watching the Middle East and some of us are scared about all of this revolution going on. I am happy that the people want a better form of representation and saddened by the violence involved on both ends. Also, Americans who give two cents are worried that the issues there will drive up global commerce. Though it seems shallow we are starting to taste some of the ramifications over here in the form of higher gas prices. I still think we as a nation here in the US need to find alternative forms of energy because when a nation depends on another within an unstable region for 50% of their fossil fuels it spells disaster. As Bob Dylan says: Times are a'changin'