Urgency for Change in Saudi Arabia

“No Spring in Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Seemingly Impossible Revolution”

by Stéphane Lacroix

arab-spring.jpg

“Revolutions happen when deep and serious reform is absent… People don’t provoke revolutions, only repression, oppression, corruption, backwardness and poverty provoke revolutions”

“People here, like people around the world, have demands, longings and rights, and they will not remain silent forever when they are denied all or some of them”

“When one becomes hopeless, you can expect anything from them”

-Salman al-‘Awda

#Women2Drive

B5c4o2YIUAEPZTA.jpg

Stéphane Lacroix’s “No Spring in Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Seemingly Impossible Revolution,” touched on a lot of important topics regarding Saudi Islamist and the Arab Spring. Even though the reading did not touch on the #Women2Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia, I wanted the focus of my blog post to be on this topic.

So why can’t women drive in Saudi Arabia? In all actuality, there is no written law that states that women cannot drive. There is literally no reason and no law that says that women should drive. The absurdity and ideals of this ban is demonstrated by a conservative Saudi Arabian judicial advisor, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, who commented, “If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards. That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees.” Obviously, there is no medical studies to support his argument or we would all have clinical problems, assuming all our mothers drive.

All in all, I feel this is an extremely important campaign in Saudi Arabia because it is opening a discussion on the problems in Saudi Arabia, specifically to basic human rights for women. The fact that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabian is absolutely bizarre. Women can’t drive, even though they want to. But this restriction goes deeper than just driving, it touches on basic rights that affect women’s ability to work, travel and live a normal and free life. It’s evident that there needs to be change in Saudi Arabia, especially because of the fact that women are not real and full participants of society.

220px-New_Saudi_Arabia's_traffic_sign_(women2drive).gifUnknown.png

Urgency for Change in Saudi Arabia

Constitutional Reformists & Saudi Arabia

images.jpg

Most Arabs would agree that Saudi Arabia needed change without thinking the issues and drastic measurements that needed to be partaken. Before 2011, constitution reformist in Saudi Arabia have receive extreme punishments from the regime. A major penalty occurred in February 2007, during the release of a petition signed by many activists. The ten leading members of the movement were arrested. Many of them were important figures to the Sahwa’s intifada in the 1990s. This caused them to establish the first completely  independent Human Rights non-governmental organization (NGO) known as (SCPRA).

SCPRA was able reach out to others through the internet which was considered a huge mistake. The internet gave constitutional reformists the ability to connect with a wide range of other people, many who ranged in age and obtain different ideas. Through Facebook, many of the constitutional reformists reached out to the youth which cause them to become more active in their political thought. Many of the youth were ready to challenge the authority of others such as sheikhs, or Arab leaders.

Not only that, but this interconnectivity help sent the young Saudis abroad to impose believes and advocate for King Abdallah. Throughout this recruitment many young constitutional reformist emerged. Their ideas and actions actually contributed to the boot of Mubarak by publishing a provocative communique arguing that the only way Saudi Arabia can avoid revolution is by constitution reform. It can be assumed that the conversation of constitution reform influenced the Egyptians to desire a new form of government resulting in the protests after the realization of the need to dismiss Hosni Mubarak as an sort of authority.

The SCPRA led to forms of documentations such as the ” Towards a State of Right Institutions” petition which demanded an elected parliament with real powers and an appointment to a prime minister rather than a king. This petition was signed by many big names that made Saudi Arabia hopeful of changed. Eventually constitution reformists process in creating forms that demand change is the regime made a difference. More jobs were created and more funding for housing was provided.

However, not everything was rainbows and flowers. The police forces were more strict to those who protest about further call to action about reforming the regime. Communication outlets were destroyed such  websites including Facebook.This just comes show some of the situations constitutional reformists had to face in their attempt to make a change in Saudi Arabia.

Ultimately, was I have learned is that many difficult situations emerged  in order to reform Saudi Arabia and realized that SCPRA became an initial point to these events. From what I have read, I can conclude that some effective measurements of hope of change are the establishment of documentations that state what kind of change one is hoping for. I feel that if other areas of the Middle East took this approach they would be more successful. Yet again, this only sounds easier said than done and would determine on the extent of their system’s corruption.

Constitutional Reformists & Saudi Arabia

Different activist groups coming together

I think that an interesting issue the reading touches upon is the fact how in Saudi Arabia people from different groups came together to achieve common goals, but only to a certain degree. If members of different groups and from different background pursue the same goals, one might think that it only makes sense that they fight together. This was the case in Saudi Arabia when people from different sectarian groups signed the petition “Towards a State of Rights and Institutions” to demand an elected parliament and the appointment of a prime minister. Groups might have realized that they are not that different and learned to accept each other. However, significant differences might persist and a group likely does not want to be associated with another group’s beliefs and values if they do not mirror their own. The Saudi government used that to discredit and divide the activists by raising word of an Iranian conspiracy and Shiite responsibility for the movement. Sunnis didn’t want to be seen in that light and a degree was reached at which the different groups couldn’t work together anymore. The government succeeded in its attempt to stop the protests.

I can see why certain groups might feel the need to uphold their credibility and identity and how that can easily be threatened if the public learns about their collaboration with a different-minded group. However, a single group might often not be enough to bring about change so the pros and cons of the collaboration have to be weighed carefully. It should also be taken into account if the goals really are the same and which measures one is willing to take to achieve these goals. Should a peaceful group of protesters work together with a radical organization knowing that they might only reach their goal because others used violence? In some cases, a collaboration might do more harm than good, but in other cases groups are only held apart by societal constraints. People of different age, gender, religion, ethnicity, or social status are often seen as different groups merely because of outer aspects, but they might share the same values, attitudes and beliefs and might be much more powerful as a group. Moreover, if everybody believed and acted in that way, there would be less need for activism in the first place, but that is something that John Lennon already imagined years ago.

Different activist groups coming together

Political Reform in Arab Spring

How much action does one group need to take in order to get political reform in their home country? This was one of several questions going through my mind while I read this article. The author did an excellent job explaining the history, government structure, dominating religions and the overall status quo of the political atmosphere in Saudi Arabia. It helped me brush up on the type of government that was established and a brief description on who was running it. But anyways the main focus was about young activists from all different areas of society: young, old, poor, working-class, you name it was in favor for dramatic political reform. Similar to the young people in Egypt, they wanted equal rights for all. But on the other hand, the major difference between the overall protests against these regimes is the reaction from the regimes themselves. As I read more about the article the Saudi Arabian regime made a significant difference in economic reform instead. With money gained from U.S. aid, donations and other outside channels, they used that money to establish the creation of more jobs and subsidized housing. At first I thought this was amazing that the younger, poor citizens are gaining some economic benefits for at least the short-term. But as I kept reading it looked more and more this was a temporary fixed to the long-term problems. It turns out the regimes economic reform had ulterior motives, it was a means to help stomp out the protests for political reform by targeting in their minds the backbone of the revolution: the young and poor. So in turn their efforts was semi-successful and it was only a momentary distraction than an actual obstacle. So their struggles reminded me of what I learned from a different class discussing how long it takes for those long-term problems to be solved. I believe these individuals may not get the political reform they want by tomorrow or in a month or so. But with enough hard work and determination, they will get the equal rights they truly deserve.

Political Reform in Arab Spring

Breaking the Silence

equal-right-women-in-middle-east

 

 

equal-right-women-in-middle-east

 

This weeks article was very insightful sadly it does not come to a surprise to me how many women have to deal with sexual assault in the Middle East. Its truly disgusting and should not be tolerated anywhere in the world. Harrasmap was created in order to “To engage all of Egyptian society to create an environment that does not tolerate sexual harassment.” I think it is a great idea and very powerful to bring awareness to the issues that have been brought up.

Women in the middle east are not able to speak up about the crimes that are happening to them and in return are silenced. The Countries like to pretend that this stuff doesn’t happen silencing the victims as a way of denouncing the issue. However, with Harrasmap women are able to speak out against this repressive male oriented society. Harrasmap brings to life what is actually happening and connects women to other women who have been through similar issues. This is extremely important and helpful for these people who have had no one to talk to and share with what has happened. I think this is an amazing site and very important to bring awareness and shed light on what is happening with sexual assault in the Middle East.image1328359191-4597-PlaceID-0_s660x390

Its amazing all the data that the site has collected and the site shows what is going on and how vital it is for people to wake up and demand for women to have rights. I was appalled at how women are treated as secondary humans and so many rights taken away from them. We live in a world where this sort of treatment should not be tolerated any longer it is in injustice to society and the beautiful women that are apart of our world. We are all one. Our gender should not predetermine the way we are treated.

 

Breaking the Silence

The rise of activism: Women2Drive

“Sunni Islamist is the force with the biggest mobilizing potential in the Kingdom and the only force theoretically able to threaten the system”

Although people had been arrested the activist wanted to keep doing their work, but the ideas of how to do that varied. There were various groups; one which thought the priority was to focus on the society to stop the growing trend of the social liberalization. What they wanted is to give equality to the women, an issue that was growing in the wrong direction. However, the other group thought that the most important thing to talk about was the political change, as some thought that Saudi Arabia was being converted into a “True Islamic state”. Finally there is a third group which tried to advocate a “civil jihad” using peaceful means aiming to transform Saudi Arabia into an Islamic constitutional monarchy.

However they were all in favor of the revolution and they got together which alarmed the outside countries and culminated by receiving donations, which they still are through Sahwa networks. The revolutions that happened were peaceful and they only reclaimed freedom and dignity, but with this revolution social media also increased in Saudi and people began to communicate their ideas this way.

Personally I think that having the opportunity for young people and women, along with everyone else, to reclaim and speak their minds throughout the social media is a very good decision, as no one should be banned to speak their mind and everyone should have the right to ask for whatever they want, without giving importance if afterwards that’s actually going to happen or not.

drive

About the campaign Women2Drive, women should have the right to drive because nothing makes them less able to do it than men, and having the ability to use the social media to express themselves and prove to the society they are wrong and the women are able to drive or do many other things which they are prohibited throughout their lives is a very good start. We are in the 21st Century and I don’t think we should be still dealing with these type of problems, as men are no better than women or vice versa. Everyone has their own ability and everyone should be able to practice it.

The rise of activism: Women2Drive

Harassmap & Anonymity

This week, the articles centered on themes on women’s social movements in the Arab world. The article on Harassmap and the effect that it proved that crowdsourcing can have on a social issue was really compelling. I think that the process of Harassmap was particularly interesting because although it was an application that began as a response to a particular problem in Egypt, it’s something that could be implemented and have use in countless other parts of the world. Harass map’s success really highlighted the value of anonymity when it comes to digital activism. Counts of reporting harassment among Egyptian women before Harassmap were underreported due to the social constraints and implications that many of these women faced in their personal lives. Harass map provides an outlet to report these issues and build a crowdsourced, almost grassroots-type community of women who are experiencing similar injustice. Not only does this method maintain visibility among a typically invisible group, but it maintains an undeniability among the culture that these things are in fact happening. I think these types of applications and methods for tracking social injustice and social change is something that we should be seeing more of in the future.

 

Harassmap & Anonymity

HarassMap

After reading this Case Study, I first want to say that I was very interested in reading all the stats and points within the article. It was extremely eye popping and visual satisfying, which allowed for myself to enjoy and engage in the details within.

Within the reading, I was able to understand further that the Police are poorly trained and the rule of Law within Egypt regarding sexual harassment is weak. With that being said, the citizens within lose faith in existing laws and fear that women will continuously be mistreated and taken advantage of.  Additionally, to my understanding, there are already a few governed laws regarding sexual harassment and violence,  but the only way for the community to reinforce these “weak,” laws is to work together through social media platforms, to create a voice and dialogue among the girls and women that have been violated. There are also phone numbers to reach that allow free legal aid, psychological counseling and self-defence classes. These resources are useful because they help connect victims and women in general in Egypt to fight together rather then being alone. This is a very important because whenever situations like this occur, people tend to mentally fight the battles, asking their selfs “Why” or believing that it was their fault. So having guidance and support groups is beneficial in many ways, especially when the government doesn’t provide legit help. As well, having digital technology allows the community to become more aware and creates organization to have specific group gatherings.

In closing, the stat of 75% of victims in public received no help from passers-by is absolutely outrageous. The reason being, is because I have lived a life of fortune, with great parents, living in great areas. I was always taught to respect women and to cherish them. Additionally, most people in second and third world countries were never taught to properly treat women and to use them as toys or objects rather then as equals. But as time continues to push forward, more digital activism is rising, creating slow amounts of awareness to these second and third world countries. If these governments won’t defend the people and punish the harassers properly then the people will continue to join together to overcome these adversities. Its only bound to happen with the higher use of phones, computers, and television.

HarassMap

HarassMaps and Educating the Public

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 8.36.51 PM

 

I enjoyed these readings because I was not aware of Harassmaps and their mission on educating the public on sexual harassment towards women and how this is a major issue in Egypt. By providing a digital platform, this enables the project to becomes much more widespread for women to use. I am not sure if even in the United States, there is a digital project like Harassmaps available but the reading explained that this has spread to many countries because of its success in spreading awareness. As the reading states, “HarassMap helps to overcome these challenges by providing a platform where women can easily document instances of sexual harassment.”What I found most surprising in the reading is that 55% of sexual harassment was actually done by children and women, not just men.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 8.53.19 PM

What’s also important is that this project is not just solely digital because there are many volunteers on the ground that are also acting as support groups in intervening or providing information against sexual harassment to Egyptian bystanders or the general population. I found this to be essential because everyone does not have access to SMS or not everyone has a phone, so having volunteers on the streets is vital to educating the public. With this service, “the crowdsourcing model also allows victims to bypass institutional constraints within formal law enforcement channels that may prevent them from reporting incidents of sexual harassment”, which is also important because the police force might not have the proper training to help the victim or handle the situation.

Harassmaps is ultimately a great digital tool that can hopefully continue to educate the Egyptian public and spread to multiple countries.

HarassMaps and Educating the Public

Digital Space as a New Cultural Institution

Harassmap is employed via social media and accessed through mobile electronic devices as a crowdsourced project that shifts the cultural outlook on sexual harassment in Egypt by providing anti-harassment tools and allowing its users to report harassment occurrences at their disclosure.

Traditionally, institutions control the socio-cultural outlook of a nation; institutions such as religion and government use institutionalized forms of racism, sexism, consumerism, violence and more to shape what a community deems as appropriate or mundane. Especially in contemporary nations, institutions are employed by the bourgeoise to (for lack of a better word) manipulate the community of the proletariat classes (working and middle class).

Harassmap is a model of digital application that combats the traditional employment of cultural institutions by the controlling class; it is an example of the proletariat using digital space as a direct outlet to each other, creating a counter institution to the controlling class.

Chelsea Young attributes this proletariat empowerment to Harassmap’s ‘crowdsource’ nature–-that the application relies on user-generated information for its content. Another example of a crowdsource application is the American (originates in Isreal) mapping application called Waze. Waze relies on its users to generate its maps and mines data from its active users to create hyper-accurate and real-time traffic information; the only non-user-generated content is the platform itself. Harassmap is similar but with a few key differences: first is that Waze is a capitalist endeavor intended on profits and owned by market and digital colossus Google, while Harassmap appears to be a nonprofit activist organization; this marks a clear difference in end-all intention, and access to digital tools. Second, is that Waze is a more pure example of crowdsourcing than Harassmap. Harassmap’s interaction with its user goes beyond their user-generated data; a large chunk of Harassmap’s organization leans on the community outreach aspect of their program, providing counseling and panels in regards to sexual harassment and its prevention through cultural appropriation.

The interaction between Waze users and/or Waze itself is entirely mediated by the mobile application while Harassmap is more concerned with the recruitment of volunteers and the formation of an anti-harassment cultural shift. In this manner, Harassmap employs the digital mediation of their crowdsourced material to bridge the gap between digital space and social space as a cultural institution.

Digital Space as a New Cultural Institution