Saudi Islamists and the Arab Spring

The revolutionary events within the Arab world weren’t necessarily the cause of the issues within the rest of the Saudi World. Instead they all believed that the rest of Saudi Arabia needed change as well. Change that they saw taking place with others of the same orientation. The Sawha are credited with the most change within Saudi Arbia due to their lack of governmental control. Those with a lot of government freedom have more ability to be mobile with change. The Muslim Brotherhood is a movement that was popular among the Saudi youth.

Another movement that was popular was the petition “Towards the State of Right and Institutions.” This one was about the election of the prime minister and was important to the youth for many reasons. One of the reasons was because is put a lot of pressure on the regime. The reading explored many other issues as well and emphasized the importance of the different movements. Saudi Arabia was divided into two, the Liberals and the others. They didn’t believe in many of the same ideas but they both had one common goal. They both believed that Saudi Arabia needed to change. Many of the issues that the author talked about was from the 1990s and she addressed how the people are still currently fixing some of the issues they had and still are facing.

Saudi Islamists and the Arab Spring

Saudi Islamists & the Arab Spring Summary

In the Research Paper “Saudi Islamists and the Arab Spring” by Stephane Lacroix, talked about many different ways social activism and protesting has been seen within Saudi Arabia throughout the years. “By the early 2000’s, after the repressive years of the mid-to-late 1990’s, islamists had once again become an influential voice on social and political issues in Saudi Arabia. Until about 2011, the people of Saudi Arabia had a discussion about change within the Kingdom. This most likely was caused by the revolution of Egypt and Tunisia, giving the people more motivation to speak up, looking for the possibility to have more equal rights across the region.  During the process of this change, Saudi Arabia received US aid, donations, and other goods to help the country grow further. They created more jobs and housing within the state, but unfortentley this was just a short term effort to a much bigger problem. The quick economic boom was great, but more needed to happen. Which was when the a group of  powerful Saudi Arabian “big names,” signed the petition “Towards a State of Right and Institutions.” This petition demanded an elected parliament and the appointment of a prime minister. The combo between the two appeared to put some serious pressure on the regime. But in closing, it appears that there are many different sects of activists within Saudi Arabia, looking for change in many different areas within the states. But unfortunately no one is perfect. So in order for these protestors and activists to succeed against Kingdoms and the royal families ruling they must continue to work together to over come these dark times. The constant spread and awareness that these people bring public has created a better world wide knowledge to the imperfections and harsh details that are going on within these Middle East Areas.

Saudi Islamists & the Arab Spring Summary

Lacroix Reading & Saudi Arabia

The Lacroix reading touched on many different ways of thinking about the social activism and protesting that has happened and is still happening in Saudi Arabia. She touches on the idea that it may seem that these protests and movements for change in regime and in human rights have not had a large impact on making a real difference in the country. This may be the case, but she also goes into detail explaining the impacts these movements have had on the citizens in the country in different areas and how it has sparked debate in many places. It is interesting that even though she explained that many of the people in Saudi Arabia agreed that change needed to be made, some disagreed on the extent to which change should take place and also how to go about making this change. This caused issues between activists who actually had the same fundamental ideas but instead of joining together as comrades as Lacroix puts it, they have become pulled apart. This has worked against the cause that many of these activists and citizens have tried to work towards, as Liberals and Islamists are seeing each other as different rather than the same. The government is able to take advantage of this situation and push their own agenda on the public, causing more political dissent. There are many different sects of activists within Saudi Arabia, and I think that although after reading about it I understand why these groups view their fundamental values as different, they should ally themselves with each other if they expect to make lasting and visible changes in their country. Overall, everybody seems to be seeking change so instead of focusing on the different way in which they choose to go about making this change they should join forces and tackle the regime as a whole.

Lacroix Reading & Saudi Arabia

Urgency for Change in Saudi Arabia

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

by Stéphane Lacroix

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“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

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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.

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Urgency for Change in Saudi Arabia

Constitutional Reformists & Saudi Arabia

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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