“No Spring in Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Seemingly Impossible Revolution”
by Stéphane Lacroix
“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”
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.
Case study: HarassMap – Changing Attitudes to Harassment and Assault in Egypt
“A bunch of children just sexually harassed me and cursed at me in the subway at Mahatet El Zahraa”
“I was walking home late at night and a taxi driver pulled up in front of me, parked the car, got out and unzipped his pants and started touching himself…”
“Two men were touching my butt and tried to touch my breast… It seemed they tried to rape me. Fortunately, I could run away.”
HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt
The above statements illustrate the harsh realities of sexual harassment which occur in Egypt. The reality is that 99.3% of Egyptian women report being sexually harassed and of those 99.3%, 49.2%, almost half, report that it occurs on a daily basis. Furthermore, most sexual harassment goes unreported due to the stigma and shame that the victims face. Fortunately, in 2010, Rebecca Chiao developed HarassMap, which is a “crowdsourcing-based advocacy, prevention, and response tool that maps incidents of sexual harassment.” Ultimately, HarassMap goal is to “overcome the cultural and institutional barriers that otherwise prevent women from reporting harassment.”
One of the benefits of HarassMap is in regards to the individual. This platform allows victims to report their experiences anonymously, which in turn, takes away the fear that may come from identifying themselves and the social stigma and shame associated with it. Also, it is able to gather information on issues pertaining to formal law enforcement channels. Firstly, sexual harassment is rarely reported to formal law enforcement because victims fear “retaliation, rejection, ostracism, or reputational damage.” On top of victims having to go through sexual harassment, they cannot even freely and comfortably go to formal law enforcement because the harassment, from being retaliated against, having your reputation damaged, etc., never ends. Furthermore, police officers tend to be the “worst harassers,” which illustrate the severity of the problem. Secondly, the victims of sexual harassment often do not come forward to report their experience because they have “little faith that anything will be done.”
One of the limitations of HarassMap is that there is little control of what happens after the victim shares their experience online. There is danger of human rights abuse that comes if “oppressive officials” want to identity who shares their experience. So, even though it is anonymous, in extreme cases, it might not be safe.
Although HarassMap has some limitations, it is still a platform that has allowed for a potential breakthrough in the fight against sexual harassment. It starts a conversation of the realities of what is happening in Egypt in regards with sexual harassment. Though this is a small step, it is a big step towards bringing change.
Hello Professor Sakr and class,
Below we attached our midterm project. It includes our storyboard, shooting plans, shot list, overhead, sound, roles of each student, and 1,500 word description (manifesto).
Our PowerPoint presentation: http://slides.com/sierrakalman/deck/fullscreen
and Zach Zilles
Arab Bloggers Meet to Discuss Free Speech, Reject ‘Journalist’ Label
The First Arab Bloggers Meeting in Beirut, covered by Jessica Dheere, illuminated many important truths in regards to bloggers and their work. “Morocco has 30,000 bloggers; Facebook is blocked in Tunisia; photojournalists help Egyptian bloggers by passing along outtakes,” etc, etc. It’s compelling that despite the tapestry of problems that Arab countries continue to face, bloggers living under these repressive regimes continue to fight for free speech and human rights. Blogs have continuously been a space to discuss these issues, and though the blogosphere is limitless, there is sense of unanimity between these bloggers.
The blogosphere is not a safe space, it’s a space that can land you in prison, or worse. Bloggers express how they are already prisoners because they live under these repressive regimes, but despite these difficulties, they continue to instigate for change. In a sense these bloggers act as journalists, by covering all aspects of repressiveness in Arab countries, and yet they refuse to be called journalists. I agree with their rejection of the “journalists” label because as opposed to actual journalists who simply report, bloggers are immersed and active. Bloggers are essentially societal and political activists, they are the ultimate “instigators of change.” In short, in the readings and in class, there is a constant reiteration of how important of a role bloggers play, which I completely agree. As Jessica Dheere concluded, the more they write and blog, the more their acts are “speaking truth to power.”
Mapping the Arabic blogosphere: politics and dissent online
The above map illustrates a network map of the Arabic blogosphere with each dot representing a blog. The article, “Mapping the Arabic blogosphere: politics and dissent online,” illustrated the idea of a “networked public sphere,” which was proposed by Yochai Benkler. In short, Benkler’s “network public sphere,” refers to an online space which has gone from being dominated by the government/elite, to being a space that has a sense of freedom in which where “members of society can cooperate, exchange political opinions and observations, and collaborate as watchdogs over powerful social institutions.”
Making Spaces for Communal Sovereignty: The Story of Beirut’s Dalieh
by Abir Saksouk-Sasso
In Paul Amar’s article, specifically Abir Saksouk-Sasso’s “Making Spaces for Communal Sovereignty: The Story of Beirut’s Dalieh,” the question of “to whom does Dalieh belong?” was brought up. Its absurd to know that the largest city in Lebanon, Beirut, only has one square meter per person of open green areas, as opposed to the minimum recommendation of forty square meters per person. This has resulted from the massive form of private exploitations of public spaces in Beirut, which in turn has led to a limited number of open spaces for the public and “almost only privatized spaces.” So what does this look like? It looks like a war for the ownership of Beirut, ownership through either privatized spaces or spaces for the public.
Spaces for the public should be “marked by free interaction and the absence of coercion of public institutions.” In other words, these public spaces should be with no form of coerced privatization involved. Hamad, Beirut’s mayor, reflected this notion of “coercing public institutions” when he stated that public spaces should be used only by the modernly “appropriate public/proper public.” This idea of the “proper public” means that people need to be “well behaved” in order to be in these PUBLIC spaces, which is completely ridiculous because it is such a degrading view.
Dalieh, which is the last surviving seaside community in Beirut, illustrates a powerful example of a space for the public. Dalieh has demonstrated how the PUBLIC, not the “proper public” which Hamad has deemed to be “worthy” of these spaces, have successfully managed and maintained this space without the sovereign state.
The fight for Dalieh has started because “sovereign” state has intervened and wants to privatized one of the last spaces for the public, Dalieh. As Abir Saksouk-Sasso argued, “everyday practices, as opposed to the state, determine, produce, and sustain urban public space in the city.” So, to whom will Dalieh belong?