Media Activism in Saudi Arabia

It was interesting to read how different groups within a nation can influence groups of power such as the regime and inspire others to rise. Media, specifically social media, has allowed a population of young activists to rise. These activists range from 20`s to early 30`s and stand with different groups within Saudi Arabia. Although the article contained a lot of details that broke down the political perspective of Saudi Arabia I was surprised there wasn’t more details that directly addressed the Women2Drive issue although they did tie in women briefly, but it mainly focused on the pressure put on the regime to change. The use of media has allowed not only for these groups of protestors to exchange ideologies, but also as a communication device to gather together and essentially keep their “campaigns” alive and updated to the public. Although the groups had different individual goals they all had the similar goal of getting the regime to do something for the people of Saudi Arabia.

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Media Activism 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

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.

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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

Harass Map for Women

I like how HarassMaps is able to use media as a medium to spread their message throughout Egypt. Not only do they advocate their message regarding sexual harassment, but they are able to educate the public about what it is, who it affects, and who are the perpetrators. It also allows for volunteers how have experienced sexual harassment to help others understand what it is and prevent it from happening to others. I like how they emphasize that a certain type of woman isn’t the target; instead it can happen to anyone. Same with the people who perform the sexual harassment, like the stat that says only 45% of adult men do it while the rest are women or children which most people do not realize.  It is true that using media as a medium is an advantage when it comes to advocating because as HarassMap has stated it is accessible to a larger population, broadens who it reaches, and it is able to be used as an immediate source. It`s interesting to see how projects like these take off to actually help the cause they are advocating for, similar to the projects we are creating in class.

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Harass Map for Women

HarrassMap at Hand

HarrassMap has demonstrated to be a very constructive way of using digital technology. In my perspective, it comes to show how the evolution of technology embodies this generation nationally and globally. I’ve noticed in testimonial documentaries that focus on individuals from the Middle East, demonstrate how resourceful the usage of smartphones is to an individual. Some of the smartphone usage includes getting and delivering information as well as connecting with numerous amount of people.

I think HarrassMap exemplifies that same idea. It’s said that in Egypt “virtually” 100 percent of the population has access to a mobile phone, which  gives Egyptian individuals the opportunity to publicize their own experiences with sexual harassment.

Gathering that sort of data gives people the evidence of what kind of sexual harrassment is occurring in specific areas of Egypt. However, I do agree with Chelsea Young that since these claims of sexual harassment are anonymous, it is possible that what is being claim isn’t true. Personally, I don’t believe that their would be a huge amount of people who would lie about experiencing sexual harassment. However, I do explore the idea that maybe some people who are against this source of tool, want to defect it’s reliability and make it incompetent.This lead to question how reliable is HarrassMap’s method of  crowdsourcing?

At face value, crowdsourcing demonstrates to be a very efficient way to gather information, nevertheless, has it been essential to HarrassMap in gather statistics on when, who and how, individuals in Egypt are getting harassed. This type of digital technology has concluded even some of the most unexpected information that should be exposed to the Egyptian community. For instance, the instilled idea that most of the sexual harassment is performed by men was disproved.From what has been reported, majority is done by women and children. I think that discovering information like this is what can make HarrassMap a beginning point to reshape the misconceptions of sexual harassment and can bring awareness to the possibility of counting on new individuals, as oppose to officers or any authoritative figure, to take productive action and help eliminate such tragedies.

IMG_6768-1024x383                                                                             Volunteers of HarrassMap assisting women in Egypt
HarrassMap at Hand