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.

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

Sexual Harassment in Egypt: Social Taboo or Legitimate illegal act?

How far does one go to make a difference of making a social taboo to talk about into an open conversation? This was one of several questions that went through my mind while reading different articles about the rise of sexual harassment towards women in Egypt. From looking through a set of graphics about the subject matter it was a larger deal then what I presumed. At first I thought these cases of sexual harassment these women are dealing with from cat calls from strangers to men openly asking to have sex with them. But as I read more of these articles, it was more than just that. Some cases was mentioned some of these women were actually groped and other inappropriate physical contact that is only a few steps away for situations like this escalating to a full on rape attempt. That was shocking at first, but the first two articles discussed an app that could help inform, promote and communicate with others. The app that was mentioned called Harrassmap, from the reading it mentions one of the primary functions was to list helpful tips and resources for these women who have been sexual harassed. Furthermore it’s trying to established “safe zones”, general safe havens that help deter that kind of behavior and if needed stop the altercation altogether. The other article that talked about this program in more detail talked about the long term benefits, from on an individual level to a national scale. I liked when it listed some of the secondary features of the program. It uses data collecting to inform and displayed listed or potential offenders in a specific area. This program really reminds of an American website called Megan’s Law, which uses data collecting to display and inform the general public of registered sex offenders living near any said area.

So overall I found these articles made me feel more hopeful about all these issues happening in the Middle East in general from past readings. For once I think that this one digital campaign idea/concept is gaining progress and actually making a dramatic difference in people’s lives.

Sexual Harassment in Egypt: Social Taboo or Legitimate illegal act?

The Fight for Internet Freedom and Accesibility

It is astonishing to me how easily people fighting for simple online freedom and accessibility can be held captive and punished for doing so. After reading the pieces I have come to realize that there are many talented scholars and organizational groups who have been working together to ensure that there is an online outlet which can help activists speak out, build their own ideas and become more knowledgeable and rounded human beings.

Bassel Khartabil’s story was an example of one of these scholars who have pushed for a broader border on virtual world access. In the ‘Captured in the line of duty’ section of The Guardian’s online newspaper on Khartabil’s accomplishments, captivity, whereabouts and some information on the Creative Commons, we read about Khartabil’s success in introducing his encoded formulation that worked to make the Firefox open-source web browser available in the arabic language.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.47.05 PMNot only was Bassel Khartabil’s work brilliant but it lead to making the Creative Common’s organization more widely known, as he gained recognition from several other respectable sources and projects. The piece continues with explaining that Khartabil was able to provide input for a developing project called New Palmyra Project.

The continuation of Khartabil’s work, even while being in custody, shows his integrity and determination to help expand the online world in his country, and work towards making the internet a free source for all. The fact that Khartabil took the risk to work towards a meaningful cause even after being behind bars and captured, exemplifies a true heroic and brave figure, because it is a demonstration of someone who has fought for his beliefs, even in extremely dangerous situations.

It is heartbreaking to see that someone so talented, self driven, be incarcerated and killed, as speculations have suggested, since he has not been seen or heard of for quite some time now. The article finishes off with a memorable statement. It mentions that there needs to be more people in the society such as Bassel Khartabi, who are willing to fight for change. In my opinion, I completely agree with the statement that was made at the end of the piece. Although, scholars and activists should take extra precautions regarding their work, the world will not change without those who are willing to put themselves at risk to be the change they want to see in the world. People, such as Bassel Khartabi, are the ones who will strive, die and provide the change this world needs. With the brains, intelligence, and good hearted actions of these people it is safe to say the world may be changing, and internet accessibility as well as the right to speak up and find your own voice, in countries which prohibit that, may be expanding.

The text was inspiring, yet a bit scary. Being punished for working hard on something you believe in, expanding and creating access to more sources for the people all over the world, seems unfair to me. However, seeing someone follow their beliefs despite the possible consequences is very inspiring, and makes you realize how anyone with the will can help make a change in this world.

The Fight for Internet Freedom and Accesibility

Free Speech

The first reading addresses the issue many countries in the Middle East are facing with their government and how social media affects this. The web site article mentions how many bloggers would much rather be activists through social media platforms than becoming journalist. Bloggers mention if they were to become journals it would take away the freedom to say what they want and would hinder their ability to push boundaries. They see journalist as simply “reporting” what is going on which takes away from using specific street language or event starting movements. The internet platform is a very important tool for example, bloggers in Tunisia posted testimonials videos of former political figures that ended up in prison. These videos allow movements to spark and help people see what really is happening in their country. The article also discusses how the government will prohibit the use of certain cites because they know how impactful they can be and fear the power they can have.

The second reading is about Bassel Khartabil who developed a free software which granted access to the internet to help his country start free culture movements. He wanted people to be able to “gain new tools to express themselves and communicate.” In Syria the internet is censored and Bassel went against the law so he was detained. Like his friend Joi Ito says, ” It is a reminder that community members do work that is dangerous.” I think it is important to see how far people will go to be able to do the right things even though it is seen as wrong through the governments eyes. The more I learn about other countries the more I see how truly free we are in America. Imagine living somewhere where they censor something we use everyday, for example, like Facebook?

Free Speech