Global Voices follows up on the aftermath of a protest held on the National Day by the families of terrorism suspects in the central region of Qassim. Authorities have arrested at least 19 protesters, many of them college students, and they have been sentenced to jail and lashes. One of the them was charged with “supporting the protesters by bringing food.” This confirms earlier reports by protesters and activists who said that security forces, after surrounding the protesters, kept them without food or water for nearly a day in the desert area outside the prison where the protest took place.
“I have resigned from al-Jazirah newspaper,” Jaber said on Twitter Tuesday night, “due to their repeated infringement of my intellectual rights.”
Jaber attached a photo of the resignation letter he sent to the newspaper editor Khaled al-Malik along with his original cartoon that the paper edited without his knowledge.
By Tawfiq al-Saif
Each citizen has his own way to celebrate the National Day. We may get busy recalling history, or repeating the already much-repeated questions about the permissibility of celebrating the occasion or not. Or we could take the easiest way that our television channels have chosen by dusting off the old archives, etc.
The choice that I find most beneficial to myself and my people is:
- Recall the laws that have been approved but never implemented.
- Recall the laws that the country needs but, for some reason, never receive any enthusiasm by the officials.
Few days ago I heard that the Council of Ministers (or maybe the Royal Court) asked the Shoura Council to assign deadlines for passing the law proposals sent to it to avoid unnecessary delays.
This directive touches on a serious need that most people fail to realize, but those who believe in the importance of laws and the country’s need for a comprehensive legal system realize that the lack of laws or delaying them is a reason for administrative failure and the deterioration of government performance.
From the same perspective and on the same level, the Council of Ministers should also assign deadlines to approve the laws that have been passed by its committees or by the Shoura Council.
Any law is put forth as a framework to address a national need that has been exposed at a certain time. A need related to the everyday lives of people, to manage the economy, to preserve social security or other affairs of the nation. It makes no sense to define a need and identify a solution then put this solution in the drawer for months or years.
One of the most pressing examples is the law of civil society organizations that have been passed in its final form by the Shoura Council two years ago, after spending four years between the Council, the Cabinet and their different committees.
One of the examples of the second type mentioned above, i.e. the laws that we need but get lukewarm reception by officials, is the necessary laws to protect the rights of individuals and their freedoms.
The Kingdom has joined all the Arab, Islamic and International human rights accords, and established in recent years the Human Rights Commission which should serve as a watchdog to ensure that government departments are adhering to human rights. However, the articles of these accords have not become part of the national law, and no executive bylaws have been issued to make them obligatory, or to allow concerned parties to invoke them.
There are laws that should protect the rights of citizens, such as the publication law that represents the legal framework for freedom of expression, but this law is generally dedicated to list the restrictions on free speech and not to assert it or explain the legal means to protect it. The broad and shortened texts can be used for contradictory purposes. Myself and other writers and content creators do not see in this law a tool to protect their freedoms as much as they see restrictions on their rights.
We are in need to speed up writing bylaws for laws that have been approved, and to set final deadlines to put them into effect. We are in need to write a national charter for human rights to serve as a reference that people can invoke when they feel that their rights have been violated or assaulted by any party, official or unofficial.
We want the celebration of our National Day to become the beginning of developing our country, and to preserve the security of its citizens and guarantee their rights, so that their pride of their nation is built upon determination of a future dream that can one day become true.
Tawfiq al-Saif is a Saudi intellectual and writer. This article was translated from Arabic. The original text was first published in al-Eqtisadiah newspaper on Sepetmber 25, 2012.
The drawing shows a Saudi man dressed in green and waving the national flag in both hands. In the background, you can see his regular thobe and ghotra, covered by patches, and next to them there is a green folder with papers falling out of it. The notorious green folder has become a symbol of unempmyment among youth because it is a requirement by many government departments to put your documents in a green folder when you apply for a job there. So basically, this man is apparently poor and unemployed, but despite that he is celebrating the National Day anyway. That, however, is not how the cartoon was published in the newspaper the next day. This is how it was published:
The thobe and ghotra were edited to removed the patches from them, and the green folder mysteriously disappeared altogether. When I asked him on Twitter about this, the cartoonist said he was not consluted about the changes. “The newspaper edited the cartoon without my knowledge,” Jaber said:
While the official government celebrations of the National Day have been largely subdued after the King’s decision to cancel the music concerts, the rallies of cars filled with young men waving green flags and engaging in varying degrees of shenanigans took place as usual. This video, for example, reportedly shows such rally in my hometown of Ahsa in the Eastern Province:
People on Twitter are circulating this video that shows men looting a Baskin Robbins ice cream store in Khobar, but the video is actually old. It is from 2009. You can read more about the 2009 National Day vandalism incidents here.
That doesn’t mean the day’s celebrations were without their incidents. A video posted to YouTube Sunday night reportedly showed men vandalizing a restaurant in Khamis Mushait in the southern part of the country: