Saudi Arabia: Facebooking a Hunger Strike for 11 Detained Activists

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ebtihal_eng_arab.flv (15.9mb)

In this video interview, Saudi journalist Ebtihal Mubarak discusses how Saudi activists are harnessing online tools to call for justice within Saudi Arabia. Due to oppressive restraints - primarily freedom of expression and assembly - the defense teams and supporters of eleven human rights activists detained in Saudi prisons have called for a hunger strike online - via Facebook.

Of the 11 detained human rights activists, none of them have had formal charges or a trial date. Additionally, 9 are currently in solitary confinement and 10 of them have been detained since February 2, 2007 - 642 days and counting.

Arbitrary detentions, unfair trails, torture and ill-treatment are widespread and generally committed with impunity in Saudi Arabia. Under Saudi law, one can be detained for up to six months (and up to 60 days in solitary confinement) without a formal sentencing or trial.
Once detained, detainees are "commonly the victims of systematic and multiple violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture and ill-treatment during interrogation,"
according to Human Rights Watch.

Calling for the release - or fair and public trails - of detainees is incredibly restrictive under the absolute monarch. In July 2007, the Mabahith, Saudi secret police, arrested five women who were peacefully demonstrating for the release or trial of their relatives detained for over two years without trial. Operating under oppressive restraints of freedom of expression and assembly, the activists' defense team and supporters have harnessed the power of online tools to amplify their voices and calls for justice.

The Facebook page launched with members from the defense team, family and friends, and within a few days jumped to over 200. The combination of few freedoms to assemble, associate or express oneself publicly with reasonably high internet connectivity and 60% of the population under the age of 30 creates a unique potential to quickly mobilize action online. Word is quickly spreading in online chat rooms, social networks and the blogosphere.

Mubarak provides great insight on the issue and ways in which you can learn more and get involved. We'll be keeping an eye on this innovative campaign and update the links below in the Take Action tab to ensure you can find the latest.

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Translation from the Arabic

Translation from the Arabic portion of the video:
Hello. My name is Ebtihal Mubarak. I am journalist from Saudi Arabia. I would like to draw your attention today to the case of 11 Saudi activists who have been languishing in Saudi jails for more than a year. Those activists, who represent a wide segment of Saudi civil society, have been detained more than a year ago without being put on trial or allowed to contact a lawyer. A number of Saudi activists are organising a hunger strike on November 6 and 7 to draw international attention to the case. For more information, please follow the links on this website, or join us the Facebook group, which is calling for the release of those activists. If you are a blogger, please add links to your blog, and you can also help by writing about this campaign, which is the first hunger strike of its kind in Saudi Arabia. Thank you.

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