Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saudi Arabian Hunger Strike

Because of a post-election lull, I didn't comment on the rare hunger strike in Saudi Arabia against the detention of opposition political activists. Christian Science Monitor, however, comments on its reception:
" The government studiously ignored a two-day hunger strike staged last week by Saudi human rights activists, but organizers said they were pleased with the participation and media attention that their protest drew.

"'They ignored us,' hunger striker Fowzan Mohsin Al Harbi said of the authorities. 'But we achieved our goal, the hunger strike was all over the world in the media.'

"The 48-hour fast on Nov. 6-7, reported in the Monitor last Wednesday, is believed to be the first of its kind in the kingdom. It was organized by 13 individuals to protest the extended detention of 11 men who had called for political reforms.

"The most prominent detainee is Matrouq Al Faleh, a human rights activist and political science professor seized at King Saud University last May after criticizing prison conditions.

"About 70 hunger strikers fasted in their own homes in order not to run afoul of a ban on unauthorized gatherings, said another organizer, professor of economics, Mohammad Fahd Al Qahtani.

"The group publicized its plans on, where almost 60 people added their names to the initial 13 protesters, publicly committing to join the hunger strike."

The article carried the headline "Facebook boosts participation in rare Saudi hunger strike," but I'm not sure this should really count as a case of internet triumphalism. Couldn't these individuals have also joined if they'd seen it on al-Jazeera?



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