Thursday, April 12, 2007

Discussion Curtailed in Saudi Arabia

Wednesday's Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article on Saudi Arabia's private discussion groups. Mostly ignored by the authorities, these groups are one of the few avenues for free expression in the kingdom. Unfortunately, it appears that the Saudi regime has decided to rectify this oversight:

For 14 years she has been gathering with some 150 other female Saudi academics for monthly diwaniyas, or salons. At the home of one of the group's members in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, they talked about the issues of the day: the plight of Saudi women, elections, civil society, and domestic violence.

But now the professor worries that the government is beginning to stifle her salon and others, further backing away from making substantial reforms.

These discussion groups, which have been growing in number in recent years, are among the only outlets for collective expression in a country where public gatherings and political parties are banned.

She says she received a troubling call from a government official a few weeks ago asking her to register the group with the Ministry of Interior or face police action against her group. "The official kept calling me, but I said I would not believe what he was saying unless he could send me something in writing," recalls the academic, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

"My husband was finally called in to have a meeting with a Riyadh Governorate official who told him that a new law was going into effect that would force all discussion groups in private homes who have guest speakers to be registered with the Ministry of Interior," she says.

Not only will these discussion groups apparently have to be registered with the government, but each may have to apply for permission from the appropriate ministry depending on the topic being discussed, according to this academic.


(Emphasis added-DD)


The fact that this measure appears to have been haphazardly applied so far provides some hope. Still, this does not bode well for the possibility of a "Saudi Spring".

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must be missing something here. What exactly is your constant point of pointing out the blindingly obvious: that Middle Eastern countries generally, and Muslim theocracies specifically, suppress the intellectual, as well as most every other freedom of their peoples?

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Anonymous otherwise anonymous said...

if I may... perhaps the point is to get past the "yeah, so?" implied above?
David, please continue to shine what light you can on these offenses to God and Man.

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