Friday, July 27, 2012

Khaled Al Jehani Released but not Yet Free ...

The campaign launched after Khaled was detained. 
Picture courtesy of Abu Mohamed Al Jehani 

A picture worth a thousand words. On the left is Khaled Al Jehani's photo after he was released yesterday. A picture of relief and hope.

"Khaled' been released..he's in good spirits , a bit tired and ill and has lost a lot of weight' That's what Khaled Al Jehani's brother, Abdullah, told me on the phone yesterday when I called him to confirm the news. 

But Khaled is far from free. He's been released for just 48 hours after which he'll go into a 'rehab' or a 'Monasaha' centre as Saudi authorities call it.

In there Khaled will undergo training and attend lectures. According to his brother Khaled will spend two weeks there after which hopefully he would be released. (I'll keep following to get the latest )

For those who don't know Khaled Al Jehani (also spelled Al Johani) was the 'Lone Protester' in the day of rage in March 2010. He's also the man with the famous quote ... "People want to go to jail!" .. "الشعب يريد دخول السجون "

I was in Riyad with BBC colleague Sue Lloyd Roberts to report it. We were taken around by Saudi authorities who wanted to show us that nothing was happening... Nothing was happening least nothing we could see untill Khaled showed up.

After he spoke to us, I learned from his brothers that he was detained and mistreated. His trial was scheduled for earlier this year but not much detail has come out of the verdict.

I don't much about what happened to him in prison. Nor do I know if I'll ever meet him again face to face ..although I really hope I do!

But I do know from the responses I get and the constant questions about Khaled and his whereabouts that he has inspired so many people. Some have even called him the bravest man in Saudi Arabia. Khaled has received as much criticism as he has support.

This is what makes his story and the story of so many other 'opinion prisoners' in Saudi Arabia fascinating.

They are heroes to those who want their voices to be heard and long for the day when the many taboos in this ultra religious country can be broken.

But they are described as 'ungrateful', 'impolite' , 'agents of Iran' by those who find great comfort and stability in the way things are in Saudi, and these are not a minority.

What Khaled and others are doing hoever is extraordinary... They have created a new reality... a reality of debate and questioning in a country that largely dislikes (if not prohibits) these concepts.

The culture of protesting is a new feature of the post Arab Spring Middle East, but it is completely alien in a country like Saudi Arabia in which teh majority of people still see any objection to the authority as a personal insult to the King and his family.

But this is gradually changing. Especially in Eastern provinces like Qatif where people have been killed in protests mainly asking for equality for the country's Shiaa community.

Below is a video of a sit-in outside the Jeddah branch of the ministry of information. (Courtesy Iman Al Qahtani)

Protesters are asking government officials to wither try or release the relatives who have been detained with no charge or trial.

These protesters may not be a majority, but their presence is felt in and outside the kingdom. They also make an 'Arab Spring' in Saudi a more probable scenario. 

Below is the full version of my documentary in which Khaled was featured. (ARABIC) 


Anonymous said...

May I just say what a comfort to find somebody who actually knows what they're talking about over the internet. You definitely understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people need to check this out and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you aren't more popular since you certainly have the gift.

Here is my blog ... adsense for domains

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another fantastic article. The place else may
anyone get that kind of information in such an ideal manner of
writing? I've a presentation next week, and I'm at the search for such info.

Also visit my weblog - how to make real money