Science, Tech & Environment

Bloggers in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Jeans, as he's known in his blog, carries a Mac laptop and is sporting jeans, a rarity in Saudi Arabia where most men wear traditional Saudi garbs, but he's anything but traditional. He writers much criticism and lack of freedoms and rights in Saudi Arabia. He says he began blogging for fun and to practice his English but then began taking on issues the media tend to avoid, and this is a unique opportunity. He says more and more people are speaking their minds and it's changing the country. internet access wasn't available in Saudi Arabia until the late 90s and now some 20% of the Kingdom's citizens are online and about 2000 of them are blogging. This young woman takes off her veil once behind doors and then shows me her blog. She says she wanted to be a voice for disempowered Saudis so she blogs in Arabic. She thinks blogging is a free space. She tackles social issues like rising inflation and the country's poor health care. She sometimes gets criticized for being so open, and for a woman to write. About half of all Saudi bloggers are women. They blog about many topics, including sexuality and the difficulties of living in a restrictive society, even gay rights and minority rights. The Saudi government is worried about this new form of expression and it already blocks some 4000 website, increasingly including blogs. Last year the government arrested a blogger for the first time, who still remains in custody and authorities still haven't detailed the reasons for his detentions, although many guess it's for intimidation. This reformist is surprised the State is so concerned with one guy. He says the reform movement in Saudi Arabia has been derailed, actions which may be hard to do as more and more turn to the internet to air their concerns.