Saudis arrested for criticising King Abdullah on YouTube

 Three men were arrested last week in Saudi Arabia for uploading videos in which they criticised the regime, addressing themselves directly to King Abdullah. Such actions are new in the kingdom, and are starting to create copycats.


Screencapture from one of the videos below.


Three men were arrested last week in Saudi Arabia for uploading videos in which they criticised the regime, addressing themselves directly to King Abdullah. Such actions are new in the kingdom and are starting to create copycats.


“I am a Saudi citizen and I make 1900 riyals [368 euros] a month...” This is how Mohamed Fahd al-Doussari starts his video, in which he directly addresses the king of Saudi Arabia to lament his difficult living conditions:


“For God’s sake, tell me, Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz [Editor’s Note: In Saudi Arabia, those addressing the king must say 'Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques', so calling him by his first name is considered disrespectful]: is such a salary enough to get married, to buy a car, or to pay rent? And you reproach people for going and blowing themselves up. Give us our share. How long must we beg for the oil money that you and your kids play with? Here is my identity" [he shows the camera his ID card].


The video quickly spread online via social networking sites. Two other Saudis followed his example and posted videos in which they said they wholly support Mohamed Fahd al-Doussari’s statements. They also call on Saudis to follow his example and post more videos “so that our voices will reach the king”. Both finish their videos by stating their full names and showing their identity cards.


Abdallah Mabrouk Ben Othman’s video.


Saoud Al-Harbri’s video: “I beg you, hear our voices. You speak with everyone, including Obama, but you won’t speak with us?”



The three men were arrested on Friday and Saturday of last week. Another Saudi national living abroad joined the movement by posting a much more virulent speech. Saudi commenters believe he dared to be this audacious because he is not at risk of being arrested.



“This arises more out of despair than courage”

Walid Abou al-Khair is a human rights activist in Jeddah.


The three men who were arrested are not well-known activists but just regular people. They did not know one another. Each comes from a different region. It’s not some kind of organised campaign, but rather a personal act. Saudis are so fed up with the current situation that this kind of sentiment is no longer the exclusive province of the elite opposition. And yet, these isolated acts scare the authorities, as we can see from the fact that they arrested completely unknown individuals.


We announced the three men’s arrests on Saturday, after their families told us about their disappearance. We contacted the authorities to ask them where the men were being detained and why, but they refused to answer us.


These men may appear to be extremely brave for daring to post these videos without concealing their faces. But, in my opinion, it’s more an act of despair than courage. Going to prison doesn’t faze them anymore. Given the number of people that get arrested here for small and legitimate acts, like women driving despite the ban, going to jail is no longer shameful for families, as it was in the past. This is also why they show their identity cards and give their full names. It’s a way of saying “I don’t care, I’m not scared” and to go further than those who use fake names and conceal their faces when they rail against the royal family on social networks.


I think this type of video will lead to copycats. I don’t see this as representing a failure in attempts to organise large physical protests [several calls to mobilise, like the day for women to drive, were not observed]. I think that instead of waiting for a majority to mobilise, those with something to say prefer to just say it immediately, with the tools they have at hand. 

On March 27, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, 90, named his half brother, Prince Muqrin, as the future crown prince. The monarch’s decision is meant to avoid succession problems after his death. It suggests that the king’s reign will end soon, after which the current crown prince, Prince Salman, 79, will take the throne.




Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira(@SarraGrira)