Thanks from the arrested Saudi blogger

May 19th, 2008 at 8:44 am by David Farrar

Both Poneke and myself received a very unexpected but lovely e-mail from , the Saudia Arabian blogger who was detained without charge for 137 days, and released finally last month. He thanked us for our support.

The Hive also did a lot and actually asked MFAT officials whether the NZ Government would take action. Sadly the most they would do is have a “watching brief”. No Right Turn, and no doubt other blogs, also lent their support. Oh yes the also supported the Government taking action.

While I am sure the blogs had no impact on the Saudi Government (hell we couldn’t even get the NZ Government to stand up for freedom of speech), Fouad says that he found it incredibly heartening to be released and read how people in NZ were advocating on his behalf. Through a NZ professional wrestler who once visited his vlllage to promote Anchor dairy products, he has always wanted to visit NZ.

Extracts from the e-mail:

Dear David, I’m Fouad Al-Farhan. I’m the Saudi Blogger who was arrested 137 days because of his political writing in . In the mid 80s when I was a kid, the famous New Zealand wrestler Tony Garea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Garea) visited our small villiage here in Saudi Arabia (Albaha) on a marketing campaign to promote the famous NZ cheese (Anchor). In that days, wrestling meant a big thing to my people. My village people loved Tony Garea before his visit. When he arrived, they made a big welcome festival for him. They even danced and said poems about his heroism. I still remember parts of it.

I replied, pointing out that many Kiwis would find it very amusing that a professional wrestler promoting cheese was our most successful marketing campaign :-)

All my friends know about my dream of visiting New Zealand for a lengthy backpacking journey. I’m not sure if it’s going to happen anytime soon. I always have great admiration of the NZ people and the country. My best friend who was lucky to live there for a year keep telling me lovely stories about how peaceful and blessed your land is.

We do forget sometimes how lucky we are.

My government put me in a solitary confinement for 137 days. My cell was 2×3 meters. I never saw anybody except the interrogators once every couple of weeks. The rest of the days I was alone. They didn’t allow me to watch T.V, listen to radio, read any books or magazine or newspaper. I was not allowed to have a pen and a paper to write. I never saw the sun. I was completely cut off the world. All I had is our holy book (Quran) and prayer rug. So, I had a lot of time to think about my life. One of things that always came on mind in prison was New Zealand and my dream backpacking journey.

I can think of few things worse than solitary confinement. Hell I go crazy if I have nothing to do for even an hour on a plane. Five months with no Internet, no books, no music, no TV, and most of all no human contact would be unbearable.

I didn’t know that my case has reached NZ. I didn’t know that someone there in that beloved land thought, wrote, and cared about me. Internet is just great and you people deserve the land you love in. Your support and other NZ citizens like (http://poneke.wordpress.com) of my case meant a lot to me. It touched my heart deeply because I already have positive feelings toward your country and people since my childhood.

As I said, many NZ bloggers and others like the EPMU raised their voice in support. Getting this feedback from Faoud is a good reminder that we should be vocal more often.

I loved Tony Garea because my father did. I loved your country because of my best friend stories about it. These feelings have increased because of your support. I just can’t thank you enough for your support. It meant a lot to me more than you can imagine. Fouad Al-Farhan

Hopefully one day Fouad will be able to visit New Zealand. I suspect he will have no shortage of people willing to host him or show him around.

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13 Responses to “Thanks from the arrested Saudi blogger”

  1. poneke (280 comments) says:

    Poneke actually asked MFAT officials whether the NZ Government would take action. Sadly the most they would do is have a “watching brief”.

    I several times contacted MFAT and James Funnell (press secretary in Winston’s office) about this case and got one major response which seems to be the one to which you refer:

    http://poneke.wordpress.com/2008/02/14/fouad-2/

    February 14 2008

    NZ diplomats “closely monitoring” detention of Saudi blogger

    At last! An official New Zealand response regarding Saudi Arabian blogger Fouad al-Farhan, detained without charge now for 66 days after writing about political prisoners in his country. Our diplomats are taking an interest in his plight, which is good to see.

    I have received an email in response to my inquiries from James Funnell, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters. It says: “The detention of the Saudi Blogger Fouad al-Farhan is something the New Zealand embassy in Riyadh is monitoring closely, alongside likeminded diplomatic missions in Saudi, including Canada, Australia, the UK, Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Norway. At this stage none of the missions, including New Zealand, are planning to make an official protest, but that stance is being kept under review.”

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  2. He-Man (270 comments) says:

    I am sure John Key will take action on this matter.

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  3. pushmepullu (686 comments) says:

    It’s nauseating for me to see Stalinist blogs like No Right Turn whining about free speech in Saudi Arabia when they’re utterly indifferent, if not actively destructive, of its practice right here in Godzone

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  4. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    I’m sure you’re just another Labour Party stooge with ADD she-boy.

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  5. He-Man (270 comments) says:

    I mean that if Labour are weak on this issue then John Key should stand up and be the MAN.

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  6. David Farrar (1,895 comments) says:

    He-Man: Stop trolling or you will get kicked.

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  7. unaha-closp (1,165 comments) says:

    While I am sure the blogs had no impact on the Saudi Government

    Private citizen and minor party action is about the best NZ could do. Kudos to Poneke for his action.

    (hell we couldn’t even get the NZ Government to stand up for freedom of speech),

    The Sauds are a repressive, nationalistic, perversion of a regime, but they have a lot of money and influence. No serious government should have become more involved, because our national interests are better served by not upsetting the Sauds. Sure hope that National would not conduct itself any differently in government.

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  8. Pascal (1,969 comments) says:

    I’m glad to hear you got a response from him, David. It just goes to show that every little bit helps, doesn’t it? Warm and fuzzy story for the day, I think. If he does manage to find his way to NZ for his backpacking tour we should have a bloggers’ get together for the man, let him meet some of the faces behind the names and give him a welcome Kiwi style.

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  9. radar (319 comments) says:

    In whose interest is it for Saudi Arabia to remain a dictatorship? Outside of the ruling family that is.

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  10. dudeabides (15 comments) says:

    So Poneke is back? I thought he’d packed it in after Whale Oil set his dogs on him. Something about the blogosphere being a “sewer” which Whale Oil promptly went ahead and proved …

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  11. He-Man (270 comments) says:

    I am glad Fouad al-Farhan was released from jail. It is not good that he should be jailed for voiceing his opinion. We need to protect the freedom of speech and make sure there are no more sham trials and Guantanamoe’s!

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  12. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    You’ve been warned.

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  13. unaha-closp (1,165 comments) says:

    In whose interest is it for Saudi Arabia to remain a dictatorship? Outside of the ruling family that is.

    Stuffed if I know, but making an official diplomatic protest is not going to change that.

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