As unrest spreads through the Middle East, the Saudi government—known for its intense clamp down on dissent and protest—created a Facebook page encouraging citizens to write directly to the government and express their concerns.
The Saudi kingdom, ruled by 86-year-old King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, prohibits public protest and has avoided, for the most part, the protests sweeping the region. There have, however, been tricklings of the pro-democracy wave. After heavy floods killed four people due to poor infrastructure, a rare mass text message circulated calling for activists to gather en masse and demonstrate for better living conditions.
Chief of the Saudi royal court, Khaled Bin Abd Al-Aziz Al-Tuwaijri, is the face of the recently-started Facebook page, formally posing in his picture sporting a kafiyeh, a traditional Arab headdress. The page has garnered nearly 4,000 members by Tuesday afternoon.
“In line with the directives of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [the Saudi term for the king]—supported by God … to follow up the concerns of the citizens of his sons and daughters in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Tuwaijri calls for Saudis to register complaints with the government “with no barriers.”
“I am with all of you as a citizen, not as an official,” Tuwaijri writes on the page.
However, this is not a place for Saudis to express their grievances publicly. It appears the public wall for the Facebook page is disabled, preventing Saudis from complaining directly on the page and viewing others’ complaints, at least until their "friend requests" are confirmed. Instead, Saudis must send in their complaints with their full names and phone numbers.
There are many ways for Saudis to register complaints—they can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and he will bring the letter to the king. It’s much better to fax in your grievance, the page said, giving multiple fax numbers. Saudis can follow up on their complaints and are assured they will receive a response within 24 hours.
“We in the name of Allah the Almighty to serve you well,” the page said. “May peace and God's mercy and blessings be upon you.”