Saudi Arabia doesn't want posts like this on Facebook. That's why we're posting it.

While almost everyone you know is probably on Facebook, almost no one will say it's cool anymore. In this country, at least. But check out places like Saudi Arabia, where it's more than cool — it's life-changing.

UPDATE 4/17/2014: Waleed Abu al-Khair (who begins speaking at 1:20) has been detained by Saudi authorities for his peaceful activism. Read more at HRW.

Show Transcript Hide Transcript

Sheikh Mikhilf al-Shammari (Translated): Hello.

Adam Coogle (Translated): Hello Sheikh Mikhilf. How are you?

Sheikh Mikhilf (Translated): I'm good.

Adam Coogle (Translated): I'll be asking you specific questions about your activism and your views, regarding the impact of social media sites on rights activism in Saudi.

Sheikh Mikhilf (Translated): There's a human rights culture growing in Saudi society. People are waking up from the extremist-induced slumber of the past 40 years. And the greatest contribution has come from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Adam Coogler: Saudi Arabia is one of the most closed-off countries in the world. Saudi citizens are banned from speaking their point of view if it contradicts the official government narrative. So social media allows them to actually get together and discuss these ideas for the first time really in Saudi history. One of the best examples of a social media campaign in Saudi Arabia, has been the women's right to drive campaign. Samar Badawi has been very active on social media in promoting human rights, causes.

Samar Badawi (Translated): Social media sites are one of the few places where Saudis can vent their anger, to say "we have rights," to exercise their freedoms in a way that they think is legal.

Waleed Abu al-Khair (Translated): One case where new media played an important role was that of Samar Badawi. Before she became my wife, I was her lawyer. She was jailed and I had exhausted all legal means to secure her release. She had been in jail for more than seven months. Then a Twitter campaign started and just 12 days into the campaign, she was released without charges. So this one case is a perfect example of the power of the new media.

Adam Coogler: Social media activisms scares Saudi authorities and we're starting to see over previous year, year and a half, an increased crackdown on online activism. Activists have been investigated, threatened, put on trial and in face convicted based in part on things they have posted on social media networks.

Sheikh Mikhilf (Translated): I have been arrested so many times, defending human rights.

Waleed Abu al-Khair (Translated): My Twitter account was one of the first to be blocked. Interrogations, then a travel ban a year and a half ago, and now trials. It [the government[ is now losing control over new media and now they are imprisoning activists and those with bold opinions hoping to stem the tide.

Adam Coogle: The Saudi authorities think by arresting the most prominent activists for their social media activism, for their human rights activism in general, that they can intimidate everybody else into silence. But really the cat's out of the bag. People are talking on social networks now, they're expressing their views and there's really nothing that Saudi authorities are gonna be able to do to shut this down. Thank you very much.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

The original video was made Human Rights Watch and published by Upworthy on our amazing YouTube channel. Stay up-to-date on Human Rights Watch's latest efforts by following them on Facebook.

Apr 17, 2014

Flash Video Embed

This video is not supported by your device. Continue browsing to find other stuff you'll love!

In case you were wondering what matters to us, it's your privacy. Read our updated privacy policy.

Hey, Internet Friend. Looks like you're using a crazy old web browser, which is no longer supported. Please consider upgrading to something more modern—for a better experience, and a safer time online. We only want the best for you.

Download Google Chrome, and try it for a week. Don't think about it, just do it. You'll thank us later.