Trad Al-Asmari is a young Saudi journalist and poet, who has worked in several creative fields had always aimed to contribute to society as a Saudi citizen and portray the Kingdom in a favorable light internationally. He has finally achieved this goal by becoming a voice for Saudi Arabia after the nomination of his blog “Holom Akhdar” (Green Dream) in the category of Arabic blogs at the sixth annual Best of Blogs Awards (BoBs).
The contest – Deutsche Welle’s Best of the Blogs Awards – was divided into several categories focusing on unique and interesting approaches, creative designs and excellent writing making up the different aspects of a blog to be judged. Any weblog, podcast, and video blog in the world can take part as long as it is in any of the contest’s official languages: Arabic, Mandarin, Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Saudi Gazette spoke to Al-Asmari, the mind behind “Green Dream”, in an exclusive interview about the blog’s themes, goals and the nomination itself. The blog is essentially about several important issues in Saudi society, focusing on people’s problems, hopes and fears.
“One of the most important problems discussed in the blog is poverty in Saudi society, which is a mix of cultural, social, environmental, economical and health elements brought together with respect to the country’s systems and regulations,” he said. “That’s why we started this initiative against poverty called “National Intellectual Initiative Against Poverty” as an online campaign aiming to play a crucial role in minimizing the percentage of poor people in the Kingdom.”
Indeed, he claims that poverty is a social problem that has assumed dangerous proportions threatening Saudis and non-Saudis alike.
“Through our blog, we have already initiated the first phase by creating a ‘knowledge bank’ through which we are collecting ideas and suggestions from people since April, 2009,” he said. “We have received thousands of ideas; all of them are interesting and they can help in decreasing the percentage of poverty in the Kingdom.
These ideas are of two types: Suggestions to facilitate rules and procedures in the government sector and implementation of projects in different fields including health, education, employment, social awareness, and housing.”
After evaluating all ideas and suggestions, Al-Asmari and those who are working with him, will decide on one.
Another initiative of the blog was a famous short film called “My Salary is 1,000 Riyals.” “It is a shirt documentary film – lasting only six minutes – directed and produced by me. The film is a clear and simple version, exploring the problem of poverty in the Kingdom,” explained Al-Asmari. “The film depicts the reality of a young Saudi security guard whose salary does not exceed 1,200 Saudi riyals and he has to support a family of seven people.” Al-Asmari claims that he was motivated to make this film after hearing an official claim that poverty was a “limited problem in the Kingdom.” Posted on the popular video-sharing website Youtube in 2008, the film has been widely popular and dubbed in various other languages.
Speaking about the contest itself, Al-Asmari said: “This competition is considered to be amongst the best in the world so I am proud of my blog’s nomination amongst 928 entries. I am not looking for fame but only to raise awareness about the main issues, helping poor people and developing my country.”
“Green Dream is a free blog that I created several years ago to discuss the issues of poverty, unemployment and social justice in Saudi Arabia in various forms and from the perspective of people who experience such things in reality,” he added.
Al-Asmari has received several offers to shift his blog to a website but he has refused because he is determined to keep the blog in its current form, allowing the blog’s message to reach every person.
Though the name evokes patriotism because of “green” or environmental awareness, it is actually from a poem Al-Asmari wrote a fw years back. “Green Dream is the beginning of a poem I wrote a few years ago when I was unemployed after arbitrarily being excluded from my job, and at the time, there was no official help for me, and this made me love my country more,” he explained. “The green color signifies heaven and comfort, which I am looking for for myself and Saudi citizens equally, and we will hopefully achieve this dream.”
Blogging is an effective tool
Al-Asmari also spoke about blogging in general and welcome the expansion of this media tool. “Blogging and blogs are an effective process of social media that allows a person the opportunity to be published, expanding the scope of self-censorship and reinforcing personal beliefs,” he stated, adding that it also allowed important social issues to be personalized. He believes that many Saudi bloggers have made a significant impact on public opinion via their work and that “traditional media should be more aware of the electronic media.”
Voting for the “Green Dream” blog will continue until April when the BOBs’ jury will announce the winners at the re: publica10 nternet conference. To vote for “Green Dream”, you can go to http://www.thebobs.com, where “Green Dream” is registered under the name: “My Salary is 1,000 Riyals.” – SG
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