Kashmiri Youth Languishing In Saudi Jail for 2 Yrs Over Facebook Message

Javaid Ahmad Mir

Srinagar- A resident of a village in central Kashmir, who went to Saudi Arabia to earn livelihood, is languishing in a jail in Saudi Arabia for the last two years without trial. His only crime- sharing his mobile number with a Kashmiri facebook friend based in Iran.

37-year-old Javaid Ahmad Mir of Chattergam was picked up by Saudi police from his workplace on March 18, 2020 after he exchanged messages with his Facebook friend based in Mashhad city in Iran, his family told Kashmir Observer on Wednesday

A father of a two-year-old daughter, Javaid since then is in judicial custody in Dammam Intelligence Jail, without any trial.

“My brother’s only crime is that he had shared his WhatsApp number with a Facebook friend who was studying in Iran” Javaid’s brother Sajjad Hussain told Kashmir Observer.

On April 16, Sajjad said, he received an email from D.B Bhatia, an Indian embassy official stating that his brother has been arrested for sharing WhatsApp number with one Imtiaz over Facebook Messenger.

“When I spoke to my brother after he was detained, he said he thought that Imtiaz is apparently looking for some job in Saudi and is seeking his help in this regard. That is why he shared his WhatsApp details with him,” he added.

However, within 34 hours after providing his details to the Iran based friend, Sajjad said, his brother was picked up by the Saudi police.

“He didn’t know that Imtiyaz is based in Iran, he would have never entertained his texts,” Sajjad said.

Javaid, he said, has completed his graduation in 2009 and thereafter took up the job of a teacher at a private school ‘Tawheed Education Institute. He resigned from his job after receiving an offer letter from Noodle International Trading Services at Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Javaid shifted to Saudi and started working in the Chinese origin company as supervisor.

According to Sajjad, the family came to know about Javaid’s detention through one of his colleagues.

“Without wasting time, we approached the Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy of India in Riyadh,” he said.

Javaid, he said, left to Saudi to support his family since the teaching job was not meeting the demands of his family.

“He is educated and knew where he was working. How could he be a threat to the Saudi government neither did he commit any office in the past,” Sajjad said, adding that his brother is the victim of “Saudi-Iran bitterness,”

Sajjad says that his brother was active on Social Media and had various friends belonging to different states of the country and abroad.

“If you go through his Facebook profile, you won’t find a single offensive post against Saudi Kingdom because he knows he belongs to the Shia community and what it means to post against Saudis in the Saudi land,” Sajjad said.

Sajjad said even if the Saudis didn’t ban Shia Islamic practices or closed down the Mosques, nor did they categorize Shia and Sunnis for employment avenues in its territory while issuing visas, his brother was aware of the sensitivity involved due to Saudi-Iran conflict.

“My brother used to post some contents and photographs belonging Shia ideology but it would not mean that is illegal and shouldn’t be considered as crime or anti-Saudi,” Sajjad wrote to S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, in a letter, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer.

Sajjad said his mother—Sara Begum — is suffering from cardiac problems and used to get regular medical treatment and financial support from her son. His father is a farmer, while Sajjad is handling a family business -which is not fetching them “too much”

He said that Javaid’s wife and daughter are helpless and want him back home as soon as possible.

Javaid’s family had no contact with him for over one month of his arrest until he was allowed to call in April 2020, neither did the Saudi police allow his colleagues to meet him in the jail citing Covid-19 protocols.

“Now we want the Indian Government to help us to get our kin back from Saudi Arabia,” Sajjad said, adding that they also request the Ministry of External affairs that India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia should personally interview in this matter.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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