On 19 January 2024, a shadow hangs over the 30th birthday of Osama Khalid, a Saudi pediatrician, blogger, and prominent Wikipedian. Instead of celebrating with his family and loved ones, he marks this day confined to a prison cell for the next three decades.
He was arrested in July 2020 and later sentenced to five years in prison, increased to 32 years on appeal. Khalid’s “crime”? Sharing knowledge. A dedicated Wikipedian, he volunteered countless hours to enrich the free encyclopedia in Arabic, championing values of transparency and open access to information. He became a beacon for free knowledge, a role that drew unwanted attention from the Saudi authorities.
In the summer of 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, Osama Khalid and his fellow doctor and Wikipedian Ziyad Al-Sufyani were swept up in a wave of arbitrary arrests. The world only learned of their plight two years later, thanks to the tireless efforts of human rights organizations. To this day, the specific charges against them remain shrouded in secrecy.
A Call for Justice:
On this day, we stand in solidarity with Osama Khalid, Ziyad Al-Sufyani, and countless other Saudi activists silenced for their activism and online contributions. We condemn their arbitrary imprisonment and demand their immediate and unconditional release.
Let Osama Khalid’s silenced birthday remind us of the fight for freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia.
Together, we demand:
- The immediate release of Osama Khalid, Ziyad Al-Sufyani, and all activists arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia;
- An independent and transparent investigation into the charges against them, conducted in accordance with international human rights standards;
- An end to the suppression of online activism and peaceful dissent in Saudi Arabia.
The undersigned human rights organizations ask you to join us in raising our voices. Silence is not an option. Let Khalid’s birthday become a rallying cry for justice and a reminder that the fight for human rights knows no borders.
Digital Citizenship (DCO)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Digital Rights Foundation
ALQST For Human Rights