Mother’s Day in Saudi Arabia: Although the distance is painful our hope must persist

March 21 marks Mother’s Day in much of the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia. For the mothers of Abdullah al-Zaher, Dawood al-Marhoon, Ali al-Nimr and Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, four young Saudi Arabian men who were arrested as minors and sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials based on “confessions” they say were extracted under torture, Mother’s Day is a day of heartache. But it is also yet another day of hope and prayer for their sons’ release.

This is what the mothers of the four young men, Fatima al-Azwi, Amina al-Safar, Nassra al-Ahmed and Amina al-Mustafa have to share today, on Mother’s day, on how they feel and what they wish for other mothers like them.  


Fatima al-Azwi

Abdullah al-Zaher’s mother

On days like these, I feel like I am suffocating. Spending Mothers’ Day with my son so far away breaks my heart. To all the other women feeling such pain and torment, I can only say: be strong and stay patient. All we have is relentless prayer.

I remember the joyful days I spent with Abdullah. We were a beautiful, happy family. But since his imprisonment, everything has changed. My days are gloomy and full of sorrow. I cannot remember what it feels like to be happy. I long for Abdullah to come back to me. I miss him so much that my heart could explode with all of this sadness.

For me, Mother’s Day is like any other day. Like every day, I wish for  Abdullah’s freedom and the freedom of all children who are, like him, held captive.

 My plea for you on this day is to appeal for the release of my son and all other sons and daughters who are unfairly imprisoned. Mercy is all I am asking for.


Amina Al Safar

Dawood al-Marhoon’s mother

Motherhood is a gift from God – a beautiful gift. But to be torn apart from your own son, no matter his age, is an unbearable feeling. Dawood is most precious to my heart, more so than his brothers, because my love for him cannot reach him when he’s so far away.

Only a mother can understand what it means to have your child taken away from you. Nothing I could say to women like me would console them. But we cannot lose hope. We cannot panic. We must remind ourselves that God will protect them and although the distance is painful our hope must persist.

I have never needed Mother’s Day – every day with my child was a day of joy and love. But now I can’t even tolerate today. I cannot bear more years passing by without him here, by my side. What is this day anyway but a day to receive love and attention from your children? How is that possible when they’re so far away, so distant?

As a believer, all I can pray for is for my son to return to me.


Nassra al-Ahmed

Ali al-Nimr’s mother

Each morning I am awoken by a painful hope that Ali will return today.

Perhaps I will hear the doorbell ring and see him standing there, in the doorway.

The sun rose on this Mother’s Day without Ali and it will set without Ali. I miss him and worry about him.

He is always on my mind. Everything reminds me of him. He used to love this song. He used to love this dish. He used to prefer this to that. I hear his voice saying: “Happy Mother’s Day, Mum!” and I want to cry.

I only live for the hope of seeing Ali free again –I have no reason to live otherwise. He’s been away from us for five years, without love or mercy, in a cold and unforgiving prison.

But we are steadfast in our faith and in the merciful God, and we pray that Ali is released and returned to us soon. I await the day that the clouds part and the bright sun comes back to drench our lives in warmth again – a warmth that will dissolve all this pain.

Ali has a right to freedom – and so do we all.


Amal al-Mustafa

Abdulkareem al-Hawaj’s mother

How can I enjoy Mother’s Day without Abdulkareem?

I have missed him so much. I wish with every bone in my body that I could hold him and kiss him and tell him how much I love him.

I pray for Abdulkareem’s release. I pray that he is acquitted soon of all the unfair charges. I ask all of you reading this to empathize with me: can you imagine looking at your son – unfairly held behind bars, and unable to do anything to help him? It is a very helpless feeling, but I can only be patient and believe that one day he will return.


Please help save these young men from execution

Join our call on King Salman of Saudi Arabia to quash the convictions and sentences of Abdullah al-Zaher, Dawood al-Marhoon, Ali al-Nimr and Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, who were arrested as teenagers and face death after taking part in protests.


Social media raises the profile of cases and exerts pressure on authorities concerned about their international reputation. Use or adapt the following tweets and add pictures from this blog.

General call on all four cases
Quash death sentences of Abdullah, Dawood, Ali, Abdulkareem, teens arrested after taking part in protest @KingSalman

Abdullah al-Zaher
.@KingSalman justice is in your hands. Abdullah al-Zaher’s mother’s heart is breaking – spare his life today!  

Abdulkareem al-Hawaj
On mother’s day we urge @KingSalman to spare the life of Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, arrested aged 16, now on death row.   

Dawood al-Marhoon
Dawood al-Marhoon’s mum says we cannot lose hope & we won’t! We urge @KingSalman to save him from executiom. 

Ali al-Nimr
#Ali_AlNimr says he was tortured to ‘confess’, now he’s been sentenced to death: @KingSalman end the injustice now!