Finalist, The Sony Impact Award

Safa Al Ahmad (Saudi)

Jan-Feb 2013, December 2013 and January 2014, Saudi Arabia

Saudi's Secret Uprising

Commissioned by BBC Our World in partnership with the BBC Persian and Arabic channels. Broadcast across BBC.

Safa worked completely alone on two trips to Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province where a three-year uprising has gone largely unreported. She gained astonishing access to activists – gaining their trust to such an extent that they gave her hours of rarely-seen footage of their protests. Travelling and filming in Saudi Arabia, then leaving with the footage, were all extremely risky.

The resulting film gives a clear picture of the extent and violence of the Arab Spring-inspired protests, news of which hardly ever makes the news. The film made a distinct impact online and in the Arab media. It also sparked a row between the Saudi government and the BBC. The impact on Safa herself is profound. Because of this film, she will not be able to return to her home country and family for the foreseeable future. 

Watch "Saudi's Secret Uprising" 


Safa Al Ahmad is a Middle East-based Saudi freelance journalist working in print, television and documentary. Her 2012 film 'Al Qaeda in Yemen' was a finalist for the Sony Impact Award 2012 and nominated for the News and Documentary Emmy Award. Her essay 'Wishful Thinking' on the Arab uprisings and Saudi Arabia was published in 2013 in the English Pen Award-winning anthology Writing Revolutions.

Judges Comments

"Saudi Arabia is a blind spot on our journalistic map and she shone a light there by putting herself on the line to get that story.  It shows her passion and motivation. To get that close to people challenging that powerful, secretive regime is a real achievement. She showed enormous courage.”