Saturday, April 23, 2011

What's Saudi Arabia's Woman Problem?

If I'd started writing this before I knew the #KhobarGirlsUnite campaign (check Twitter) had succeeded in registering women to vote in the municipal elections coming up, I would have started off angry and confrontational. At this news you can all take a breath of relief, I suppose...

False alarm. I've decided I'm still going to be angry and confrontational. Especially with these topics - it's too much fun.

Now first of all, I really don't care about the relevance of these municipal elections. I'm not sure they carry any clout in the first place. But, as I and others have said on Twitter - who cares? It's the PRINCIPLE, the audacity of standing barefacedly against the undeniable, unalienable rights of women. What would the Prophet Muhammad say, he who had taken the pledge of allegiance from some of the most empowered women ever to grace history? May God's peace and blessings descend upon you, O Prophet... If you could see what those who claim to be your followers have done while announcing their dedication to marching in your footsteps...

How many times has religion been used to stuff women into the background, COMPLETELY GROUNDLESSLY? Trust me, it's groundless... A deep and thorough examination of every single accusation leveled towards Islam of abusing women should be made and completely debunked. it can be and it should; no big deal, wouldn't even take a very long time. The truth is obvious. Really, we Muslims need something like that to back us up when fighting against stuff like this. Every accusation in general, actually. We need a website like that - sound like a good idea, anyone?

Anyway, back to our topic.

"We won't let women vote because Saudi society's not ready for it," their excuse was. Oh really, sir? Since when can one person (or even several of those 'higher-up', whatever) determine what an entire society would think of such a matter? If King Faisal had waited until 'society agreed' to ban slavery or to start educating girls, I guarantee you the country of Saudi Arabia would be more stuck in the past and more backward than it is right now - and that's saying something.

They've been using that excuse for years, years, years. My mother - American, has been driving for most of her life and is a better driver than 90% of the men here - continually brings up what Prince Naif said a few years ago: "It's up to the family to decide." She turns to my dad and says, let's go to where you can sign something and get me a driver's license! (Notwithstanding the fact that she has an international driver's license, with Saudi Arabia one of the listed countries. We get a kick out of that, say she can use it as an excuse.) And my father can only shake his head with a rueful smile.

The excuse of having no women-only places to vote is also pathetic... Make some!

So what's with it? Seriously, what is people's problem here? What is this awful, horrible, outdated, unfair attitude (to say the least) that comes to anything that could possibly empower women here? Not even 'empower', you get the most ridiculous reactions to the least of things. the attitudes themselves are... Astonishing!

I'll give a quick example. Go to this article in Arab News today and check out the comments. The worst of the "we're not OPPRESSING women, we're HONORING their poor dear helpless selves!" on display. Here's one: "We respect our women more than any nation in the world. and we don't like them to be on the streets."

Something not fitting together there? Jeez, if you respect them, don't shut them up!

The man in the article who speaks about himself not liking his womenfolk to go out alone speaks FOR himself, he can go ahead and do whatever he wants - but do not impose that opinion on the general population with a dictatorial law. Same goes for the women who titter "Oh, heavens, dearie me at the very IDEA" of being able to drive: DO NOT PREVENT OTHERS FROM THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THAT WHICH YOU WANT NO PART IN.

Do people here not understand the meaning of 'women must be able to function on their own'?! In case of emergencies, at least! This past year my father had to work and stay in Riyadh, a different city, for a few months. My family was stuck without a man and we were practically under virtual house arrest that whole time, going out only for necessity. He's back now, thank God - we don't have to waste our money and effort on taxi drivers who give women leery looks in the rear-view mirror, or stand in the sun on the street waiting for an empty cab to pass by, trying to ignore the honks that come from every car that passes our way. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are sexually harassed while dressed in tents. It's disgusting and only serves to incorrectly undermine the role of hijab further...


Long post.

I need a break.

So do you.

I'm not finished, though. I don't think I ever will be.


  1. Well Said..thats all what I can say..:)

  2. Great post. Rant read and appreciated! I'll be on my 2nd day attempt from Riyadh in several hours. Wish me luck!

  3. Thank you all, much appreciated! Good luck, Ilham :)