Salwa AL Hazza is a rare breed of Saudi women. She has managed to gain and keep the respect of the male half of our society without strictly observing the hijab. This is due to three reasons; first that she has excelled in her medical field of ophthalmology, she got married and stayed married and finally has close ties with the royals.
Dr. Al Hazza was educated in the United States at a young age but she did her bachelors here in Riyadh at King Saud University. She, accompanied by her husband, got her residency at John Hopkins. She became the late King Fahad’s personal ophthalmologist. She is the first Saudi woman to head a medical department; the ophthalmology department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh. Dr. Al Hazza has numerous publications including an encyclopedia on Saudi genetic diseases and groundbreaking research in rescuing the eyesight of premature babies.
According to her interviews, Dr. Al Hazza’s views on the current situation for women are that we should be patient and try to change things only after accepting and understanding them. She believes in quiet change from within. In the Al Riyadh Newspaper Interview she told a story about how when she came back with her family from the USA after her father had finished his Masters degree and she overheard one of her father’s friends saying what a shame that she and her four sisters weren’t sons because with their obvious genius and language abilities they would have grown to be great men in society.
Every time Saudi Arabia is criticized for its policies and laws regarding women, the government trots out Dr. Al Hazza to prove them wrong. Yes, she’s Saudi and yes she is a sign that things are going in the right direction but she by no means represents the average woman. Through luck she was married to an understanding man that let her be the great role model she is today. I wonder how many other potential Salwas are buried under our traditions.