With the exception of the Human Rights Organization, to my knowledge there are no organized associations or unions of women rights activists in Saudi Arabia. Those who care are doing it individually and at the local level quietly. Most of them, like myself, are talking to the outside world more than the inside. On the other hand, women who believe in their own oppression are organized in so called religious groups; Quran circles, charity organizations, and teach their point of view in schools. They have seemingly infinite financial backing to publish all the literature they need to get across their narrow interpretations of Islam. Some women even work for the vice cops. And this is the problem. It’s not the government that oppresses women, it’s the women themselves who believe in this ideology and pass it along to their daughters. The problem lies in the imbalance of information. The ultra-conservative interpretation of Arab traditions and Islam is officially sanctioned by the government, so it is taught (actually drilled into) students through the curriculum and occasional lectures by sheikhs and women Islamic missionaries. Then outside of school they are reminded of it through the distribution of free pamphlets at social gatherings, hospital waiting rooms, and even when shopping. Sometimes street ads are paid for to show an abaya and a flower where the face is supposed to be to get across that women are flowers that should be covered and protected. Ironic, considering that flowers don’t thrive unless they are out in the sun. And if you try to discuss this oppression of women and human rights with these ultra-conservatives and their selectiveness in the use of Islamic texts, it all boils down to “the prevention of sin” argument.
At the same time people who believe in a more broad interpretation of Islamic texts are not allowed to express their opinion. When they do, they are quickly dismissed as secularists and liberals as if these were profane terms. They are also quickly assumed as not being really Saudi. I can’t count the number of times that other Saudis have assumed that I am from mixed heritage. Your mother must be Syrian, Egyptian or Turkish, they tell me. When I tell them that my parents were neighbors who grew up together in the Qaseem region, they are unfailingly shocked. All this just because I happen to voice a different opinion from the accepted walking jewels who are put on this Earth for the enjoyment of men, shopping and popping out kids. I digress. My point here is that we should have a more moderate Islam that is grown locally through Saudi literature, women rights awareness and respectable examples. Young ladies should not be made to feel guilty or rebellious just because they don’t like covering their faces or want to drive. As if wanting these means they carry some lewd ulterior motive.