Al Naqa Charity association has started a campaign to encourage Saudi citizens to quit smoking. Posters are hung on all the major streets stating in Arabic “You quit and we’ll give you a wedding”. Of course, anyone who knows anything about Saudi Arabia, knows that getting married is a costly affair for the groom. And what the charity is paying for is the wedding and dowry, they aren’t going to find a bride or mediate, just pay the bills. So far so good. Last Sunday a writer in al Watan newspaper Maha Al Jahilan slammed the charity comparing what the charity is offering to selling sex. I especially enjoyed her melodramatic conclusion which I translated:
Isn’t presenting a woman as a prize to a person who quits smoking comparable to what primitive societies did when they sacrificed women to gods by throwing them into rivers, or wild animals? Wouldn’t it be better if the charity offered to find jobs for the quitters to raise their income, or offered to help them in housing, or continue their education, or self-improvement courses instead of finding a solution that would create worse and uglier problem?
Come on?! Is she serious? I consider myself a Saudi feminist if there ever was one and I saw those posters long before I read about them. It never occurred to me that they were demeaning to women. Her suggestions are fine and so is paying for a quitter’s marriage costs. But probably the charity’s idea might be a stronger motivator for the younger love-stricken smokers. But if people who are calling for more women rights in Saudi raise arms at every silly thing then that will undermine what they stand for and the conservatives won’t take then as seriously.