If you read anything related to Saudi Arabia or have a conversation with someone living there, inevitably this remark comes up”but change is coming soon”. Well from my perspective, it’s just not true. Short of an outright war or a western invasion, women will never get their rights. I remember a Bahraini friend of mine telling me how her grandfather respected her grandmother because he was influenced by the British. Sometimes the thought that we would actually be better off if we were colonized in the late 1800s and early 1900s like our neighbors creeps into my head.
The muttawa way of life, in which everything that brings a smile to your face is HARAM (prohibited), is integrated into the very heart of our society. Music, plays, festivals even when they are segregated are strongly discouraged. And the prohibition is only related to doing it in public. It is a fact that most Saudis do not practice what they preach. Get on any plane leaving the country and witness it for yourself. Abayas come off and men and women become much more relaxed. Women are pressured and brain-washed into living the way they do. But why do men live the way they do, when for many it is obvious that they would rather be more relaxed with their families and have their wives drive their own cars…etc.
International tourism was not affected by H1N1 or the economy in Saudi Arabia. Strangely enough, more and more Saudis are leaving the country each year for a vacation. I know one woman who actually took a loan from the bank just to treat herself and her family to a trip to France. Another woman in her sixties, never had a passport until two years ago and ever since all she talks about is where she’s going and where she’s been for the summer. Just a week ago, there was no traffic in Riyadh! And I could get an appointment at my favourite hairdresser on the same day! Usually it takes at least two weeks advance planning. Everyone was outside the country.
And then they come back to another year-long round of pretending that they agree that everything should be prohibited. I think that what goes through their heads is something in the vein of “well I can handle all this freedom because I’m a responsible person but my fellow citizens need to be treated like caged animals, otherwise they’ll go crazy”. By crazy they mean things like convert to another religion, openly announce their homosexuality, walk around in revealing clothes and/or promote someone that has no blood relation to them.
But these things have not happened in any of our surrounding countries. Why can’t they see that a little freedom does not mean Hollywood?!