I just had a really frustrating phone call. A friend of mine recommended a ballet instructor for my daughter. She gave me the number and I called to inquire and the lovely British ballet instructor informed me that she could not accept my daughter because we carry Saudi passports. I asked her why and she said that there is a directive that Saudi girls are not allowed to learn ballet. I asked her if she was ever provided with a written directive that Saudi girls weren’t allowed to learn ballet, and she said no that she was verbally instructed. I told her that that is not true and that there are ballet classes at some gyms here in Riyadh. So she changed the story and said that she had instructions that Saudis weren’t allowed on compounds. I told her that I’ve been in compounds. So she again changed the story. This time she had the audacity to say that she can only allow “western” passport holders, not only once but several times. I asked her what to you mean by western? How about Pakistanis? She retracted “oh no, I do allow Pakistanis.” Finally she said that that the compounds that she gave classes at required her to provide copies of the little girls’ passports. That is an outright lie because my son went to a daycare at a compound and never once was I asked to provide a copy of his passport. And then she started bumbling like a fool that in Saudi she has to wear a abaya. I said but that is not determined by your passport, every woman has to wear a abaya.
Anyway this is the new generation of Western expatriate workers here. Before 9/11, the attitude was very different. People who came here actually cared about making an impact, and getting to know the people of the country. Now so many of them strike me as money-hungry elitist who look down on “the ignorant locals”. When the ballet instructor told me that she has to endure discrimination too because she has to wear a abaya, as a Saudi woman, all I could think is that she has it easy. It’s her choice to stay or leave the country and naturally she wouldn’t be here unless she was being compensated for the inconvenience of wearing a abaya. As a foreigner, all that is required is that she have on this light black cloak when she’s out in public. She doesn’t even have to cover her hair. What about all those Saudi women and girls who are required to wear a heavy, below the ankles tent style abaya with their faces fully covered? And these Saudi girls aren’t here by choice nor are they financially compensated, and at the end of the day they don’t go home to a five star compound where they can walk around freely and enjoy the sun. Really, the ballet instructor is the one with the bad end of the stick? It’s bad enough getting it from the muttawa but when the same people who condemn us for not fighting for our freedom, practice discrimination against us, it gets really frustrating.