Doll is a short film that premiered in Saudi Arabia last night. I was lucky enough to get a chance to not only see it but also to meet the director, Reem al Bayyat. It was first shown at the Gulf Film Festival in the UAE.  The movie is about six minutes long and is about child marriages in Saudi Arabia. The technique that Ms.Bayyat employed was particularly intriguing as all the shots were still but the film flipped through them like you would with the corner of a notebook to show a stickman cartoon. And yet the sound fitted perfectly. The final product had an eeriness too it that’s not easily forgotten.

Of course the topic, child marriages, is always good to bring up regardless of the medium. That’s the only way that we can address thought processes that advocate child marriages. And last night was no exception. After the movie, the audience was allowed to ask the director questions. Some questioned, and some remarked, but what was most interesting was a question posed by a young well-dressed man who was Arab but I’m not sure which nationality as he spoke in clear English. He asked the director  why is it considered such a big deal while in the West it’s ok for a 13 or 16 year old girl to have a boyfriend, such a question not from a bearded muttawa or an illiterate old man, but from this guy. Ms. Al Bayyat handled it beautifully. She said that whether a girl has a boyfriend or not is a cultural issue but what she is addressing is the responsibility, pregnancy, servitude that is part and package of child marriages and the issue of legal pedophilia, when a much older man is allowed to rape a child under the pretense of marriage. Pedophilia exists everywhere but only here is it legal. The man who posed the question did not argue the issue further but another woman did remark that the laws will not change because many decision makers still believe that there is nothing wrong with legally giving a fifty year old pedophile an 11 year old “bride”.


Filed under Child marriages, Culture, Fun

15 responses to “Doll

  1. I am very pleased to see such a sensitive social issue addressed in a global venue. It is extremely difficult to change age old tradition but when the eyes of the world are focused on positive change, change is inevitable.


    Maryam Ruhullah

  2. All these movies competing, some movies winning, but we never get to see them, neither on TV, nor online.

  3. Where this film could be seen and where it was shown? What about petitions to the King? If such is signed by many influential, educated people? I recently read about a law introduced in KSA requiring to state an age of a bride in the marriage contract – but still it is not a law saying that underage girls cannot be married… Waiting for that day – as a woman, as a Muslim, as a mother of 2 girls, a wife of a Saudi… Thank you for raising this topic again – good to see that Saudi women are trying their best to make a change for the better!

  4. I mean where it was show in KSA 🙂

  5. I think I found my answer – German Embassy?

  6. I would love to see this. Maybe it will become more available.

    The man would have been better to ask about young consent to marriage ages in the west; or consent to sexual activity. Both as low as 12 for girls under certain circumstances in certain places. Or to consider that most countries following Sharia family law have minimum age requirements of 15-18 for girls and 18 for boys.

    Morocco (which follows Maliki fiqh) revised its Moudwana in 2004 to make it 18 for both girls and boys (previously 15 for girls, meaning some 14 year olds were slipped in), with the advice of feminists and Islamic scholars. The main purpose was to keep girls in school at least to the end of a high school diploma. Most are happy with that part of the law. The most conservative Islamic scholars are not happy with the improved divorce options for women, and most feminists are not happy that repudiation was not repudiated.

    Back to the film it sounds as though it has high artistic merit as well–an excellent way to transmit social change.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Speaking as an American, I think that the man’s question was a false equivalence. There is a huge difference between a 16 year old girl choosing to have a relationship (usually with another 16 year old), that may or may not be sexual, and, if it is sexual, the sex is consensual, and a 50 year old man raping an 11 year old girl.

    The two situations are entirely different, and while our teenage customs may be different from yours, and perhaps quite shocking, they do not excuse the legal abuse of little girls.

  8. Too bad the film is only 6 minutes long – I’m sure there is much more that could be added as far as various countries that permit it and actual cases. I tend to agree with Personal Failure – the man’s question is really like comparing apples and oranges. There are many teens in the West who are not permitted by their parents to date, while other parents are less strict, but there are laws there in the West that prohibit marriage until a certain legal age.

  9. Nan

    Eman, I love your writing and I am so grateful to have your opinion and expertise here! My mother-in-law, Fatima, is Muslim and while we adore each other and get along really well, we have in the past had issues! The more I learn, the more I understand her… and my husband… and my sons!

  10. What an important dialogue to have. How can I see the movie?

  11. Khalid Patrick

    This post is in support of a campaign to put pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to release Sheik Ahmad Gumi. The medical doctor, ex-soldier turned cleric was arrested inside his mosque at Shara Mansir district of Mecca more than six months ago. He has not being charged to court neither was his offence revealed by the authorities. This in itself is against the tenets of democracy and indeed Islam. I for one do not believe that the Shari’a approves for people to be arrested and detained for months on end without any prospect of being tried in a court. If the Saudi authorities believe he committed some offence then they should put him on trial. They should also abide by the civil tenet of giving him bail so as to allow him to remain with his family until a verdict is reached. In my opinion any thing short of this is undemocratic and un-Islamic.

  12. i want to send my comment to you entire muslim of saudi arabia what have u dont about the arest of dr ahmad gumi without any offence,why you muslim you kept quiet didn’t say anything,please and please try to release him before ramadan.

  13. Thank you for your writing, it is a cold and true fact, that men have very deep emotional issues that are not balanced and sexual issues to match them, on earth in all countries.

    It is the great fear of woman, who has let such ignorance and behavior continue way out of control over the past 1000 years. More women are finding the courage and strength to first love herself, and withstand the ignorance of fearful women who turn against her. But with enough connection between women of strength, then slowly the weak women will stand behind us slowly across the earth.

    Each man must be accountable by either mother, grandmother or wife, to learn the ways of respect and that I am afraid will take time.

    I have great hope in my sisters and also the men who support us in our causes even if we have to teach them to do this.

    The ignorant, the blind and the deaf slowly are destroying themselves, by their own dis-eases from the inside.

    Great shifts are coming to earth and no one can escape them, for Mother Earth and the once Great Middle Eastern Goddesses, shall have their day.

  14. I sincere am not satisfied with the way and the saudi manarch are rejecting their fellow beings,as muslims we have seen how Bilal enough was a slave the holy prophet made him close to him and became one of the key companions of the prophet during the early days of islam.The arabs will rather relate with the non muslims very strongly especially if their colours are white and will detaste seeing a muslim brother/sister especially when thier colour are black.Certainly we all know this is not the practise of our rasul. (SAW)Certainly there is live after death and we will all account for our deeds. A word is enough for the wise.

  15. chloe

    i can only imagine the horror these little girls must have gone through. it would scar anyone for life. just thinking about it makes me so sad.. how can their parents agree to it? they are surely worth more than mere toys created only to meet some crazy old man’s demands… i really hope someone does something about this… usually we complain about small things in life so much, but reading this really makes me feel very lucky.. and very grateful for the freedom we have, which these poor sisters of ours don’t.. :((

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