Dr. Badria Al Bishr

This is a translation of a piece written by Dr. Badria Al Bishr for Hayat Newspaper:

I’ve heard stories, some of which reached the press and others didn’t, and it’s hard to comprehend how it could get this bad. In the first story, a woman tells me that her husband abused her for years before divorcing her. One time he locked her in the house for days while he went on a trip. She found a young man living next door by looking through the bathroom window. She told the young man her story so he bought her a meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken. He found a board to put between the two windows and slid the meal across. I never could understand why he bought her a KFC meal instead of calling the police to release her.

The story seemed to me a bit romantic despite its cruelty. The kindness of that young man is the only thing that stands out to the woman out of her years of abuse. The other story, however, lacks any romanticism. This time the newspapers did publish a photo of a wife whose husband would lock her in his bathroom and would only open the door to urinate on her and leave. She sought her father’s help but he was too busy with his second wife. Eventually the woman was able to escape and get to the police. A photo of her broken demeanour appeared in the newspapers with a red shawl covering her face and shoulders. She was standing in front of the police station instead of inside it. Do you know why? Because the police wouldn’t accept a complaint from her without the presence of a male guardian. So she either had to bring her indifferent father or her abuser husband to complain about the latter. It turned out that the husband was wanted by the police for other unrelated offenses. Yet the wife was unable to get the police to help her get her daughter away from him.

Today I now understand why the young man and the police couldn’t help these women. I now see that any person who attempts to help an abused wife will get a deterring punishment similar to the one dealt out to Wajeha Al Huwaidar and Fowziya Al Oyouni. They helped a Canadian woman married to a Saudi man. The Canadian had reached out to Wajeha and Fowziya by sending them a text that she was being locked up and that she had no food. So they took some groceries over to her. When the husband found out he raised a case against them for “invading his privacy and disturbing his peace.” The judge ruled that Wajeha and Fowziya each get a ten month prison sentence and a two year travel ban under the charge of “takhbeeb.” And takhbeeb means corrupting a woman and making her hate her husband. It’s in the tradition of archaic rulings concerning slavery and those who help slaves to run away. So basically the court ruling says that a wife to her husband is not unlike a slave to its master.


Wajeha Al Huwaidar

Wajeha and Fowziya were quick to write a statement that the woman’s first language is not Arabic or English but French; a language neither one of them speaks. So how did they manage to communicate enough to get accused of “takhbeeb”? Did they use sign language? Language is also probably why the judge never bothered to actually ask the Canadian woman her side of the story. The Canadian woman posted an apology on her Facebook page to Wajeha and Fowziya and stated that she never meant to run away but that her husband had not left her any food or drinkable water.

I don’t know if takhbeeb applies to Canadian women but apparently it does to Saudi women. On this occasion, I would like to congratulate the husband on the court’s ruling to his favor. After this, nothing stands in the way of him doing whatever he wants with his wife, even if he wanted to lock her up in a bathroom and urinate on her. Or he could simply just keep starving her.

For Human Rights Watch’s statement about the case, CLICK HERE.


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20 responses to “Takhbeeb!

  1. This is very accurate. Women that come to report to a police station are told to go back home. Police do not want to deal with it, and they will employ strategies to make women go back home. But when Bedouin compose the police ranks, this kind of treatment is gonna happen. There is no delicacy and discretion in their being. So the system at its most basic level is not adept at dealing with these sensitive societal issues. It is a shame when a man feels that he must abuse his role given to him in Islam. But again, as ever in regards to this country, the challenges present by cultural behaviors that are learned and passed on by the previous generation fail to be stemmed by Islam, and neither will they be stemmed by the ideas of liberalism and pressing human rights, either. It all comes with education and proper child raising, and the father being present and not absent because he’s running around making more children. A boy that sees a loving father who is nothing but gentle and sweet with his wife, he will grow to be a dignified husband. Of that I am convinced. But I would argue that they can get their with a proper reading and interpretation of their religion.

  2. madeha alajroush

    Helpless is the word i have in mind, so much work has been done to help victims of domestic abuse and so little result. Women can not help other women, the system WILL NOT help women. Every women is left on her own to fend for oneself, how far can one go when everything is against women. No legal system, no shelter for the victims, guardians have unlimited control over women. Women in Saudi Arabia are utterly helpless, if she is empowered that is because someone in the family particularly a male guardian is supporting her empowerment. If she is on her own she is on a survival mode in every action that is taken, from transportation, to getting her legitimate right of inheritance. Nothing is easy for women let alone a Canadian women married to a Saudi man.
    My respect for Wajeha and Fowziya who have been always supporting women in every way they can. They help victims in an untraditional way but they do get their voice heard. These two women are brave.

  3. frances

    I read this blog every time it comes out. As an American, a Texas woman, age 61, I am appalled of such stories, but not surprised. I have been reading the Saudi news daily (BBC) and have come across dozens of similar stories. I also house Saudi students who have come to my city to study English. I have had 21 Saudi males and one female in my home in the last 7 years. All of the boys see absolutely no, no need for social change regarding Saudi women. Each student, even though they do not know each other, repeat the same statements…”Saudi women are gold. Saudi women are queens. Saudi women want nothing. They are the happiest women in the world…They don’t have to work, they have servants, and they have a driver. What else could they want?” I really get the impression that these young men don’t even see women as humans…They consider them a possession…a belonging…One told me yesterday that he looks forward to receiving his first wife soon, so he can hurry up and have a second, a third, and maybe even a fourth. I think Saudi women should rise up in any way possible to end this slavery. Frances in Austin, Texas

    • Abbey

      Dear Frances,
      You are a kind lady to house these Saudi Male chauvinists. Perhaps it would be better if you allowed shelter for education for Saudi Women instead, who will benefit from this program and actually try use what they have learned in spite of all kinds of obstacles thrown at them in Saudi Arabia.

  4. A couple of ideas.
    1. arm saudi women with weapons, a saturday night special works seven days a week!
    2. saudi women should marry more non-saudi men

  5. I do sympathize with these selective cases! But your problem in Saudi Arabia is bigger than just gender/sex discrimination! it’s definitely a big problem that has to be solved completely, though you don’t have a muscle in the economy so how can anyone help you?

    Most of the Arab women are sexually uneducated! or at least, Islamically uneducated.

    You need to focus on having a muscle in the Economy and Education to gain the support of your society! otherwise, you keep translating these horrendous stories of women abuse in Saudi Arabia!

    From what I understand:
    1. You have unsupportive families
    2. You can’t go out from your place without a male relative!
    3. You can’t take private or public transportation
    4. You don’t earn a living
    5. Juridical system will never side with females

    It’s extremely hard to help you!

  6. Kim Harding

    This story made me very sad and very angry – nobody should be allowed to be treated this way – especially in the 21st century – I don’t understand how judges or police officers could condone this behaviour under any circumstances. To be starved and urinated on – as if these women have no value – to be treated as “less”.
    As an Australian, these judical rulings are beyond my understanding – if women are not protected by the law, their husbands will feel free to not only mistreat them, but to dispose of (murder) them with impunity.
    Unfortunately, these women’s stories and others like them, fan the flames of racism against Muslims in Australia – I have to remind myself that even where a society supports such evil treatment of women there must still be good men who love their wives and treat them with respect and care. Surely all people in our world deserve to be treated as people, not property of no consequence or value.
    What can be done to ensure that all people, especially women and children who have no power or economic independance, are treated fairly by the police and courts, without imposing western cultural ideas onto societies that already have their own culture? I just can’t see any answers – unless the good people living in these societies stand up and say – this is not acceptable and demand change. Could this ever happen?

  7. sobre Egipto actual : DIALOGO ,DIALOGO ,tiene q hacerse oir a los moderados de ambos grupos . Es error ,e inviable ilegalizar a “hermanos
    musulmanes” son parte del pueblo q no puede ser eliminados,pensar asi
    es estar fuera de la razon. la DEMOCRACIA no se defiende de esta manera . ,,viendo la situacion imparcial no se justifica tirar contra manifestantes desarmados ,mismo q esten pidiendo la Sharia!!!. Los cambios mentales no se resuelven a punta de metralla. CALMA A TODOS
    Si no se respetan los principios democraticos ,si se violan espacios sagrados donde estaban llorando sus muertos ,el camino andado en la primavera arabe no servira de nada. .. Aclaro q defiendo la libertad de credo y el respeto por las minorias ,soy ATEA y no vengo a defender a nadie en particulr solo la humanidad, NO A LA FUERZA MILITAR por nadie

  8. Muslimah

    can i tell you something.helping weak is honorable. Asking help from where u can obtain it is wise.Woman have so much power if only they firmly establish themselves in islam.beat ur men at their game. Stop trying to find western fixes for your problems.Look at Rasool Allah sallalahu alaihi wasalam as role model. Count on Allah Subhana hu wa Tallah. Donot expect much from international regimes or human right groups. Its all part of a very lopsided system. A very hegmonic world view. Brace your identity as slave of Allah Tallah not men.

    I was helped by Allah Subhanhu wa Tallah, i was a muslim woman, i was also abused i found mercy in Rahma tul lil Alimeen. They way Allah Tallah can open doors for your is amazing ,they way he can put wrongs to right is touching. Donot follow your men, follow Allah Tallah in obeying them. The ladies of a nation our its fundamentals. The hands that ruock the cradle are the hands that rule the world.

    love and duas for all sisters in pain

  9. jackho

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