Category Archives: Eman

My favorite daydream

If you’re sick and tired of reading my posts on lifting the women driving ban, don’t go any further. I’m sick of it too. I truly believed that by now some sort of change would have happened. Around April there were all these strong rumors and alleged leaks that the ban would be lifted by September. October is almost over and nothing has happened except the fact that over the summer everybody was quiet in anticipation. Maybe that was the whole aim of all that talk and those articles earlier; so that the country could take a break from people like me nagging.

Over the break, instead of spilling my frustrations over the ban on the blog, I would daydream. Different scenarios would go through my head. Images of Saudi women rediscovering their capabilities and humanity, finally being able to move freely. And the wonderful practicalities of saving money on not having to import foreign men, put them up and pay them wages. Not having to pay for twice the gas because now you can park your car rather than have the driver go home. Not having to see a stranger’s shoulders tense up because of what music you play in your own car. No longer hearing about women forced to stay home or fired because of transportation issues. Stories about women paying most of their salaries to the driver, just so they could get to work would become part of our country’s collective memory.

Then the what ifs set in. What if they don’t lift the ban by September? What if they never lift the ban? What could I do? I could go all Ghandi, and starve myself until they do. I would document every day on the blog until finally I post something like: “no longer hungry…experiencing out of body sensations”. And still they wouldn’t lift the ban. Of course when I tell my friends this, they say “Eman besides it being silly, honey you’ve never been able to stick to a diet, not even for your wedding day. The only way you would starve is if you really couldn’t find food”. Sadly, they’re right. I can’t think of anything else though. So while I chop and sauté the perquisite onions (الكشنة) for all Saudi dishes, I ponder the questions of when it will happen, how wonderful it would be and what I could do to help it happen sooner.

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Email Trouble

These past few days I’ve had two of my Email accounts lost. The first was the one related to this blog and then a couple of hours later I lost my main account on Hotmail. I was able to get my blog account back quickly. However the Hotmail account that I’ve had  since 1999 is still inaccessible.  I’ve contacted Microsoft Live, but I can’t convince them that I’m the owner of the account. Anyhow if you’re one of the people who I’ve given this account to, please change my Email in your contact list to the same address but instead of Hotmail, it’s at Gmail.com.

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This is for the recent interest in my blog from within Saudi Arabia

المقال باالعربي the article in English

إلى كل قراء سبق والصحف الأخرى أقرأوا المقال كاملا في الصحيفة الفرنسية قبل التعليق. وأريد ايضا إضافة بعض النقاط:

أولا أنا لست ضد النقاب لمن أرادت ذلك فعلا عن علم ووعي ولكن كيف نتأكد من ذلك؟ قد أثبتت التجربة في السعودية فشل ذريع وازدواجية ونفاق ومن الأمثلة على ذلك ما يحصل في نظام التعليم حيث نلزم الطالبات بالغطاء و بطريقة معينة وكثير من المعلمات والمديرات في حياتهم الشخصية يتحجبون فقط.  فتتربى الأجيال على هذا وتتعلم أن النفاق جزء لا يتجزء من الحياة. وكم سعودية فعلا تحب غطاء الوجه؟ أصعد أي طائرة دولية من الرياض لترى بنفسك عدد النساء اللاتي يلتزمن به خارج الحدود. وهل نلومهم. أنا أدعي كل رجل يرى أن المرأة يجب أن تغطي وجهها ,وبالذات هؤلاء حليقين اللحى ومرتدين الجينز, أن يجربوا غطاء الوجه كل ما خرجوا من منازلهم. هل يستطيع هؤلاء وضع قطعة سوداء على وجههم كل صباح في الطريق الى العمل؟

وثانيا الناس الذين يدعون انني متسعودة أو ليست صاحبة نسب, أهذه تعاليم ديننا؟ أنا من النفجان من الرس من قبيلة بني تميم وأمي من التركي من بني خالد. وبالرغم من ذلك أريد أن أصرح أنني أيضا متسعودة وسنية وشيعية وخضيرية ونجدية وحجازية وجنوبية….الخ ماذا تفرق؟ كلنا مواطنين وكلنا لنا حق.

الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول من رأى منكم منكرا فليغيره بيده ، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه ، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه ، وذلك أضعف الإيمان . رواه مسلم .

إلى متى ونحن نشوه صورة الإسلام والدولة حتى أصبح التضييق على النساء وترهيب المواطنيين والمقييمين شعارنا ورمزنا في كل العالم بدل ما يكون التوحيد والأخلاق السامية؟ ويتهم المتشددون كل من حاول مساعدة المرأة السعودية بأنه عدو يتربص بها! كيف أكون عدوة نفسي وابنتي وأخواتي وطالباتي؟

وأخيرا هذا حقي كمواطنة مسلمة حرة أن أعبر عن نفسي ورأيي و لن أتنازل عنه

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Wife-tracker revisited

In my last post I wrote about how guardians receive SMS notifications if their dependants leave or enter the country. Dependents in Saudi Arabia are defined as anyone on a man’s family card, including wife and adult daughters. A few years ago only men were allowed to have individual national ID cards once they turned 16. Women had to rely on being listed by name and number only on a man’s family card. The only way to have a photo ID for a woman is to get a passport. But that didn’t matter too much because the family card was accepted everywhere including banks, hospitals and courts. No need and requirement for a photo ID resulted in a lot of men abusing the system in several ways. Cases where men have another woman pose as his wife, daughter or even sister to get access to benefits or harm female relatives were common. This has changed since it is currently an absolute requirement that every high school student, boy or girl, has to have a national ID card before graduating. Of course this was initially fought by the muttawas who even suggested having a fingerprint where the face photo should be, anything to avoid a woman’s face being shown and on record.

Despite women having their own individual ID cards with a photo, they are still listed on a man’s family card as a dependant, regardless of age or income. And that’s where the SMS notification comes into play. As a male guardian you can sign up for an E-service through your bank account to get notifications of any governmental transaction or change. Currently I know that SAMBA bank offers it, and other banks are signing on as well. This service is offered to banks not directly from the government but through a “middle-man” information security company, Al-Elm. The list of the type of information that they send is here. You’ll notice that the dependant leaving and arriving is the fourth and fifth from the bottom.

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posting from Rome

I am currently on a family vacation in Italy but I had to post what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent my husband. Apparently they have a new service where they send the male guardian a text every time a “dependent” leaves the country. They don’t state which country the dependent left for but simply state that they did leave. My husband tells me he got the same text when I left for Germany. I am an adult woman that has been earning my own income for over a decade now but according to the Saudi government, I am a dependent till the day I die because of my gender.
Otherwise, I am having loads of fun. yesterday I met one of my readers, Carmen. we had espresso near the Piazza Navona and then she showed me her beautiful shop, Via Dei Banchi Vecchi. It’s a Rome showroom for her family’s handmade ceramics factory in the south of Italy. and she was nice enough to present me with a beautiful handmade ceramic sculpture. thank you Carmen. It was fabulous meeting you!

Update

Check the next post for clarification on the wife-tracker.

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The Origins of Saudi-American Relations

My father just finished his book. It’s published by the Arab Scientific Publishers and this is what it’s about:

It’s a real labour of love. As he had spent extensive time at the Public British Records in London, The National Archives in Washington D.C. and King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives in Riyadh. He brings a unique perspective to the table, with an American PhD degree in Political Science, his Saudi military experience as a retired Major General and a son of a man who fought in the Saudi army to establish the borders of Saudi Arabia.

As you can see from the above synopsis the book’s focus is the basis of the ‘special relationship’ between Saudi Arabia and the United States. However what I found most intriguing was the secondary topics (but essential to the main); on how Saudi Arabia came to be, the dynamics between the Royal family and the muttawas and how both compromised to achieve our current situation and how the Palestinian-Israel conflict influenced the British-Saudi relations. Here are some interesting extracts to illustrate:

On German-Saudi relation:

“From the German side, the main motive behind their change of position towards Saudi Arabia in 1939 appeared to be the need to find an ally in this region. They needed to promote their diplomatic position, especially because they could not depend on Iraq in the event of war and that their minister in Baghdad had been ousted.17 The Germans hoped to use Saudi Arabia as a base for spreading their propaganda against the British position in the Middle East in the event of war. The Germans, in view of the country’s potential for development, also thought it would be advisable to establish and develop their economic ties with Saudi Arabia.18 The Ministry of Economics expressed the desire for Germany’s Minister to Baghdad to be accredited to Ibn Saud because it would then be easier to obtain precise information about the economic and commercial possibilities for Germany. The German appetite for Saudi economic potential was not new. When Amir Faisal, then Viceroy of the Hijaz, visited Germany from 20-24 May 1932, the Berlin press, in general, pleasantly reported his visit, the DEUTSCHE DIPLOMATISCHE POLITISCHE KORRESPONDENZ commented editorially, saying:

Germany greets Viceroy Faisal as the representative of a country with which it has been bound by a treaty of Friendship since 1929. The Kingdom of Ibn Saud is of great importance as regards both politics and culture. It comprises vast territories which await their development. And it can well be considered that the wish of King Ibn Saud for stronger friendly relations between the two States, in which Germany is especially interested, will undoubtedly be instrumental in advancing Germany’s commercial relations with Hijaz.19

On the Ikhwan (muttawa):

“The mid‑1930s marked the beginning of serious attempts toward the modernization in Arabia. Telephone and telegraphic communications were set up, and automobiles and other western technological innovations were imported in increasing numbers. These developments seemed to widen the gap between the Ikhwan and the King. The former resisted change by cutting communications wires and even attacking the users of foreign equipment. Such inventions, from their perspective, could only be the work of the devil. For a time the moderate King tolerated such activities, hoping to exercise persuasion over the Ikhwan in the long run.61 This proved to be a vain hope. By 1927, the Ikhwan were on the verge of open revolt. They opposed many aspects of the King’s policy. They were critical of him for sending his sons into the lands of the infidels, e.g., England and Egypt. They attacked him for employing motor vehicles, telegraphs and telephones. They criticized him for levying taxes and for following other policies they considered un‑Islamic.62

On Yemen:

“In fact, reading the Taif Treaty of 1934, one can realize why King Ibn Saud did not absorb Yemen and welcomed the mediation. In a ‘Green Book’ issued in 1934 by the Saudi government explaining the nature of the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the Yemen, Ibn Saud stated that he had never intended to occupy Yemen, that his only desire was to conclude a frontier agreement between the two countries in order to avoid problems which might be exploited by foreign powers to penetrate the region. He never thought of setting up an empire or of expanding his dominion to other Arab countries. He knew well that winning the military campaign was not sufficient for an effective expansion. Ibn Saud realized the nature of the people of Yemen, their history, their religious sects and the difficult geographic nature of their country. He knew that all those who had invaded Yemen throughout history had suffered heavily because the people of Yemen had never abandoned their beliefs in the face of a conqueror.33

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Taking a break

I have been blogging for over two years now and I’m taking a break. Unless the writing bug gets me, I won’t be updating until September. If you can’t live without your Eman fix, you can follow me on twitter. Have a wonderful summer.

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Germany from a Saudi Perspective

I was invited by the German Foreign Ministry to spend ten days in Berlin as part of a blogger tour initiative. I’ve never been to Germany before as a tourist, let alone a guest of the government. It was an educational experience in which I learned a lot about Germany and also the countries of the 14 other bloggers who were invited too. read more

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ِA clarification on the previous post

I originally posted this as a comment on the previous post “Drisciminated against by a foreigner in my own country” but I think it’s important that it be a post on its own. This is addressed to all those people who have not lived in Saudi; please refrain from making comments that only showcase your arrogant assumptions. You read things about Saudi, including things on this blog, and then overgeneralize them. Anyone who has lived in Saudi knows that muttawa do not raid classes. They raid mixed gender adult parties especially if alcohol and/or drugs are involved. They have also been known to raid homosexual parties.

Ballet class or any other type of class especially one conducted by a woman and given to little girls in a closed place, i.e. not out in the street, has never ever been raided or even closed down. Yes muttawas do not like the idea of any type of exercise for girls and women but that is ONLY at public schools and colleges.

Private schools and colleges whose student bodies are made up of at least 95% Saudi girls and women have gyms and they have never been raided. Check Kingdom schools, Al Tarbiyah al Namothijya schools, Manarat al Riyadh schools, Prince Sultan University. Heck we even have a national womens basketball team. Somes banks have gym facilities for its Saudi women staff and they have never been raided. All across Riyadh, there are gyms and all types of classes, including ballet, salsa, and pilates. And these gyms are not inside a compound. They have big signs up front and are open to anyone who wants to pay. We even have a Curves gym right off Olaya street. All of them have never been raided. There was some talk in the newspapers that some would be closed until the government organizes a special segment for their inspection and licensing, however I have not heard of any being actually closed.

So now you’re going to say why I went to this lady since there were so many others available. I did so because my daughter went to ballet a couple of years back and didn’t like it. Now she’s a little older I felt that maybe she should give it another try. And not because I want her to be a ballerina but because I thought it would help with her posture. So I was casually looking when a friend by chance recommended this lady and I called her first. Her not allowing my daughter in her class is her loss because I pay just like everyone else plus I have the sweetest little girl ever. Even if she had not said that “Saudis weren’t allowed”, I would still not automatically enroll my daughter. I called her to enquire and I was offended at the principle and not that my daughter would be missing out on anything. I’m going to shop around for a better class, probably someone who teaches in a proper ballet studio instead of moving around from one compound to the other.

Some of the places in Riyadh that cater to mostly Saudi clientele have websites that you can see for yourself, through the miracle of the internet, whatever continent you are on:

Kinetico

Spectrum for Women

Al Manahil

Curves

Luthan

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Discriminated against by a foreigner in my own country

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.

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