Category Archives: Women campaigns

“My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me”

In August a campaign was launched titled “My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me”. The aim of the campaign is to stand against women who are demanding to be treated as adults. Yes you read it right, a campaign that demands that the status qou remains as is. The campaign is headed by two  princesses and has two rivaling websites. And since it has gotten a lot of attention and some rumors that the two princesses were fighting over whose idea it was, the “Who are we” page has been taken down on one of them. The goal of the campaign is to gather one million signatures from Saudi women who support it. On the bottom of the main page of the weaker website is a button that says click to vote and when you click it, it automatically counts as a vote of support! The other website’s button actually asks for specifics like name and city. The stronger website is here and the weaker one here.

Below I’ve translated Dr. Elham Manea’s piece on the how and why of this campaign: 

I swear I almost smiled, but how could I smile?
Then I said to myself, that people are people, in their wisdom or weakness, here or there, no difference.
So I contemplated rather than smile.

Some Saudi women have decided to express themselves.
They wanted to take a stand against human rights activists calling for Saudi Arabia to give women some (not all) of the rights that are enjoyed by their Arab counterparts in neighboring countries. So they came out with a new campaign titled “My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me”.  
Do we blame them? All they wanted was to fix a problem they know nothing of, and thus made it worse.  It would be strange to expect anything else from them. You cannot miss what you’ve never had.

Most of them belong to the Saudi aristocrats. Their leader is a princess. Their hands are velvet. They live in palaces and villas. How could we blame them for not knowing the reality of average Saudi women?

These campaigner are only worried about Saudi women. They are protecting women from themselves.They are protecting us from activists, activists who have lived the reality of being a Saudi woman in the East, West, North and South of Saudi Arabia. They know how we suffer, and how we are subjected to humiliation on a daily basis. Luckily, these activists are not princesses.

These activists believe we should be treated as adults and humans and not as children and minors, and not as digraces to be covered. Activists who are tired of this reality of suffering and daily humiliation and so they call for the guardian system to be absolved.

These campaigners who stand againsts activists see nothing strange in the fact that we are the only Muslim country that bans women driving. Isn’t it funny that Saudi Arabia is unique in this odd religious aspect? But it has always been so. They don’t wonder as to how a woman’s freedom in our country has been choked and strangled a thousand times over,so that the poor soul cannot make a move without a male’s permission, a male who’s only distinction is his genitals. To the degree that we see nothing weird about a twenty year old being reprimanded by her ten year old brother.

My guardian knows what’s best for me, seriously?!

They do not see anything strange in that the women of their country cannot make the smallest move without their guardian’s permission. They have no right to leave their houses, to study, to go to a clinic…without their guardian’s permission. And the guardian is a woman’s father, brother or any related male until she marries. And then her guardian becomes her husband until either one of them dies. Her guardian may marry her off at ten, hit her, abuse her or may be kind to her, it’s all up to luck. Her life like a watermelon, it might open up to be red and sweet or bitter and rotten.

These campaigners live like princesses and the restrictions that stifle average women daily, do not apply to them. Have they ever faced a PVPV  commission member who stole their very breath. If a PVPV commission member even set his eyes on them, he would shake from fear, because the only power that the PVPV recognize is the power of your guardian. These men know nothing of religion.

My guardian knows what’s best for me, seriously?!

They never wonder and they never question. Instead in a naiveness that is to be envied, naiveness reminiscent of Marie Antoinette, they are bothered by the demands of the women who have suffered. And so they send to the king, asking him that this system of injustice be maintained.

They say “Who said we need to be human?”
“We do not want rights that contradict our customs!”

“Stop their demands!”

“Cut their tongues!”

“Silence their voices!”

“Leave us as we are!”

“An object in a degree closer to the animal! (With all due respect to animals)”

And surprisingly, I am not surprised. Not surprised by the campaign.
And you know why?
Because the history of  movements demanding women’s rights throughout the world, was full of similar campaigns to this “My guardian knows what’s best for me”. For every woman who demanded her rights, stood more women who cursed her, in the name of tradition, in the name of customs, in the name of religion (whatever that religion may be), and shamed her for seeking change.
This campaign is not strange.
It is similar to another campaign carried out by women in Switzerland in the twenties and then again in the fifties and sixties against women’s right to vote. They too used religion, customs and traditions as an excuse to stop development.

Even in this, they are not unique.
People, as I said before are people,in their wisdom, and strength and in their weakness and simplicity.
Here or there. No difference.

But my guardian does not know what’s best for me.
I am worthy of making my own decisions.
And only I know what’s best for me, even as I bow my head in respect to my father.  

Those campaigners insist on staying minors.
That is their decision. But who said that they speak on behalf of Saudi women?

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Filed under Child marriages, Culture, Gender Apartheid, Women campaigns

My July article at Relativity Online

In the past decade, the Saudi government has been consistent in its approach to women’s participation in society and their availability of lifestyle choices. Conflict avoidance and postponement has been the answer to each and every request for more women rights. The Islamic perspective plays no role in these decisions and their more crucial implementation. In an Islamic state that prides itself on being the only country that truly rules according to Islamic Shariah, the lives of half of its citizens are exclusively run according to cultural and tribal traditions . . . and little else…to read more click here.

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Filed under Gender Apartheid, unemployment, Women campaigns, Women driving

Prominent Saudis: Ms. Wajeha Al Huwaider

wajehaMs. Huwaider started off as an employee at Aramco with an occasional piece published mostly in Al Watan newspaper. She’s a divorcee and mother who had accompanied her then husband for studies in the USA and I believe that life there had had a huge influence on her.  Her presence as an activist snuck up on the Saudi government and the religious establishment until they finally resorted to banning her from all forms of Saudi media in 2003. On August fourth 2006 she took things into her own hands and single-handedly staged a protest by walking on foot with a poster demanding Saudi women rights on the King Fahad bridge between Bahrain and Riyadh. She was stopped and detained for questioning by the Saudi government for six hours. That same year she tried to get a group of Saudi women to organize a protest in the Eastern region where they would all drive cars. Unfortunately they backed out at the last minute. In 2007 she and three other women started a petition for women driving and they even went to the malls and the streets to get signatures. Three weeks into the petition they were able to gather 1100 that they then DHLed to the King’s office in Jeddah. However, what she is most famous for is the video last year in which she drove a car in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia and at the same time addressed the King in a plea to legalize women driving. Many Saudis criticize her because they believe she is out to air Saudi Arabia’s dirty laundry in front of the world. I think that these people are not aware that she has extensively written about these rights in Saudi media and in Arabic and that she is currently banned from doing so. Her Arabic writing is emotive and seems almost like poetry. She definitely has a talent for it. But that sort of writing in Arabic when writing about anything outside of religion rubs our conservatives the wrong way. They can’t even take logic and science if it disagrees with them.

When I asked a group of my mother’s generation about her, they called her subversive, disobedient, and disloyal to her religion, family and country. They also felt bad for Huwaider’s parents. And a group of women of my generation didn’t know who she is and after telling them, they shrugged their shoulders. I guess they are more aware of whatever they are currently showing on MBC 4. I also asked my husband what he thought of her and he just frowned. I think he’s worried that there might be an inner Wajeha lurking inside of me, squirming to get out. Most likely she won’t be appreciated and celebrated until my daughter’s generation and only as long as a Taliban-like government doesn’t take over and execute her or throw acid in her face.  She told Turki Al Dakheel in a 2007 TV interview that she gets lots of hate mail with prayers that she contracts a deadly disease or at least gets her hand cut off. She also said that websites hosting her writing have been hacked several times.

Huwaider is a woman to be respected for her sacrifices. She had a stable life as an educated married mother and she sacrificed it for the women of her country. If you are interested here’s a link to a BBC radio interview she did in February.

What Huwaider is calling for in women and labour workers’ rights will never take root in Saudi Arabia unless a mass of the population calls for it. Why would the government rock the boat when the heard majority is happy with things as they are?

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Filed under Freedom of speech, Prominent Saudis, Women campaigns

Prominent Saudis: Princess Nora bint AbdulRahman Al Saud

saud-al-kabeer

Princess Nora is the founder of Saudi Arabia’s sister. She was a year older than him, born in 1875. The photo above is of King Abdulazziz on the right and Prince Saud Al Kabeer (P. Nora’s husband) on the left.

She had great influence on King AbdulAzziz and historians write that she really urged him to leave Kuwait and try to get control of Riyadh. Afterwards she became one of his main advisors and he was famously known to say on several occasions “I’m Nora’s brother”. King Abdulazziz also gave his sister a role in raising his sons; whenever anyone of them did anything wrong as a child he would send them to their aunt for discipline. Dame Violet Dickson on meeting Princess Nora stated that she was one of the most important personalities of the Arabian Gulf and commented on how charismatic she was. John Philby was also impressed by the princess and commented that she was the first lady of her country.

She was known to be quite progressive and outspoken. When the telephone first came into the country many Islamic purists thought it was a tool of the devil but she supported its installation and told the people that it was an amazing device that they will not be able to live without. She was also a poet and had written several poems, the most famous of which is the one she wrote when her husband left her behind for travel. Princess Nora passed away in 1950.

A few weeks ago King Abdullah honored his aunt’s memory by naming the first university in Saudi Arabia for women only Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University for Women.

This is another photo but it isn’t of Princess Nora but I still imagine it isn’t far off from what she would have dressed like. This is of Fatima Al Zamil who ruled Hail (a province north west of Riyadh) from 1911 to 1914. The photo was taken by Gertrude Bell.  

hail-woman1

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Filed under Education, Gender Apartheid, Informative, Prominent Saudis, Women campaigns

King Abdullah is My Hero

 

This photo rescued the day for me. This morning while waiting at a stop light in the back of my car, I happened to notice that the car in front of mine had a sticker on its bumper that was a ban sign going across a woman driving. It just got to me. Isn’t it enough that we are not allowed to drive but to have someone rub our noses in it with this sort of thing! What difference does it make to that ignorant fool with a sticker if the driver in the car next to him has a female or male anatomy? And to people who say it’s a matter of freedom of speech, I say grow up. Freedom of speech has limits when it infringes on the rights of others. Would it be OK if he had an anti Muslim driving sticker? Or an anti-Arab driving sticker? Gender is on the same level as religion and race when it comes to discrimination.  Anyway this photo made things better. It was taken at a big ceremony last week to mark the official opening of the Princess Nora University for Women. I don’t know who the women are but they are probably university staff. Unfortunately this was not the picture that was published in the newspapers. This was the official photo:

Nevertheless, to have the King stand in the midst of these ladies and take a photo without worrying about the muttawas is a step forward. And then to have this photo openly available online is also another step forward. So one step back (the sticker) and two steps forward still counts as progress.

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Filed under Gender Apartheid, Saudi heroes, Sept 23rd, Women campaigns