discussion, Gender, Politics

Top Five Fallacies about Women Driving in Saudi

Here are the common five fallacies about not allowing Saudi women driving with my respond to each one of them:

  1. Women driving will increase the traffic:
    Many saudi fear that streets and highways would be extremely crowded when women are allowed to drive and this isn’t true. In fact, allowing women to drive will decrease the traffic.
    In Saudi, Traffic occurs in the peak time especially in the early morning when employees go to work and in the beginning of the night when many Saudi go with their families to supermarket and other things. Now, if women were allowed to drive, they  would have flexible time to go to supermarket and finish home needs instead of just being confined on one specific time (like until their father or husband get back from work). This would decrease the traffic in the peak time.
  2. Women driving will increase the pollution:
    You may wonder since when Saudi began to care about environment and pollution! Ironically, Saudi began to think about being environmental only in the issue of women driving.  This country has no recycling programs, no public transportation to help decrease cars pollution, and no social awareness at all about the environment and yet when it comes to women driving, everyone is beginning to react as if the environment was the center of his attention.
  3. Flirting and sexual harassment:
    Saudi who have been outside of KSA respect fully the law of the country. I rarely heard a Saudi harassing an American woman or a Kuwait woman just because he sees her driving.   A lot of Saudi guys go to Bahrain in the weekend, some for the sake of enjoyment like watching movie, other for getting drunk and having fun with women in night clubs and yet they don’t have any problem with women driving there. So, what is the magic thing that drive Saudi crazy when they see Saudi women driving? I don’t know!
    By the way, many Saudi women get sexually harassed from Taxi drivers so allowing them to drive will really decrease this problem.
  4. Women driving will increase the rate of accidents
    I don’t understand how people sometimes make a conclusion on argument without having a sound and rational premiss like saying that “women are very emanational and not physically strong to drive therefore, allowing them to drive would lead to more accidents”. Sounds stupid, right? but honestly many people have this mentality of thinking. Now, Saudi is ranked among the top countries in car accidents and so if we follow the same mentality of thinking, we can make exactly the same conclusion and say:  Saudi men shouldn’t be allowed to drive because of their irresponsible driving skills!
  5.  Women driving is prohibited in Islam:
    It is either Saudi think they are the only one in the world who follow Islam and consider all other Islamic countries as sinners for allowing women to drive, or we have really stupid religious group who invent Fatwa as they wish and like. We are sick and tired of people telling us what is sinful and what is not, and how we should live our life or shouldn’t! If you think women driving is sinful and Haram, that is great! you can enforce your belief on your family, but not on the whole country.
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culture, discussion, Gender, Observation From Inside, Politics, reflection

Saudi Arabia With No Makeup

I watched recently the MTV episode “Resist the Power! Saudi Arabia.” The episode represents an inside story of young Saudi: Fatima who fights to change the traditional clothing of Saudi women,  Ahmed who fights for women rights, Aziz who wants to date and see his girlfriend with no fear, and finally the music’s group who want the freedom to play their music and songs in public.

My thoughts of the episode:

  • First of all, the episode is more for an entertainment than for a documentary purpose.
  • I think the young Saudi in the episode represent their individual perceptions and observations of Saudi society which is open for a discussion and debate.
  • It is impossible to make a realistic judgment about any society or religion based on small selective groups of people, or blogs or news.
  • There is no diversity in the participants of the episode. They are all from Jeddah. They are all against the tradition or the society.
  • I think there is a mixed understanding between what is religious and what is traditional in Saudi society. I think the presenters themselves weren’t sure about where to drew the line between religion and tradition.
  • I think it is very good and healthy to have people showing their opposition or agreement on social and cultural issues especially in Saudi Arabia.

My opinion on Fatima part:

  • Her story was very interesting. I thought she did a good a job in presenting her own observation of the Saudi society.
  • I don’t think she represent a large number of Saudi women. She is from rich family. She has her own driver which many Saudi women don’t. She can uncover her face outside while many saudi women get  in trouble for uncovering part of their face in many cities of Saudi.
  • I really like her colorful abaya’s business. I really wish that these beautiful colorful Abaya will replace the black ones in KSA.

My opinion on Ahmed role:

  • I really like his part the most. He was very confidence in speaking about his thoughts and ideas. He stated clearly his vision of change in Saudi society.
  • I think his story possibly represent a specific group of young Saudi who are well-educated and concerned about women rights along with the civil issues of Saudi society.
  • I think he did a good job overall.

My opinion on Aziz role:

  • I thought he was so funny.
  • His story is very common among Saudi teenagers, talking and having fun with girls in the chat rooms or in the messengers then, falling in love and then arrange for a meeting and then one of them may not show up, or maybe both of them show up but they end up getting in trouble or maybe they decide to get married but then their family will oppose the whole thing! You know, happy ending are rarely predicted on this type of stories 🙂

My opinion on the devil music group*:

  • I think the guys were confusing. I have never heard or saw music group similar to theirs in Saudi Arabia before. It was very interesting for me to watch and listen to their stories.
  • Their music and their clothes are unaccepted by the majority of Saudi society.

How do Saudi viewers react to the episode:

Many Saudi (men and women) felt upset and offended by this episode for many reasons. Some think that the episode focuses only on the negative sides of Saudi society and ignore all the positive sides.  Many Saudi don’t like to see any criticism on their culture exposed to the outsiders. Part of that comes from the old belief that the west are conspiring against Saudi culture or that some religions will try to destroy Islam by presenting a bad picture of muslim society.

Other Saudi think that it is perfectly fine to let people share their individual understanding and observation to the world even if it disagree with our observation. In the time of internet, the world has become a very small village and things can’t be hidden anymore.

I personally think that it is better that we become open and honest about our problems. The mask strategy is no longer practical and Saudi should appear to the world with no makeup. We aren’t the best country in the world and certainly not the worst. There are many Saudi who view life and society differently. I think everyone of them should have the right to speak up his/her mind. We may agree or disagree with what they say and think, we may think that they are completely right or wrong but none of us can deny their right to share their own observation about the world around them.

* Clarification: I am not referring to the music group as the devil. I am referring to how the music group is called and perceived in Saudi society. In the episode  summary, they made the same reference as to explain why Saudi society oppose such type of music. Thanks for Hammad for asking me to clarify this point.

blogging, culture, Gender, personal

Saudi Women and The World

“(Saudi) Young women bloggers are fabulous” said Kirsten Powers in talking about her trip to Saudi Arabia. I have to say that I am so proud of Saudi women who blog, who speak up, who expose their identity, who show their disagreement or agreement about global, political and social issues, who show their feminism, their faiths, their thoughts and creativities so openly. I am so proud of Saudi women who hold a camera and take  photographic pictures and share it with the world in Flickr. I am so proud of Saudi women who hold a pen and write about philosophy, literature, psychology in the newspaper. I am so proud of Saudi women who tweet in Twitter about the lovely voice of their mothers, the romance of their husbands, the funny stories of their children and about everything concern their lives.

And that is why I believe that Saudi women aren’t in anyway less intelligent, creative, caring, beautiful than the rest of world’s women. I wrote this post as a respond to one of my American friend’s question  about why do so many Saudi guys, whom she met here in US, find American women are more attractive, beautiful and intelligence than Saudi women. Well, the answer is that I can’t speak on their behalf, I think they have the right to speak about their personal opinions and preferences. But I also would like to speak about my personal opinion, I find Saudi women are very attractive, beautiful, intelligent, intellectual and creative. and that is why I think I am going to marry a Saudi woman.

By the way, just so that you don’t confuse my personal opinion with my stand on foreign marriage. I strongly believe that Saudi men should have the freedom to  marry whoever they like from wherever they like, but I also believe that Saudi women should have that freedom too. There are so many handsome, romantic and intelligent  foreigners out there who want to marry Saudi women. So, let’s be fair on that.

culture, Gender, personal

The Story of Buraidah Girl

I have been asked by one of my friends to comment on the marriage of 12 years old girl to 80 years old man in  Buraidah of Saudi Arabia.

The truth is that I can’t write about this story. I really can’t. The reason is that that the process of writing to me is the process of imagining. It is the process of feeling each word I write. and when I imagine this story, when I imagine this little girl standing alone in one room with this monster, I feel paranoid, angry and tortured.  Then, I feel a sense of insecurity, embarrassment, shame and self destruction.

culture, discussion, Gender, psychology

Another Victim of Sexual Harassment

The following post is from masstz_blog. She works as a lab specialist in one of the hospitals in Saudi Arabia. The post was written in Arabic and I translated it to English so I can share it with my readers here. The translation isn’t literal so I asked for her permission first in order to translate the general idea of her post. She kindly accepted.

“It was shocking and painful to know that yesterday one of my friends was harassed by one of her coworkers. The harassment was shocking and painful to an extent that I can’t even describe. It was honestly painful for me to hear every detail of the story. It first started with silence then with fear and shock.

It hurt me that she didn’t speak out and talk about it to anyone. She fears that talking about it would make it worse and that people would gossip about it and that would hurt her more. She fears that people would have no mercy upon her story and would blame her first for the incident.

As for people, they always have different reactions and point of views in regard such an incident. There will be those who would start blaming a woman’s decency while others would blame the mixing of genders in the workplace. In both situations, the women will be blamed for what happened to her without hearing every detail of her story. It is sad to realize that there are still sick people with stupid mentalities regardless of the educational advancement and the modern life that we have.

Her story, in every aspect of it, is painful and heartbreaking. I cried with her when she started crying. I felt her fears deeply that nobody can imagine. I personally lost my trust in people around me and for a moment, I became scared of everyone.

I wish I had another heart, one for all of that and for all other things. A heart that can carry all the pain and another one just for living

  • My Comment:

It is indeed a sad story and to really understand what the woman has gone through, you need to imagine yourself in her situation. What if someone harassed you in your workplace and you can’t talk about it or even if you talk about it, you will have all this fear of being blamed and misunderstood?

Sexual harassment happens in Saudi Arabia just like it happens in The US, so I would not go to blame wholly one specific country or society. In fact, I realized that blaming that and this won’t help solve the problem. I mean, I can write 10 posts about the things I hate about the Saudi society and yet nothing will change. So, in this post, I want to present an analysis and solutions and yes, I am going to write it about it in Arabic so my message reaches as many Saudi as it possibly can.

There are many questions that we need to answer in order to offer a solution for the problem. First, what led that man to harass the woman? Is it because of his sex drive and lust or because of something else? Secondly, why would the society blame the woman first? Does segregation help prevent the problem as many religious people claim? These questions along with many others that I want to address here in my blog. Please share your thoughts, questions and answers!

Thanks to Asmaa for correcting my grammatical mistakes 🙂

culture, discussion, friends, Gender, panaroma, personal, quotes

July 09 Panorama

  • ” When you have a sister, you have someone who cares about you, thinks of you, and never forgets you” said Dhiya  AlSuliman when we had a conversation about the advantage of having a sister
  • “The movie contained pornography content, you were closing you eyes and you missed all enjoyment and the pleasure” two guys from UAE talking to each other in the lobby about the recent movie they watch.
  • “I believe it is fair to say that in America most Americans have grown up hearing their mom’s and dad’s say “Clean up your plate.  There are children starving in the world with no food at all.” from American Bedu blog in her post Dining:Saudi Way vs The American way
  • “In comparison with capitalism, which reconstituted man as an economic animal; in comparison with Marxism, which found man an object made up of organized matter; in comparison with dialectical materialism, which saw him as unwitting plaything of the deterministic evolution of the means of production, Existentialism made man a god” Dr. Ali Shariati from his book Marxism and other western fallacies
  • ” I don’t want anything more than to be able to walk in the streets and shops without finding someone gazing at me or giving me a comment or flirting me” from najla blog in her post امنية
  • “… joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come and when one sits alone with you . . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” one of my best quotes of Kahlil Gibran
  • “It’s creepy but I live with the knowledge that my cousins were the victims of a selfish society.” said Coralbead in her blog‘s post
  • “I have learned from poor people that even if you don’t have enough money to buy the breads, you can still enjoy the smells of it” me talking to one of my friend
  • “They say one shouldn’t get upset over something that they never had. What a falsehood! For the deepest sorrow and pain comes from something that could have been but never was” Said my friend Terra Bliss
  • “The girl has died because we are a cowardly society, because we are afraid of pointing out the causes of the problems, because we are afraid of asking someone to fix it, because we don’t fight for out basic rights” Fouad Alfarhan’s comment on the death of a saudi girl in Jeddah’s beach because of  irresponsibility of governmental agency.
  • “I felt proud to be a Saudi woman in US, but as soon as I arrived to Saudi, I suddenly started to only portray myself as the American woman married to a Saudi. That way, I can get away with so much more” comment by Tasneem on my post Saudi Women in US.
blogging, culture, discussion, friends, Gender, panaroma, personal

Saudi Women in US

Throughout my life here in Portland, I have met many Saudi girls who are incredibly genius, creative and talented. In every discussion I have with each one of them, I always feel sorry for my society for never recognizing this treasure, for never giving enough space for women to show their ideas and thoughts.

Saudi Arabia was always represented by men and never by women and I can say this: If we change just a little bit in this formulae, in this representation, and make it more balanced to give more space for women to represent this country, I can assure you that the we would a have a different society, more modern and civilized one.

When I listen to Saudi women when they talk, When I see their dreams as they walk around university buildings, When I see their ideas as it reflects freely in the reality without restriction , I realized that it is true that you just need one woman in order to change the direction of a whole society.

I remember one time I decided to give a workshop about ( exchanging ideas, blogging & open discussion) and I knew from past experience that Saudi guys will never show up because they never care! I went the class and I found most of the attendance are mostly Saudi women (and only two Saudi guys came to the workshop)

In general I can summary my observation and my interaction with Saudi women in following:

  • Saudi women in US don’t have that much interaction with American men but they do have a great interaction with a whole society.
  • I feel that Saudi women are better off when they aren’t that much socialized with each other because first, each one of them get to have a unique experience, and second, getting socialized with each other sometimes creates tension and sensitivity among them. That is true for Saudi guys too.
  • Saudi women are doing better job in the university than Saudi guys. They have a higher grade than Saudi guys most importantly, they never cheated or plagiarized while many saudi guys do.
  • Most of Saudi women feel that Saudi guys here in US are chaotic and gives a bad representation of Saudi Culture.(I agree with them in that)

At the end of my post, I would like to thank Saudi women whom I have met, worked or studied with: They are

  • Aysha Alkusayer, She is philosopher and psychologist, Intellectual and knowledgeable in any area. I met her when she gave a presentation in one of Saudi event at PSU. She encouraged me  a lot to start blogging. In fact, the name SaudiAlchemist was picked from her blog post.
  • Hanan AlSaif: I always seeks her advise whenever I have any new idea or project. She has a great perspective in every fields. She looks at things differently and I think that is the secret of her creativity.
  • Fatima Alkhars: I have worked with her in PSU Volunteer group. She astonished me by her organized and hard work in the club. She has done a lot volunteer work ( cooking for homeless communities, cleaning school garden, writing letter for ill children, etc) Everyone in the school is proud and amused of her work.
  • Fatima Al-Mousa: She has done several great events in our university. She is creative and makes something from nothing. From the first time you meet her, you can tell that she will have a great future a head of her.
  • Alia Kabbani: She works in a way that would surprise everyone. She transform her dreams into her reality in artistic way. She learn from everything and everyone and she leaves her footstep behind every journey.
  • Fatima Albar:  She is pursing her master in double major (engineering and something else) She is such aspiration person to many of us.
  • Kholud Alsaif: She inherited her dad’s dreams as well as his amazing thinking.
  • Soha Alsharifa: I refer to her as a woman who is stronger than 10 men. She came to US to study journalism. She is kind, brave and funny in the same time.
  • Leena Neyaz: She has done a lot for the Saudi Club and I always see her as an example of women who never gives up. She recently moved to Florida to complete her master degree.
  • Byan Daker: She works part time job at PSU international office and whenever I come by, I always feel proud of her because she represent a great image of Saudi women in her workplace.