May Panorama 2011

  • “What do women want?” The only thing I have learned in fifty-two years is that women want men to stop asking dumb questions like that. An interesting quote by Sigmund Freud 
  • May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be “Peace Day,” and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things — an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: “Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed adjustments — including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.” Said Thomas L. Friedman in his NYT article Lessons From Tahrir Sq.
  • We must promote a culture of critical thinking in our society so people depend on themselves in thinking instead of letting Others do the thinking for them! Said Mansour in one of his tweets.
  • In a situation like ours, this isn’t enough, you either become a participant in (driving) and face the same consequences, or better not to urge (the saudi women) to expose themselves to danger. Maram Meccawy in a discussion with Aysha Alksayer in twitter.
  • “Remembering our past, carrying it around with us always, may be the necessary requirement for maintaining, as they say, the wholeness of the self. To ensure that the self doesn’t shrink, to see that it holds on to its volume, memories have to be watered like potted flowers, and the watering calls for regular contact with the witnesses of the past, that is to say, with friends. They are our mirror; our memory; we ask nothing of them but that they polish the mirror from time to time so we can look at ourselves in it.” Reading from Identity novel by Milan Kundera
  • You know! psychological torture is much more painful than physical torture. This is basically what her family has done to her. They tried to isolate her and not talk to her and all because  she has been in love relationship with a stranger like me. One of my friend is talking about his love experience in Saudi
  • Your defense against any false accusation directed at you, is just another way of confirming it. So When you have been accused falsely, just simply let the accusation die with whoever make it. Telling one of my friend in a conversation about people making a false accession on each other.
  • In the state of siege, time becomes space
    transfixed in its eternity
    In the state of siege, space becomes time
    that has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow.
    Part of (Under the Siege) poem for Palestine by Mahmoud Darwish
  • The greatest degree of arrogance and hypocrisy is the exaggeration in modesty. Interesting tweet by Sultan AlAmer
  • campaign deleted from FB, public confessions& apologies made in her name, &last night her Twitter account disappeared, today she’s released. Said Eman AlNafjan in twitter moments after the release of Manal. 
  • When I demur, he eagerly shows me a frilly lace concoction in yellow and tells me that it matches a bra that is also on sale. Quickly he jets a look at my figure, enveloped in a voluminous black abaya and ventures a guess. “D cup?” He asks, and without waiting for an answer, trots over to a rack where bras and matching panties line the wall in a rainbow array of lace, satin and cleavage-enhancing padding. The push-up bras are especially popular, he informs me. And the matching panties are three for the price of two. Said  in her TIME article In Saudi Arabia, Lingerie Reveals All
  • We (Saudi) suffer from many psychological disorders, and the greatest of all, is that we never think. Ever since we were born, we were literally taught what to think about, how to accuse, how to enter heaven, how to enter hell, and even how to pee. Writing a post in my Arabic blog in regard the issue of women driving.

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.

The Inevitable Change in Saudi

Tomorrow is Friday and unlike all other days, the Saudi government is having a hard time sleeping tonight. Will people really protest tomorrow despite all the warning and fatwa of banning it? and will Saudi government uses the voilience against the protesters? We will know after 12 hours from now. So stay tuned!

We are in a time when military weapon are useless. If you shoot a gun fire on  a person, you get shot by hundreds of tweets that are capable of destroying your existence. Everyone knows that Saudi Arabis is ranked among the top spenders on defense military. According to IISS, Saudi government spends more than 10% of its GDP on defense, an amount that is considered to be double the proportion spent by USA. Saudi has never been in war, and doesn’t receive any big threats from our close neighbors, so why all this huge spending? We don’t know!

I have heard that in psychology, if desperation gets higher than fear, then people will do anything, steal! kill! and even protest! “When there is nothing to lose, you have everything” and Saudi young men and women aren’t just frustrated, they are miserably despair. Everyone I have talked with here is complaining. They complain about the bad infrastructure of the cities and the roads, the absent of civil society and freedom, the bad education system, women rights and finally the corruption.

Now every rational person who has  taken a basic math in his elementary school will know that Saudi Arabia considering its rich oil resources can be the top country in education, cities’ infrastructure, tourism, and almost everything else. We can build huge industrial cities like Dubai and New York, build metros and trains and create million of jobs by attracting Saudi investors to invest in their country instead of taking their investment abroad.

Change is inevitable whether now or five years from now and I hope that my government would hear from its people before it is too late! There is no guarantee in the future. The past events in Middle East have already proven that.

Revolution 101

In 1991 when a massive number of Kurdish and Iraqi people started to rebel and uprise against the dictatorship of Sadam Hussain, the government responded with a military force and chemical weapons. Thousands of people and children were killed in all parts of the country. No body knew what really happened at that time. There wasn’t a youtube or an access to the internet in the Middle East.

Now things have changed, everyone has a camera, a facebook account and mayabe a youtube channel. Every thing is recorded, every gunfire, or abuse of power or a government’s corruption can be simply recorded and exposed to the whole world in less than three seconds. In 2011, people realize that having a facebook account can be more powerful than air force F16.

Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan dictators tried to use military force to kill and silent the protester. The consequence was that every time they kill one protester,  the uprising gets bigger and bigger.  Arab dictators and presidents saw in front of their eyes, the ending cycle of corruption and dictatorships. If they ever thought that they are the god of their people, now it is a time that they wake up. The pictures of their faces in every newspaper’s cover and the compliments  of their vague work in the local TV are just an illusion and they need to wake up to realize the new reality.

So in this course: Revolution 101, I would like to show you how, when and whey revolution happens :).


  • A group of oppressed people join together in online in Facebook page to protest.  They decides to go out and protest in specific day. For egyptian people, it was the 25th of January, for Bahraini people, it was 14th of February. For libyan it was between 15th-16th of February.

 


  • People begins a peaceful protest in some parts of the country. The next day, more people join as they breaks the fear barriers.

 

 

  • The governments react to the protester by using a tear gas and a military force, but that is no longer an effective strategy. It just fuels the fire more and more.

 

 

  • Then, the detectors realize that they are powerless despite of all the military forces and power they have. So they appear on TV giving promises to their people of more freedom and more respect. But unfortunately it is too late, the people responds: where were you in the past 30 years?

 

 

  • Now the dictators get very disappointed and scared, so they play a dirty game to protect their places. They pay people to act and support their regime. But that is too a stupid idea.

  • At the end, people with strong determination and courage will always win. Victor Hugo has once said that when dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right. My prayer now for libyan people. I hope they over-through Gaddafi. Let’s hope for new light of democracy and freedom in the middle east. Let’s freedom ring in every Arab country.

Here is a picture of my nephew, Mohammed, celebrating with egyptians people their victory and their freedom. When he grows up, he surly will understand the meaning of this historical day.

A Lesson From Tunisia

Tunisian revolution has left everyone stunned and surprised. No one in the world has ever thought that a dictatorship like Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled the country by force and torture for decades, would ran like a cat  begging a country after another for a political asylum. Most of the Arab countries, including his old allies like Egypt and Libya refused to provide him the political asylum, not that they don’t like him but because the fear of public reaction. Now as many of you know, Saudi Arabia is always different than any other country. They welcomed him in the country and he is now in Jeddah. Saudi people are very upset of that, and what do Saudi do when they get upset? They tweet a lot in twitter, change their facebook’s pictures and talk all day about it with their friends, until they go to bed at night.

I am very happy that Tunisian people got their freedom without any foreign intervention. I am also happy that they gave a lesson to Arab’s dictatorships around the Middle East . It is that you may control people by oppression and torture for ten years, twenty years, but not forever. People will wake up one day, and get their freedom back. Iran, Iraq and Tunisia have proven that.

The picture above from CBC News

Book Review: The Kite Runner

For some people, novels are just stories with sad or happy ending. For me, novels are an exploration of people I have never met before, places I have never visited, thoughts I have never thought about. When I read a novel, I live the story as if it is happening in front of my eyes. I let myself express its emotion and its thoughts freely. I smell the words and I walk into the imaginary places.

Sometimes, I find it difficult to create a distance between my reality and my imagination, especially after I finish reading the novel.  Kite Runner is one of the novel that tremendously impacted me. It is one of the best novel I read in 2010. It is a story of two young boys, Amir and Hassan in the district of Kabul before Taliban and after Taliban took over.  The story gets really sad in the last four chapters and it shows you the misery of other people, and the complexity of their lives. I highlighted the parts of the novel that got my attention and they are:

  • “When you kill a man, you steal a life” Baba said. “You steal his wife’s right to be husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?
  • Never mind any of those things. Because history isn’t easy to overcome. Neither is religion.In the end, I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi’a and nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing.
  • Better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.
  • Tell him he’s wrong. War doesn’t negate decency. It demands it, even more than in times of peace.
  • The only thing that flowed more than tea in those aisles was Afghan gossip. The flea market was where you sipped green tea with almond Kolchas, and learned whose daughter had broken off an engagement and run off with her American boyfriend, who used to be Parchami, a communist, in Kabul, and who had bought a house with under the table money while still on welfare.
  • Tea, Politics, and Scandal, the ingredients of an Afghan Sunday at the flea market.
  • For me, America was a place to bury my memories. For Babe, a place to mourn his.
  • I was fully aware of the Afghan double standard that favored my gender. Not did you see him chatting with her? but Woooy! Did you see how she wouldn’t let him go? What a lochak!
  • I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it is wrong what they say about the past, I have learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.
  • Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.
  • If America taught me anything, it’s that quitting is right up there with pissing in the Girl Scouts’ lemonade jar.
  • One time, when I was really little, I climbed a tree and ate these green, sour apples. My stomach swelled and became hard like a drum, it hurt a lot. Mother said that if I’d just waited for the apples to ripen, I wouldn’t have become sick. So now, whenever I really want something, I try to remember what she said about the apples.
  • With me as the glaring exception, my father molded the world around him to his liking. The problem, of course, was that Baba saw the world in black and white. And he got to decide what was black and what was white. You can’t love a person who lives that way without fearing him too. Maybe even hating him a little.
  • Later that night, the sun less than an hour from rising and the guests finally gone, Soraya and I lay together for the first time. All my life, I’d been around men. That night, I discovered the tenderness of a woman.
  • Their sons go out to nightclubs looking for meat and get their girl friends pregnant, they have kids out of wedlock and no one says a god damn thing. Oh, they’re just men having fun! I make one mistake and suddenly everyone is talking nang and namoos, and I have to have my face rubbed in it for the rest of my life. Said Soraya
  • She lived to see him turn four, and then, one morning, she just did not wake up. She looked calm, at peace, like she did not mind dying now. We buried her in the cemetery on the hill, the one by the pomegranate tree, and I said a prayer for her too. The loss was hard on Hassan, it always hurts more to have and lose than to not have in the first place.
  • After all, life is not a Hindi movie. Zendagi migzara, Afghans like to say: Life goes on, unmindful of beginning, end,, crisis or catharsis, moving forward like a slow, dusty caravan of Kochis.

November Panorama

  • “He was buried there or maybe under my feet…or somewhere else! suddenly, I thought, why all the reading on my brother’s tomb, he hadn’t sinned. He just lived for his sickness and then my father killed him. I remembered the words of the Imam who buried him, “your brother is now with angels”, he said. My brother became an angel, and I will become the devil, that is most certain. children become angels when they die young, and adults become devils. I have missed being angel! Part of Mohamed Chouckri’s autobiography, For Bread Alone.
  • “What! I spend half of my day working under the heat of the sun to pay for gas, water and other home expenses, while my wife enjoys her time watching TV under the air condition. In addition, the total of my expenses are no more than 500 S.R while my wife’s make up for the wedding of her sister costs me more than 700 S.R.” one of my Saudi friend commenting on how women are living a better life than men in Saudi.
  • “Saudi women are very respective, kind and wonderful compare to men here. They always treat me with respect and kindness.” Said an indian taxi driver when I asked him to compare between saudi men and women in term of how they treat him as a taxi driver.
  • “Did delivery guy just say “love u, bye” on the phone after I said “thank u, bye”?”  Diana’s tweet about the funny incident that happened to her.
  • “It is always unclear to me how the society function here, if you talk about the problem here, they say “you are westernized”, if you don’t, oh, they say: “why didn’t you make an effort to solve it” God damn it, how could someone solve a problem without talking about? tell me how?” a Saudi friend talking about his frustration of Saudi society.
  • “And with the passing years, what had once seemed like a miracle or the luckiest of chances and which he had always promised himself he would never become enslaved by, has gradually become his sole reason to go on living.” A quote from Paulo Coelho’s last novel, the Winner Stands Alone.
  • “I really think that everyone who drives a car here in Saudi, should go and see a psychologist at least once a month!” I, telling my friend about the horrible driving experience I have here in Saudi.
  • “Getting married is very much like going to a restaurant with friends. You order what you want then, When you see what the other person has, You wish you had ordered that.” A very funny status that I read on Abdulaziz Alyabes‘s facebook.
  • “Depression is not sadness, it is an absence of feeling. My world feels flat, like a grassy field in Illinois” Said Fatima in her Blog Mushroom Mellow
  • “The increased conservatism of our society over these past years has only moved social interaction to the inside of people’s homes.” reading part of WikiLeaks document on Saudi from CNN.
  • “No, no, no comparison! Pakistani women are more beautiful than Saudi women. Here, Saudi women are like decoration, too much make up!” said Pakistani’s taxi driver after I asked him whether saudi women are more beautiful than Pakistani women.
  • “As a 26-year-old woman living in Manhattan, I have zero tolerance for couples who exhibit very private affections in very public places. Although I try to look elsewhere, these amorous displays are hard to avoid. Everywhere I go, people are fondling each other as if the entire city were a cheap motel room” Said NYT editors Nicole Ferraro in her article Complaint Box, Public Smooching
  • “I don’t want this indepencey, not even the responsibility that I dream of. I want to come back to my father and mother.” Said a female Saudi student in USA, Najla Barasain in her Blog’s post, America, I am sorry, but I don’t like you