Saudi Arabia: You Asked, American Bedu Answers


I recently received a private email asking if I would address the following questions on my blog pertaining to relationships with Saudis. I am responding with my views and perspectives and also look forward to YOUR comments as well.

What does it really mean to be divorced in Saudi Arabia? Is “divorced” and “separated” really the same? Why divorce since man can have several wives? What is a consequence of a divorce for a woman? Will she be able to remarry? Does the hushband have to help her financially? Is a divorce recognized by other countries? Is it possible to separate without divorce? Will he remarry? With what kind of woman? Also divorced woman?

Divorce is becoming more common in Saudi Arabia and particularly among Saudis who are married to Saudis. A BBC Report from 2001 states that the Saudi courts grant 25 – 35 divorces per day and most occur within the first three years of marriage. According to the BBC study, polygamy (practice of a man being allowed to have up to 4 wives) was cited as the leading cause of divorces in the Kingdom. However the culture and customs of Saudi Arabia is not only to preserve marriages and prevent divorces, as this December 2008 Arab News article highlights, there is also a push to discourage Saudi men from marrying foreign women as well. Lastly, a January 2009 article from the Kipp Report provides further statistics such as that the divorce rate has reached more than 30 per cent of the total number of marriages during the year.

Now let me turn to the specific questions which the reader asked. There is indeed a distinction between being divorced and separated. It is not the same. When a woman is divorced in Saudi Arabia, whether a Saudi or non-Saudi, there are repurcussions. If the woman initiated the divorce and if it is granted by the courts, she would likely have to return whatever she was given as a dowry at the time of the marriage. In general, personal property and assets if not in the woman’s name are usually considered the man’s. Therefore in the case of a divorce, a woman may leave with very few material possessions in spite of how long the marriage may have lasted or regardless of what contributions the woman may have made to the home. A man is required to support his wife during the 3 month period before a divorce is declared final. However after that period, there is typically no further obligation on the part of the man. The custody of children is typically given to the father unless the children are still quite young. Then they will stay with their mother until reaching certain ages at which time the father has custody. In November 2008 the first “Saudi Divorce Initiative Forum” was held in Damman. At this forum, Saudi women spoke out candidly on the stigmas associated with divorce and needed reforms to ensure protection of the Saudi divorcee. And once a Saudi woman has divorced, this drastically reduces her chances of remarrying, and particularly remarrying as an only wife.

It is recognized that a lot of marriages in Saudi Arabia between Saudis do not work out and instead of divorcing, the man and woman actually do live separately. The couple who live separately usually do so because of incompatibilities. Their marriage was likely arranged and instead of growing together as life partners, they may have realized they had little in common, one partner or the other has traits the other strongly dislikes and cannot live with or perhaps other reasons may apply. A divorce and especially if the couple is related or the families are very close, can cause conflict and pain. Therefore, it is actually a more “culturally acceptable” choice to be separated as the woman can live on her own or with her children. Even if she is living on her own (ie, without the husband) she is viewed with greater respect than a woman who has been divorced. The extended families on either side may not be pleased with the choice but they are more likely to accept it than having a divorce in the family. If children are involved, couples usually try to avoid divorce for there is also a fear and concern that having divorced parents also puts an unnecessary stigma on the children and can impact on their choice of marriage partners too.

Why divorce since a man can have several wives? The answer to that question really depends on ones stance and viewpoint on the subject of polygamy.

A divorced woman can indeed remarry but as I stated earlier above, her chances of remarrying as an only wife diminish unless she happens to marry a widower.

If a divorce has gone through the courts then it is recognized internationally and a divorce decree would have been issued.

I believe the question of separation without divorce has been covered. But to further respond to the other questions asked, there are many cases where a man has taken another wife while being separated. And the Saudi man may take another wife from many different “categories.” She could be Saudi; she could be foreign; she could be a divorcee; she could be one who has never married. So in essence, for the husband at least, it is as if he is divorced in that he may no longer have a “husbandly” relationship with his estranged wife, but because they are separated without having divorced, he may continue to maintain her and any children. However it is clear that the new wife is truly the wife in the life of the man. The ‘first wife’ who is living separated is expected to maintain cultural norms and continue to live as a married woman apart from her husband. In other words, while the husband has made another life for himself with a new wife, she would not and could not have a male partner in her life if she is not legally divorced.

I am certainly not trying to promote divorce in any way but it is a fact that it happens. Therefore I am also including this link which provides a link of law firms which specialize in divorce in Saudi Arabia.

Will a Saudi man consider leaving KSA for a love story? Or will he not return to KSA because of a woman?

I am aware of multiple cases where a Saudi man has indeed left Saudi Arabia for a love story. Here is a sample interview of a Saudi man who chose to live with his wife outside the country. Some have returned with their foreign love to Saudi Arabia and others have chosen to remain outside of Saudi Arabia. Those who have chosen to remain outside of Saudi Arabia have done so for various reasons and most common are the couple may not have appropriate governmental approvals to live legally in Saudi Arabia as husband and wife; the wife may not agree to relocating to Saudi Arabia; the husband may not want to live in Saudi Arabia with his foreign wife.

Can a Saudi man live in a relationship without being married? Please consider this question for the eventuallity that he is not living in KSA!

There are Saudi men who have relationships without marriage. However it should be noted that all Saudis are born muslim and as a muslim, it is prohibited to live together without the sanctity of marriage. Even for the Saudi who is outside of the Kingdom, living with a woman who is a foreigner without marriage will automatically place on stigma on the relationship and particularly the woman among other Saudis and most Arabs. A woman who will agree to live with a Saudi without the benefit of marriage will likely be viewed as loose and immoral. It is also unlikely that the family members of the Saudi would accept her or such a relationship.

Saudi families are extraordinary close and very aware and cognizant of not wishing to lose face either for themselves or their family. In many cases, when learning of a Saudi who cohabitates with a foreign woman outside of the Kingdom, he is usually not sincere or plans to have a permanent relationship.

I do hope that I have fully responded to these queries and look forward to additional comments from readers as well.

76 Responses

  1. You have provided thorough interesting responses to the questions and excellent links!

    I was interested to read that most divorces occur in the first 3 years of marriage, which is very similar to North American statistics. Perhaps as well as the factors cited in a Saudi marriage (polygamy, arranged marriage, age differences), this time frame corresponds to that noted in marital therapy. After about 2 years the initial accomodations have occurred, the couple recognize deeper incompatibilities or annoyances and the lack of change in these, and the general need for adjustment to the realization that no partner can fulfil all the other’s needs.

    Most marriages have a period of adjustment around these realizations, and continue in a more realistic mode. Others cannot (immaturity, unwillingness) or should not (abuse, major incompatibilities), and begin to dissolve. In the case of Saudi marriages this would be further complicated by the additional factors listed, and that most often there is a baby within the first year after marriage or one on the way.

    Also, as everywhere, men have an easier time psychologically and socially with remarriage, or ongoing relationships, although in Saudi this difference is even more marked, and facilitated by particular stigma against divorced women, laws, and polygyny. Still, separation in the case of Saudi may for some be a preferable alternative to divorce, as it is in other traditional societies (eg. the Philippines and South Asian cultures that I am aware of), or among women who stand too much to lose by divorce (previously alot of “doctors’ wives” who put up with longstanding infidelity or neglect).

    The Kipp Report contains excellent recommendations, and a number of names of activists and that of a psychiatrist who does marital counselling who might be excellent interviewees for the blog. (my computer doesn’t want to let me access them again to be specific here). It is interesting that there seems to be alot of hope around the King, as there was in Morocco with Mohamed VI, who did make major reforms to family law with the guidance of Islamic scholars and feminists. The dowry loss you mentioned is new to me as Islamic family law in Morocco has always maintained the bride’s right to all of her dowry and support unless she abandoned the home (sometimes she is abused into abandoning the home to save the husband paying the rest of the dowry).

    While all of the Saudis abroad that I know are married and accompanied by family, and I’m sure there are many honorable single Saudi men, I think it is a general cautionary tale to women involved with foreign men (usually students) from traditional, strongly family oriented cultures to be aware that the compulsion to return home whether psychological, familial, social or legal will be great, and may occur before marriage or later.

    For those men who wish to experience Western dating without commitment, or who are already committed, it is easier to hide information, and their peer group will not tell the woman. I have seen male foreign students from diverse cultures in therapy who are in relationships they intend to end on leaving the country, or on arranged marriage to a compatriot, or that they abandon when mama arrives on an immigrant visa from their home country.

    Think Obama’s father –Kenyan wife and 2 children before meeting his mother, and during and after their Hawaiian marriage, a marriage to another American woman with whom he also had children and with whom he returned to Kenya and his first wife– and remember the longshot odds of having a son who becomes President of the USA.

    Sorry to be long–a compelling topic.

  2. PS A stunning photo! For that many roses, and that beautiful a boudoir who wouldn’t get married! 🙂

  3. I’ve always found it strange that the father always get custody since in my government sanctioned and approved elementary school religious studies the father was third in line for custody!

    Was it a misprint or something?

    Also, I can’t back this up Carol but I recall reading an article where the highest divorce rate in the kingdom was the eastern province with a 60%(!) divorce rate and it was attributed to Bahrain’s proximity.

  4. Also @Chiara’s 2nd comment:

    That’s what women like huh? I better jot this stuff down before my wedding. I’m just hopeless at this stuff. 😦

  5. hello everyone–
    Saudi law is sharia, hence the three month waiting period – to make certain the wife is not pregnant.
    If the man divorces the wife, she keeps her dowry. If the wife flees and somehow gets a divorce (highly unlikely) usually the family returns the dowry.

    The whole purpose of the dowry, no matter how prettily coated with sugar, is that there is no alimony, therefore, that is her settlement if/when a divorce occurs.

    It behooves all saudi women to carefully word her contract to cover eventualities such as polygamy (NOT) or divorce.

    Remember, marriage in KSA is a contract between two families, mainly economic and moral in nature. “Feelings” between the two main characters don’t really enter into it. It is more of a civil type ceremony rather than religious…no “’til death do us part” no “whom God has put together, let no man put asunder”.

    Lastly, I wish i had a nickel (love that american phrase) for every american girl i know who has been hurt by a saudi.

  6. very well compiled and written article, sister. i thank mariam too for adding some more information.

    can i expect lot more question and answers?

    I personally feel, it is high time to treat men and women equally at KSA. sad to note that women are not well treated, esp. divorced ones

  7. Lastly, I wish i had a nickel (love that american phrase) for every american girl i know who has been hurt by a saudi.

    I wish I had a nickel for American girl I know who has been hurt by an American. hmm…

  8. Mohamed S–maybe it is due to the difference in legal custody (almost always to the father or his next male relative) and physical custody (to the mother if the boys are under 9 or girls under 7), and the particular school of law within Sunni Islam–excellent information with a table on physical custody at:

    Also questions answered for Americans married to Saudis at:

  9. Mohamed S bis (2nd comment)–oh yes, this is definitely a bridal chamber to copy, and better in Saudi where the cost of roses won’t bankrupt you! 🙂

    I wish I had a nickel for every person who was hurt in a romantic relationship, or picked a lemon in the garden of love! 🙂

  10. Yeah, but make the bed bigger … with that one, though very very lovely indeed, my guess is whoever is on it, won’t be on it for long … which is I guess why the pillows and the rose bed on the floor. 🙂

    the flowers on those stands have to go though, a couple moves those things are hittin the floor ..

    Ahh let’s face it … the whole canopy’s coming down!! lol, that place is going to be a wreck when …

  11. Sounds like theres no such thing as an amicable divorce in Saudi…Women either suffer and stay…or suffer and “try” to leave…if they manage to leave…they suffer some more….either way they suffer.

    Hardly worth pointing out ayats in the Quran and hadith that prohibit the making of either party in a divorce suffer…especially when it comes to the children.

    Sometimes you gotta ask yourself….just what was God thinking sending the Quran down to the Arabs…1400 years and they are still pretty much living with the social constructs they had before…what exactly have women gained there I want to know…by having Islam/Hislam in their lives?

  12. Thanks for the info and insight…

  13. […] the rest here:  Saudi Arabia: You Asked, American Bedu Answers « American Bedu Share and […]

  14. Great Article..

    I have seen instances where the husband would use the kids to keep his wife ‘married to him’ as he threatens to take the kids away and never let the wife see them again. (My very own father did it to my mother!!!)

    Another thing that happens, and the ones I have heard of were all Saudi Aramco ‘wives’ , is that when they want a divorce, some husbands refused to give it to them until they paid them! And this was not merely giving back the dowry, but actually making them pay an extra ‘fee’ so the man will divorce them, instead of the lady trying to get Khulu (when a lady requests the divorce).

    Coolred, its ISLAM, and prior to Islam women had absolutely NO rights. They had no rights to inheritance, they had no rights to make their own money and keep it. With Islam, woman have been added to the list of inheritance, something that had NEVER taken place prior to Islam. Woman were given the right to work, and to keep all the money they earned while the husband was still expected to support them.

    I would suggest you read the book;

    Women in Islam versus women in the Judao-Christian tradition.

    There is something that I have noticed.. when someone sees an Arab, or in particular a Saudi man doing something wrong, they go off and blame the religion of ISLAM, and when a man, lets say an American (lets say Christian) man does something, they will NEVER pinpoint his religion to his actions, he will simply be a man that is abusing his wife. Well why can’t that be said for Saudi men, why can’t he be a MAN abusing his wife? why must it be blamed on Islam? When Islam itself does not condone such actions?!

  15. Please note that patching the a big wound with aband-aide wont slove the issue, the only solution is not associate yourself with filthy animals of KSA, there is a few good citizen because their moms are not Saudi decent.
    please please leave and leave the wealth to the filthy animals, who are recognized by their gov. and a clear example of that is: THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO THE FIESALIEH AND KINGDOM AND ANY PUBLIC MALL. the gov. of KSA should pay all expats from the USA agreat geal $$$$$ and freedom within the limits and should take drastic measure towards those whom are making it diffcult to others.

  16. Coolred/Bedu… I gained nothing.. I married a Saudi, only for him to throw it away by having sex with a Thai prostitute and bringing home an STD… where is my safety net? I am left with nothing…. He goes back to Saudi and pretends nothing happened.. Where do I go now? My whole world has fallen apart…… My heart is broken, thank god there is no childrean involved

  17. To add to my last statement it is the hypocrisy that really kills me

  18. I met two Saudi Arabs and they were both living here because they married foreigners .. although one eventually returned sans wife! 😦

    It seems too much of a sacrifice to never be able to return to a life of riches and comfort for one woman! 😛

  19. Thank you so much. Your answers and information about divorce in the Kingdom are greatly appreciate. Carol you are providing an invaluable service. I check into your blog at least once a day 🙂 to see whats new. Once again sincerely, thank you.

    Have you ever seen or had problems with the Religious Police? Thank You


  20. OmLujan…I didnt blame Islam for what women suffer in Saudi…I blame the men (mostly) who prevent women from having those rights sanctioned by God…I meant…what good is having Islam in their lives…if its pretty much ignored and willful disobediance takes precedence.

    btw I have read that book…and many many many others. Im not talking from ignorance when I speak of Islam and all things related…Im not the sort to give opinions etc about something I know nothing or very little about. Just thought I would mention that.

  21. @ Aussiegirl

    sorry to hear your experience in life sister

    take this as a rotten leaf in your life – still you have lots and lots of green leaves, fruits etc

    i pray with almighty for your ever welfare

    the sinner would get his due share from almighty – we are nobody to teach him – dont curse him too

  22. Carol,

    Kind of off the subject, but have you heard of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia? Have you ever thought about doing an interview with one of their leaders or other Saudi dissidents?

    Something like that would certainly provide perspective.

    I have had some dealing with CDHR-SA and I am pretty sure their founder, Dr. Ali Alyami would give you an interview.

  23. Why blame men? We let them … there seems to have been a lack of vigilance on both sides. 😉

  24. Mohammed S. Yes, that is what women like! It’s só easy to please a woman, some flowers when she’s not expecting them, a couple of hugs a day, a few words of appreciation for what she’s doing, and you’ll be on the gravy-train for life!

    Abu Sinan, Yeah, nice one, a nice inflammatory interview with a Saudi dissident, and Bedu will dissapear for 10 months into some prison. Come on, we have seen last year what happens to bloggers in KSA who aren’t careful!

    Susan! Wicked!!!!! :mrgreen:

    O Lujan, But Islam is always presented as a complete ”way of life” and that everything you do in life is Islam, so you can’t blame people if they then make a connection between the bad treatment of women and Islam. It seems to me that this whole encompassing religion is only whole and encompassing when it suits, and when it doesn’t suit we are told not to equate, for example, bad treatment of women , with Islam.

    Susan, I defenitely do blame men; they are só clever and unscrupulous when it comes to cheating women. If you yourself are honest, and treat people honestly and fairly, you are allready at a disadvantage. It is very difficult for true, honest, and honourable people who are not out to hurt and destroy other people, to realise that this person who is claiming to be honest and honourable, is in fact a lying pig.

  25. I am not sure there is any such thing as a truly amicable divorce, although some are more civil and less exploitive than others. The types of manipulations, blackmailing with children, and financial buyouts described here are unfortunately common everywhere. The differences usually are in the laws of the country rather than the human behaviour.

    Om Lujain–thank you for your perspective and the reference; I’m not sure whether I’ve already read this one, but I’ll check it out.

    Aussiegirl–what dreadful behaviour by your ex. I only hope, trying to make the best of a bad circumstance, that the STD was an easily treated one. Such risky behaviour by a man these days is unconscionable. Hopefully your next romantic partner will be more worthy of you.

    Coolred–if you are not yet familiar with the writings/ views of Tarek Fatah (Pakistani Canadian Muslim via Saudi) you might be interested in reading him, as he is clearly in favour of recognizing the non-Arab, non-Saudi aspects of Islam.

    American Bedu–I second Abu Sinan’s suggestion and
    the names for interviews I was wanting to suggest in my first comment, from the Kipp Report, are:
    “Fahad al-Yahya, a psychiatrist who counsels married couples”;
    “Hind al-Zahid, manager of the Business Women Center”;
    “Thuraya Arrayed, a women’s rights activist who spoke at the forum”.

    Interesting comments by all.

  26. Aafke, you make a valid point.

  27. Dr. Ali Alyami is a joke

  28. Aafke,

    I understand “careful”, but if you dont come up with some sort of way to balance out the issues then it can come across that either you dont care, or that because of your beliefs and or family, you support the way things are.

    I am glad you agree Chiara. One person she could also interview would be the “Farah” who used to blog, who at one point, was one of the most popular Saudi bloggers out there. I think her site was “Farahsowalweef”.

    She was a young Saudi who had lived and gone to school abroad, but was never afraid to hit out at the system. Of course she was anonymous, but only just. A lot of people knew here and her family in real life.

    Some balance is need if one wants to be subjective. If not, then that should be made clear as well.

    I have been very critical of things I have issues with when it comes to Saudi Arabia and Saudi authorities have been very aware of it. My SIL even got a nasty e-mail from the brother of the Saudi Ambassador over one of my posts.

    But hey, better to tell the truth and pay for it than to live a life where you fear to speak your mind.

  29. AbuSinan, yeah, yeah, but I’d prefer it to be somebody else as Bedu.
    Why not somebody outside KSA? Because we all know it would be virtual suicide. So waw, get a few notices in the papers, languish many months if not years in some crappy saudi prison and feel really good about standing your ground while verybody else has long time forgotten you.

  30. American Bedu and Abu Sinan

    I should have emphasized that I agree with careful, and I must admit that I seconded the suggestion of Dr Ali Alyami thinking he was based in Saudi (next time I’ll look at the TOP of the site where it gives the address before commenting–I’m usually alot more thorough, and I apologize).

    I would think if American Bedu and this other diplomat could come up with an acceptably discreet and balanced post that would be useful. Otherwise, or if he is too unacceptable to the Saudi government, I would go with the more cautious approach, as American Bedu is in Saudi, not the US, is not anonymous (or only just barely), and has also a husband and Saudi family to consider. Still, I’m sure she can handle all these decisions on her own. 🙂

    It seems clear to me that this blog tries for balance and rejects blatantly anti-Saudi or anti-American positions, one of the many things I appreciate about it.
    While American Bedu’s subjectivity colours the blog, another thing I appreciate, her subjectivity seems to include diplomacy, balance, and tolerance for other positions which all lend value to the posts and comments.

    The people I listed from the Kipp report are all Saudi- based, and could shed alot of light on women’s rights (and divorce, the topic of this post) in Saudi, along with proposals for improving them within the Saudi system.

    I’m not sure the cost of the truth is always worth its expression where sensitive topics are concerned; or, stated another way, martyrdom for the non-saintly is overrated.

  31. Om Lujain–I read your linked article–it’s excellent.

  32. […] Original post:  Saudi Arabia: You Asked, American Bedu Answers « American Bedu […]

  33. Like with the hijab issue, I think as a former diplomat American Carol would probably get some leeway that a Saudi might not.

    Dont take it to the extreme, I am not asking for Carol to make a post or do an interview that would call for the overthrow of the Saudi government. What I would like to see is some perspective coming from an angle that is not lockstep with the Saudi establishment and all of the connected people and groups that rely on them for their existence.

    Talking about martyrdom is really taking it to the extreme!

    How about a post about the issues of the large percentage of Saudis who are Shi’a but have faced large scale government discrimination? One doesnt have to take sides to present the facts.

  34. “Martyrdom” should have had multiple smileys, at least in my post 🙂 🙂 🙂 I certainly meant it in a figurative not literal sense.

    Would Abu Sinan like to interview Dr Ali Alyami on his blog? 🙂 No “martyrdom” suggested 🙂

  35. Great article Carol, I think the information posted was quite accurate and useful! Keep it up! 🙂

  36. It is sad to read about some of ur experieances and inspite of that most of you still not talking about a solution, I tell you this, there is no way in my life time nor your life you’ll change the chartered social life her, I am not talking about Islam because they(most of them) are far from the basic pilairs, I strongly suggest that If you are ready, willing and able to depart this sufficating environment please take charge of it and execute. I share your feeling and wish luck for all.

  37. @Haleem,

    “It seems too much of a sacrifice to never be able to return to a life of riches and comfort for one woman! ”

    In my experience most Saudi’s return to Saudi for social/cultural reasons and the security of family back home. Contrary to common belief, salaries and benefits in Western countries, like the US, are far superior to those in Saudi.

  38. Yes, indeed divorce is widespread nowadays,,,but the concepts related to it are the same.

    First, seperation is different from divorce. A couple can seperate, ie. the woman can go and live with her family to let things cool down and return or she can do the same, after there has been 1 ‘talaq’. After 3 ‘talaq’, she cannot return to him, unless she remarries.
    After that divorce they can marry each other again.

    Now, a divorce woman here usually ( and it is unfortunate to say that, because in the past- the times of Prophet Mohamed things were more liberal), she will marry misyar…..
    Second wives are usually older women ( for this society 30+) that have not been married before.
    People will not choose a divorcee easily for a second wife, they will question things: why? did she divorce, she is not good? and so on…..

    Now the divorce needs to be in front of a judge, written. Then it is valid. I had friends that their misyar husbands ‘disappeared’ and would simply not give the divorce,,,In such cases, because such marriages are usually not known to the family of the man, the family of the woman threatens to ‘shame’ him and tell all to his family if he does not give the divorce paper….Then he does it….

    Ohhh……stories stories stories……….

    If a Saudi man would leave Saudi Arabia for the love of his life? Rarely.

    Can they cohabit with a woman abroad and marry her. Again rarely. I know a couple that cohabited and got married–after the girl got sick of him and never wanted to see him again in his life….Then he changed his mind and did it :)))
    His family cut them off – as he also broke the engagement to his cousin that he had while he was abroad- and usually he stays in place by further threats that his now wife places on him, that she will leave him….lol

    That’s all.

  39. Saudi in US–agreed, locals usually do not have the covetted expat packages, by definition, and most who do professional training in the West would have excellent prospects here.

    Gigigirls–Thanks for your perspective and information. “Marriage by threats” sounds very unfortunate.

  40. I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments generated by this post in response to a readers questions.

    I’m getting caught up but do appreciate the suggested names for interviews and will investigate. However if someone were too much of an activist or out of favor with the monarchy then it is true that I would likely not attempt an interview. As Chiara said so eloquently for me there can be dire repercussions for bloggers who do not toe the line. I think as a Saudi blogger I have a lot of leeway but still know when to stop before crossing that red line. After all it is not me but my husband and his family as well who could suffer if I transgressed too far in certain point of views. That’s just a simple fact of life here.

  41. Thanks for the sharing. 🙂
    I would love to be a Muslim woman in Mauritania. 😛 It is considered sexy to be divorced with stretch marks PLUS being fat! WOW! I told my husband we are packing up and moving to Mauitania to do anthropological research. lol


  42. “Coolred, its ISLAM, and prior to Islam women had absolutely NO rights. They had no rights to inheritance, they had no rights to make their own money and keep it. With Islam, woman have been added to the list of inheritance, something that had NEVER taken place prior to Islam. Woman were given the right to work, and to keep all the money they earned while the husband was still expected to support them.”

    As much as I hate to say it….this statement is true. I learned this in my Islam and its Empires class this semester.
    Lets not mention female infanticide…in the past I mean.

  43. Hi Guys,

    Dont really know … i may be wrong as I am not a muslim ….
    As far as I remember from my readings .. the first wife of Prophet Mohammed(PUH) .. was a business woman … if thats true then I wud say that women had rights.. .. 🙂

  44. ss007–you, Om Lujain, and Anthrogeek 10 are right. Khadija was a successful businesswoman; and, Islam did give Arabian women greater rights than previously, and curtailed polygyny to 4 with strict criteria for allowing more than one. The only right women lost to my knowledge was the right to polyandry. If you are interested feminist Muslim scholars like Fatema Mernissi and Ghita El Khayat have written on this and also on Islam’s more liberal phases historically.

  45. “Lets not mention female infanticide…in the past I mean….”

    Now adays…maybe they dont kill the female babies…but in some cases they just wait until they are teenagers or older…commit some sort of “shameful” act…then kill them. Might as well have done it when they were babies…

    Sorry…Im feeling very bitter today 😦

  46. “Now adays…maybe they dont kill the female babies…but in some cases they just wait until they are teenagers or older…commit some sort of “shameful” act…then kill them. Might as well have done it when they were babies…”

    On my blog, I asked (a while ago) about this. Do honor killings happen in the Gulf like in Pakistan and Jordan? No one responded. What? No one wants to talk about this? I see honor killings as a HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE!! I cannot, as a future anthropologist think otherwise.

  47. I am not sure anthrogeek, but the official rules here in KSA are stricter. For example in Jordan or Syria the actual law says that there is an excuse for the murderer if the behaviour of his wife/daughter caused rage and ‘dishonor’. Here in KSA, no—if the brother kills his sister, he will be killed’ – there is no ‘excuse’ in the law.
    But because the family of the victim can excuse the man, they can forgive the brother.
    Nevertheless if the father does it, there is no forgiveness….
    That is what I think and I never came across such a story here in KSA…..
    I would think that places like Jordan and especially Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Balngladesh- that side of the world- have a much higher rate of such occurances than the Gulf countries.

    P.S. Sorry its off topic, but just a comment.

  48. P.S. Again,,,,sure Islam gave women many rights compared to the period preceeding it.
    But Khatija, Prophet Mohamed’s wife was a business woman before marrying Prophet Mohamed and before the spread of Islam? Thus her activities in business, were before the revelations! Right? In the pre-islamic era….

  49. Returning on the focus of the post, it is true that here some religious people actively discourage marriages of saudi people ( whether female or male) to foreigners.
    I had endless discussions with a sheikh during my stay here on the topic, that were fruitless. We could not change each other mind.
    He simply viewed foreigners,,,not ‘up to standard’
    and that was not regarding only morals, because in his view also Syrian and Palestinians muslims or even muslim women and men of Saudi nationality whose parents had settled say in Mecca 200 years ago….were still not up to scratch…..their bloodlines were not pure enough, their tribal roots questionable….
    How could they be allowed to mix with someone ‘pure’???
    But what makes me sad, is when they propagate such negative views and influence young people making them biased…..
    Anyhow, I have given up on such discussions over 2 years ago, as I cannot change people’s minds…

  50. there are (few) honor killings in Saudi Arabia but like gigigirls pointed out, unlikely they’d ever be officially referred to (except by HRW) as an honor killing.

    and it is not only some sheiks who may discourage marriages between saudis and foreigners. The saudi family themselves can make it so well known the foreigner will never be accepted even while they will have the sweetest smiles on their faces but inside their goal is to banish the foreigner. Anyone thinking of getting involved with a Saudi AND coming to KSA (key point is KSA) beware of all these nuances and undercurrents. You’ve got to be strong to survive it.

  51. Yes,,,true,,,the women I met that have survived it and were western are strong or went through so much that they became strong in the end. The sabottage from the man’s family can be very distastefull ( from trying to find him a second wife,,,,to trying to play games with the sanity of the foreigner,,,,anything that will remove that ‘pawn’ out of the game)

    Otherwise, I have met many others—say especially from Syria–that they are married as second wives with the support of the mother of the husband or his sister ( when they start disliking the first wife). Then his family would love the foreigner to stay, as they will always think they have the upper hand in such cases and it doesnt bother them the slightest…..
    Even the husband I noticed in such cases, can start to love the second wife,,,but will never give her the same respect,,,,as he does not ‘fear’ her family. In his eyes,,,they are ‘weak’ and they ‘need’ him- especially if the girl was born in KSA to arab immigrant parents, but they didnt get the nationality.
    A man here respects more if his wife has brothers in good position and is of a strong large tribe ( unless they are from the same tribe). He needs to feel the element that he can be ‘shamed’ in the eyes of his ‘equals’…

    Anyhow,,again these are stories I came across,,,,

    P.S. I even witnessed a case, where the second wife was arab, but not local,,,,,that she had been married off to be a second wife as she was old, i.e. near thirty.
    Her husband was local here and did not allow!!! the children to talk the arab accent of the mother,,,he said it was a ‘shame’!! a ‘lowly’ thing for his children….
    At the time, I felt very bad for the children,,,such things mess them up.

  52. Regarding the post above, I have to add that a western friend that is married to a saudi,,,did receive such continuous ‘underground’ sabottage..( They married without his family’s wish)
    Here the family will never show anything directly ( it is not in the culture here)..Everything is underhand,,,to break some down….
    But she was strong and she ignored , ignored, ignored- she never showed any emotion to what they did, like it never happened- and played strategically and didnt loose her nerve once….That is usually the answer…:)
    But they will always try it still ( 14 years after!!) from time to time…..just to make their presence felt.

  53. except by HRW

    Bedu? What does this stand for?


  54. sorry Anthro…HRW is Human Rights Watch.

    Excellent and so valid points gigigirls.

  55. Gigigirls and American Bedu–excellent points, and thank you for sharing “the games people play” and how long they play them. What you describe is true for many traditional cultures as my patient’s tell me, including men married to the woman mother wanted while still regretting the one mother drove away with sabotage while smiling, smiling, smiling…

    While the wife needs to be strong and strategic, she also needs to be clear about her own goals and needs (otherwise she will be strategizing ultimately against her own interests). She also needs to realize that ultimately even her allies in the family will side with the family for self-protection. In essence she is dealing with one multi-headed unit.

  56. PS Oh, and how could I forget the most important part, the family keeps growing and growing–any new member may “test the limits” of what the spouse will put up with, or have his or her own agenda and “tribe” to advance it.

  57. Gigi girls, waw, very interesting comments.

  58. Thanks Aafke,,,it is just things that I have seen and experienced around me,,,
    I guess all these have helped me understand people here better,,,,and how life works in this part of the world.

    Chiara,,,yes true, she is dealing with a multi-headed unit….that is always the case here. I noticed that if the man and woman are left alone there are really not so many problems,,,,nevertheless, here things dont operate like this- it is a collective society and that is the biggest ‘challenge’ for the newcommer.

    That friend had to convince him…’strategically’ to relocate to another city–away from the main sources of trouble….and that helped,,,,even saudi women here have told me that they dont want to live with the family of the husband exactly for that reason,,,,,,imagine the fragile position of the foreign western wife, when she is unaware of all this ‘system’,,,,she can stumble in no time and if the personality of the husband is not strong then………bye bye as some friends of mine say 🙂 🙂

  59. Gigigirls–thanks for your further comment. Geography and strength of character are good, and important in all marriages.

    My sister and I were raised from preschool never to live with a future husband’s family. The advice based on the experiences of all 5 maternal aunts and mother, was “if you have to live with his parents don’t get married”, and they all married within the culture and the same city ie family was close by.

    Just what the collectivity means to the couple takes some getting used to for Westerners, and has impacts even for those living overseas. (Not that I would know ROTFL 🙂 )

  60. sorry Anthro…HRW is Human Rights Watch.

    Duh. 🙂

  61. Interesting article on international divorces in the Economist

    It highlights challenges in getting an equitable settlement where multiple jurisdictions are involved; and emphasizes that most often child abduction is by the mother, except for Muslim men who take the children to their home country.

  62. thanks for sharing chiara

  63. […] Saudi Arabia, American Bedu answers a reader's questions on relationships with Saudis, the consequences on divorce on women […]

  64. […] Saudi Arabia, American Bedu answers a reader's questions on relationships with Saudis, the consequences on divorce on women […]

  65. Hi Carol

    Once again, thank you for this wonderful website.
    I have a question…. What are the chances of a guy from Saudi to obtain a job in the US or in any other country abroad as an individual? (I mean, without the sponsoring from a Saudi Company or anything) He has masters from an American University and he is currently living and working in Saudi Arabia. What would he have to do?

  66. One more question
    I have a friend in Saudi who has been in The US twice this year. The first time in vacation and the second time for training courses….. He has a visa for 4 years… he wants to come back again before the end of this year to visit… would this be a problem with immigration in the US? Can this be seen as suspicious? Coming 3 times to the US in one year?
    Maybe I am being a little bit over the top here but I just wanted to make sure.
    If anybody has some information for this comment and the one above, I would really appreciate any advice!

  67. @Samira,

    He would need to be sponsored by a firm/organization in the US, whether American or other nationality, in order to come and work legally.

  68. What kind of visa does he have? B1? It is difficult to answer the questions with straight answers since much depends on his itinerary, his reasons for coming to the US, the perspectives of Immigration…. I will say that there are many people who do travel back and forth and have legitimate reasons for doing so.

  69. Dear Bedu
    Thank you very much for your time and quick answer
    Regarding the first question,
    I guess my question is… how can he apply for the job… even before he gets sponsored …… can he look for the job online and apply like any American does from the US? What are the possibilities of having any chance of being considered by an American or foreign company being Saudi and living there?

    About the second question: Yes, that is the VISA he has…. The reason for coming again is only to visit friends….. Would it be better if he has some course or other kind of “formal” reason to come back?

  70. @Samira – yes; he can apply but I would suggest looking for positions which play to his strengths and perhaps seek native Arabic speakers. He may need to sell himself on why a company should elect to sponsor him.

    If he has a valid visitors visa he can certainly come to visit friends without the need to have any kind of training or business associated with the travel.

  71. thank you so much!
    His field is Marketing, Management and Finances… any subjections where can he look for or what kind of business/company would be interested on an applicant like this?

  72. Please, if anybody out there has any subjection about the topic above…..or know about any company or Arab/Saudi company in the US looking for a person whose field is Finance/Marketing/Management, can you please let me know…… I realize this may be hard , specially nowadays… but you never know right?
    Thank you all!

  73. @Samira – either you or your Saudi friend can do that research yourself using the Internet. Take a look at a post I wrote about getting a job in Saudi and turn that around and apply the same techniques for getting a job in America.

  74. thank you so much!

  75. Your friend might qualify for an H Visa – this is a visa for a temporary worker and it is the employing company that makes the application. Best advice would be for your friend to consult with an immigration attorney here in the US.

  76. Thank you very much. All these advices are very helpful. Please, if anyone knows about possible companies, let me know
    thank u!

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