To veil or to die, that’s the question

niqab-4

Yesterday a student at the women only campus of a Riyad university collapsed and died of a heart attack. Allegedly the male paramedics had to wait for an hour before they were admitted due to ”modesty concerns”

The student, now identified as Amna Bawazir was known to suffer from heart problems.

Okaz newspaper said administrators at the King Saud University impeded efforts by the paramedics to save the student’s life because of rules banning men from being onsite. According to the paper, the incident took place on Wednesday and the university staff took an hour before allowing the paramedics in.

king saud university

However, the university’s rector, Badran al-Omar, denied the report, saying there was no hesitation in letting the paramedics in. He said the university did all it could to save the life of Amna.

Professors at King Saud University are demanding an investigation. “We need management who can make quick decisions without thinking of what the family will say or what culture will say,” said Professor Aziza Youssef.
One staff member, who witnessed the situation, said paramedics were not called immediately. She said they were also not given immediate permission to enter the campus and that it appeared that the female dean of the university and the female dean of the college of social studies panicked. The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from university management.

Al-Omar said the staff called campus health officials within minutes of Amna Bawazeer collapsing and that about 25 minutes later they called paramedics.

The students insisted that the officials who refused to allow the medical team into the college on the pretext they were men should be held accountable for the incident.
”Islam is a religion that facilitates practices, and the religious rule, in exceptional situations, are relaxed,” some of the students told the daily. “We do not see any necessity that is more pressing than rescuing the life of a human being from imminent death.”

Amna Bawazir’s death sparked a debate on Twitter by Saudis who created a hashtag to talk about the incident.  Thousands of Saudis vented their anger online. In the debate, many Saudis said the kingdom’s strictly enforced rules governing the segregation of the sexes were to blame for the delay in helping Amna Bawazeer.

In 2002, a fire broke out at a girl’s school in Mecca, killing at least 15
girls. The religious police would not allow the girls to escape, actually chased them back into the burning school, because they were not wearing headscarves or abayas.

Petition: Save my life, then my Modesty
Read more:

Al Arabiya

ABC news

Gulf News

Saudi Arabia: Women are to blame for rise of harrassment

niqab-3

From a survey conducted by the King Abdul Aziz centre for National Dialogue it seems that Saudi  men believe women are to blame for the rising cases involving molestation of females on the grounds they are seduced by women’s excessive make up.
The findings were included in a survey conducted by the Riyadh-based King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue and involved 992 males and females.

The survey, carried by Saudi newspapers, found that 86.5 per cent of the men polled believe that women’s exaggeration in wearing make-up is the main cause of the rise in molestation cases in public places.

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Although women are forced to be fully covered in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf region is also known for the fashion of a more ”expressive” style of make-up. Especially at weddings women indulge in very strong make-up styles. All humans, in all times and places, even our pre-homo sapiens ancestors, felt the need to express themselves with beads, shells and colour. This is actually the first manifestation of human artistic creativity.

Cave Painting, South Algeria
It is therefore only to be expected that when people are allowed no part of themselves to be visible except the eyes, then the human need to express oneself will be concentrated on the eyes.

Photo from Blue Abaya Blog

Photo from Blue Abaya Blog

About 80 per cent of the persons polled believe lack of deterrent penalties and the absence of specific anti-molestation laws are also to blame for the phenomenon
The report also said 91 per cent of the respondents, all aged above 19, believe another key factor is the “poor religious sentiment” while nearly 75 per cent said the problem is caused by lack of awareness campaigns and warning notices at most public places.

Emirates 24/7 News

Saudi Arabia: Call Her Selma, “J”, Saudi Stepford Wife…She’s Still an Abused Woman

domestic violence

Abuse takes place in all places of the world.  However, most places do have a fair and just legal system in place if that abuse is reported.  While inroads are being made in Saudi Arabia, they are not being made fast enough.

This past week, Selma Ahmed (not her real name) was apprehended and arrested because she left with her two daughters to get out of an abusive relationship from her Saudi husband.  Selma, although not of Saudi origin, does have Saudi citizenship.  Monday, April 29, police officers came to her place of work and arrested her.  The charges are she and her two adult daughters had left the home of her husband without his permission.

Activist and photographer, Samia El-Moslimany, spoke with the police officer and he told her that Selma will be detained until she is willing to return to her husband’s house.  In spite of the fact that Selma fears for her life is she returns, the police officer put on deaf ears and stated that Selma will continue to be detained until she goes back to her husband.

According to the policeman, the “established procedure” is that Selma must first return home and then she can file a formal complaint.  Selma’s husband came to the police station and insisted she return home with him.  He attempted to force her and assaulted her in front of police officers.

Selma was transferred to Briman Women’s Prison in Jeddah.  The fate of her daughters is unknown and there is fear that the father may have forcibly made them return home.

Selma’s case is here and now and requires immediate action.  She should not be contained in a prison because she fears for her life from her abusive husband.  Now is the time for Saudi Arabia’s reforms in domestic violence to be put into immediate action.

Sadly, Selma is not my first exposure of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia.  Another case was “Saudi Stepford Wife.”  Saudi Stepford Wife was an engaging American woman married to a Saudi and had also obtained Saudi nationality.  She lived in the Eastern Province.  She maintained a blog which I enjoyed reading very much.  We got to know one another through our blogs which eventually led to email exchanges and finally a personal meeting in 2008.  I hosted her in my home while her Saudi husband attended business meetings.

By that time we had become pretty close and she shared her dark secret with me.  She was married to an abusive man and feared for her safety.  Her parents were elderly and she did not want them to know.  She also swore me to silence.

I rue that day.  If I could go back and do things differently, I would.  I would not have honored my promise to her.  Although I never met or saw her husband, my spouse met him when he came to pick up Saudi Stepford Wife from my home.  I’ll never forget my husband coming back in to the house with such a look of distaste on his face.  He looked at me and said “That man is a pig and gives his wife no respect.”

After that visit I only heard from Saudi Stepford Wife two more times.  Since she had shared her secret with me, she was telling me how she had plans to leave her husband and take a job in Jeddah.  Sadly, her plans never came to fruition.  She simply disappeared off the radar.  Enquiries revealed that she had suffered a bad fall and as a result, was afflicted with terrible brain damage.  She did not know who she was or even where she was.  No one was able to make contact with her.  Her husband made sure of that.  This is a heavy burden of guilt that I still continue to bear for in retrospect, I should never have kept her secret.

Last but not least, there is dear “J” , a Saudi woman, who candidly shared her experience with American Bedu readers.  Thankfully she was able to get herself extracted from her hideous experience and find true love.  Sadly though, she was taken too soon due to the insidious disease of cancer.  However, she left her imprint on many of us around the world.

Yes; I am aware of other cases of domestic violence in the Kingdom.  However, I am much more outspoken and forward with any woman who shares that secret with me.  At a minimum, any woman in Saudi Arabia should have the web site and phone numbers for the Kingdom’s new domestic violence program sponsored by the King Khalid Foundation.

 

nb Update:  American Bedu is so happy to report that thanks to the efforts of Samia El-Moslimany and her team of heros, Selma is now safe!  She has been released from jail and safe with Samia.  They are now searching for her daughters.  Please take time out and say a prayer that Selma and her daughters will be reunited soon.

Saudi Arabia: So Many Niqabs to Choose From!

 

I must first preface this post by stating that I rarely covered my head let alone wore a niqab while I was in Saudi Arabia.  There were only a few occasions when it was appropriate for me to wear a niqab.  I wore one but have to confess I did not like the feeling or what to me felt like obscured vision due to the niqab.  The reason that I am writing this particular post is in response to several queries I have had lately about the differing type of niqabs women may choose to wear in Saudi Arabia.  I am not an expert on the subject but will address it to the best of my ability.  I am really counting on those American Bedu readers who do wear the niqab to provide their comments on why they wear a niqab, what style they have chosen and why as well as how easy it is for them to see while wearing the niqab.

The niqab is the accessory which some Muslim women and many women within Saudi Arabia will choose to wear so that their entire face is covered from view with the exception of the eyes.

saudi niqab

blog.sunnahstyle.com

 

The most common style of niqab in Saudi Arabia and the one I wore when necessary is the niqab which covers the face and has a slit in the center for the eyes to show through.  This style of niqab did not necessarily come in a wide variety of sizes and as a result, the one I had fit poorly.  My eyelids and eyelashes would brush or rub against the eye slit and in turn irritated my eyes.  The niqab would either tie in the back around the hijab or in some cases you could secure it with Velcro strips.

newer niqab style

beduionprincess.blogspot

 

Another niqab which was rising in popularity prior to my 2009 departure from Saudi Arabia was the niqab which was worn from the nose down.  This particular niqab left the eyes unimpeded.  Some Saudi women will not wear this type of niqab seeing it as too progressive.  However, younger Saudi women and more open-minded Saudi women who still choose to wear a niqab prefer this version as it is more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable.

beudion niqab

examiner.com

Some women and particularly Saudi beudoin women may prefer the niqab that has a fabric line which separates the eyes.  Needless to say, this niqab would need to fit well for it could be quite annoying if the eye divider did not fall as it should centered between the eyes.

While the traditional niqabs are black, some women are starting to wear niqabs that are in a different color or have some type of decoration or appliqué on them.

But as I stated in the beginning of this post, I need to rely on the experiences of American Bedu readers to share with others on why they wear a niqab, what style they have chosen and why, as well as how easy it is for them to see while wearing the niqab.

Saudi Arabia: Living in Saudi Arabia Requires a Tougher Skin

tough skin required

eloquentwoman.blogspot.com

 

Whether one is an expatriate in Saudi Arabia or a foreigner married to a Saudi, to Saudis you are viewed as a guest in their country.  The majority of Saudis will go out of their way to be hospitable, kind and helpful to the guests.

I had multiple experiences of both Saudi men and women approaching me in grocery stores or department stores wanting to be helpful or simply practice their English.  I had approaches by both men and women and none in an inappropriate manner.  Saudi women were especially kind if I were in an abaya store or in a women’s formal store searching for a gown to wear to a wedding.   They wanted to assist in helping me find the perfect abaya or gown!

However, I also had a few of my own experiences which were not as welcoming.  One experience featured two women who were determined to jump ahead of me in the queue at a shoe store.  These women though were not aware I was not in the shoe store alone.  I was with Mama Moudy, my Saudi mother-in-law.  She let them know in no uncertain terms there actions were rude and uncalled for.  Both the women were quickly apologizing to me!

The bottom line though is both the good and bad experiences between expatriates and Saudis can go both ways.  Rather than risk a public altercation, it’s better to have thick skin and pay no mind when someone does something less than socially acceptable.  Expatriates are each individual Ambassadors of their respective countries and Saudis are also representatives of their country too.  We each choose what kind of impression we want to leave with one another.

Of course, if either an expatriate or a Saudi has taken an action that goes beyond just mere rudeness or sarcasm, the wronged party should seek restitution through the proper channels.  While doing so, an expatriate should also remember that Saudis have WASTA, meaning the ability to use influence or contacts.  That does not mean an expatriate who has been wronged can’t seek restitution, but the manner in which it is done must be in conformity with the culture.

If an expatriate chooses to go public about an incident and sites places, names, and individuals where a Saudi was in the wrong, that Saudi and/or its institution will lose face.  A point will have been made but maybe at the jeopardy of the expatriate, especially if the Saudi has WASTA.

If an expatriate goes public and states facts without identifying specific individuals or organizations but at the same time letting it be known that more specifics are available, this does give an opportunity of face saving and also setting things right in a more amicable and satisfactory fashion.

All expatriates in the Kingdom are sponsored by either an individual Saudi or a Saudi organization.  As a result, there is much more pressure on the expatriates to abide by the customs and traditions of the Kingdom.  And don’t forget, the expatriate is also the guest…but guests can be asked to leave.

Saudi Arabia: Will Women Really be able to Ride Bikes?

bike riding

english.alarabiya.net

 

It’s making all the local (and some international) headlines that the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (aka Muttawa or Religious Police) may lift the existing ban which prohibits women from riding motorcycles or bikes.  However, don’t hold your breath for there are a lot of caveats with the lifting of the ban.  Women could only ride a bike or motorcycle for “recreational purposes” and only in restricted recreational areas.  They must not ride the transport where they could cross the path of young men who would try to harass them.

So while the headlines may sound like a milestone in actually this is what has been in existence for quite some time; any female who rides a bike or motorcycle only does so in a restricted area.

Let’s think about it…how could a woman ride a bike or motorcycle in any kind of a public area wearing a long abaya?  That would be foolhardy.  It is sad that a ban could not be lifted that truly benefits a woman and allows her a form of conveyance (without the fear of harassment by a man) that she could utilize for transportation rather than pay for a driver or depend on a male family member.

What do you think?  Is this a milestone or a big to do about nothing?

Saudi Arabia: Saudi’s First Flash Mob!

 

Other than the fact it is only men participating, this flash mob could have taken place in just about anywhere in the world.  It featured music, dancing and individuals having a great time.  What makes this flash mob unique, is that it took place in conservative Saudi Arabia where dancing and music are usually prohibited in public places.  Yet in this flash mob, you do not see a single member from the Ministry of the Protection of Virtual and Prevention of Vice (Muttawa) on site.  Instead, it is people who are all enjoying themselves and having a good time.  Yes; when panning to the crowd the women are wearing abayas but in most cases have not covered their face.  There are young men wearing shorts and many others in typical Western dress as seen in New York, London or Paris.  This event was part of a promotion for a company based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  While it may not be what some would view as a “traditional” flash mob, it is a flash mob Saudi style which was undoubtedly a success!

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