No Woman No Drive

Bad luck for three women who have won the weekly raffle draw of two luxury cars, the prime attraction at the popular “Hayya Jeddah Shopping Festival.”

They may have won the cars, but being women they are not allowed to drive them!

There are six more cars to be won, now if they would only include a foreign driver with those cars won by women…

Read more:

Maktoob News

Manal Al Sharif on TED

Very unusual for TED talks, Manal Al Sharif gets multiple standing ovations during her beautiful and eloquent TED Talk.

Manal Al Sharif has inspired people, not only in Saudi Arabia, but over the entire world, projecting a positive image of Saudi women, and Saudi people.

Enjoy!

AA

Saudi Arabia/Yemen/USA: Yemen from the view of an American

Intro: My name is Katherine Abu Hadal and I am an American who has been married to a Yemeni man for nearly 4 years. We lived in Yemen for three years and now we live in the US, and this is a snippet of what life is like in Yemen from my perspective. I really do love Yemen, and I enjoyed life there very much. However, I also want to give you a well-rounded picture of what the advantages and disadvantages are of living there. You can find more about me at http://www.shebayemenifood.com, where I show people how to make Yemeni food in English and Arabic.

yemen 1

http://stevemccurry.com

 

Yemen’s beauty derives from its antiquity and the charm and grace of the people. Old Sana’a, Wadi Hadramout, and Jibla are just a few of the ancient cities which seem to be preserved perfectly in time. The odd-sized steps and the tiny doorways in many of these old homes are details which instantly transport one to another place and time. Yemenis recognize the value of the ancient heritage and these old homes are among the most prized and desirable. Sana’a is also known as Shem (Sam) city; Shem is the son of Noah and he supposedly founded the old city. As often happens, architecture mirrors its people, and the Yemeni people reflect a set of traditional and decorated values. Honor and generosity to guests are some of the highest esteemed values.  This generosity extends not only to fellow Yemenis or Arabs, but is often magnified for those deemed as “foreigners,” usually synonymous with “non-arabs.”

I first traveled to Yemen in 2009 as a student studying Arabic. I can’t say exactly why I wanted to travel to Yemen, other than I wanted to travel off the beaten path of the usual westerner travel agenda. Plus I wanted to learn Arabic and Yemen is (or at least it was at the time) supposedly one of the better countries to go to learn Arabic. Not long after I arrived, I met the man who would later become my husband. We would hang out with friends and slowly we got to know each other. It’s not the usual way for relationships to develop in Yemen, but Esam didn’t (and still doesn’t) care much for rules or societal pressures.

After some time, I just knew Esam was the man for me. He had known from the beginning and he was ecstatic that I had finally realized that too. It took a bit of work convincing each of our families, but I am proud and happy to say that my Mom absolutely adores Esam and his family also loves and respects me a lot.

Yemen is most often in the news for the drone strikes and occasional high-profile terrorist incidents. It’s often portrayed as tribal and lawless, not only by the west but also its gulf neighbors. The word tribe carries a different connotation when translated into Arabic, however, and I will attempt to explain to you a little bit about its meaning as I understand it. Tribes (qabail) are organized political structures in Yemen. They exist alongside and at the same time integrated with the official government which is a Republic. People in Yemen often associate tribal lineage with pride and a high social status. Tribes are very powerful because they have the ability to mobilize many people quickly and they also control financial or other resources. They have certain powers and rules outside the scope of the government. Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh exercised much of his power through tribal lines.   yemeni tribes

As far as how tribal power is exercised, it is neither through dictatorship nor coercion. Instead, it is a mutually beneficial relationship which is subject to change by either party. Tribe members have the responsibility to mobilize for a cause when required by the higher-ups. Tribal leaders, or shaykhs, have the responsibility to mediate between disagreements between tribe members as well as to be generous in hosting social events and feeding the less fortunate. Despite a shaykh’s higher social status, they cannot force tribal members into action if what they are requesting seems unreasonable, and Yemenis, like anyone else, maintain their independence. A north Yemeni who spent many years in Al-Jawf described tribal figures’ limitations in this way, “No shaykh can even tell a child what to do.” (North Yemeni as cited in Koehler-Derrick, 2011)

Not every Yemeni has a favorable opinion of tribes. There are those that associate them with the uneducated and oppressive social structures which keep the powerful in power and others down. They are opposed to these structures which favor social ties, bloodlines, and loyalty over formal education and merit-based rule. A Yemeni in Aden, a former British colony, was quoted in 2009 saying,

“Most of what we have is what the British built when they were here. We haven’t gained anything from unification,” says a former colonel in the PDRY army, voicing a common sentiment as he waves his hand towards a row of bleak buildings. “I would rather have had the British here for 400 years than be ruled by Saleh and the Sanhan [President Saleh’s tribe]…Now everyone who has any power is a northerner,” he says. “The young people here have no chance to find decent jobs because they don’t have the tribal connections required to get them.”  (Horton 2009).

Unemployment and economic strife are major problems in Yemen. My husband was from I guess what you might call a middle-class Yemeni family. They were not the richest or the poorest in the neighborhood and they lived comfortably. But middle-class in Yemen also translates to what would be below the poverty level in the US. If we lived in Yemen, there would be no way to really save and get ahead and also be able to travel on that kind of salary. As a foreigner with a degree and who spoke English and Arabic, there are more opportunities for me to find work, but there are still not a lot of jobs which would pay a salary comparable to what I would make in the US.

We know many Yemenis that travel to the gulf countries for work, especially Saudi Arabia. That arrangement has been threatened over the years, however, (the first was after the first gulf war) and now “Saudi Arabia, home to about nine million foreign workers, began the crackdown this year to boost the proportion of Saudi citizens in private sector jobs from the current 10 per cent.” (Gulf news, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/yemenis-protest-saudi-deportations-1.1170624). Yemen does not possess the large oil reserves that its neighbors have. The bleak economic outlook combined with an explosive population growth and other factors such as lack of water has many analysts predicting an impending economic disaster for this country of nearly 25 million.

For all the troubles of Yemen, there are still things about it which makes it an easier county to reside in compared to the other gulf countries. I have traveled to Oman and Dubai and I have observed the hierarchy among the people, with westerners, Indians, Asians, foreign Arabs, and local gulf Arabs each in their own class with different rules which apply to them. Interaction between locals and guest workers is limited and can often be prejudiced. I have also read stories of foreigners married to Saudis who face discrimination and are not able to fit into Saudi society. In Yemen, I never once experienced this feeling as a foreigner. I was always welcomed into people’s homes as one of them. I also know many other foreigners (both arabs and non-arabs) who were also treated as such. To my disbelief, some people even mistook me for Yemeni. (Although I think it was a actually a way of being polite and giving a compliment)

yemen woman driving     Secondly, although Yemen is a conservative Muslim country like Saudi Arabia, it does not have the kind of religious policing which is present in Saudi Arabia. Women are allowed to drive in Yemen and many do. There is a social pressure to dress modestly, but I know many western women that don’t cover their hair or wear an abaya when they go out. Yemen is technically a republic which means that it has elections and is a democracy. Although it doesn’t seem to be a fully functioning democracy quite yet, it is one step ahead of the gulf monarchies in achieving a full democracy. People are not afraid to criticize the government or political leaders and there are several active political movements and parties.

Yemen has a sense of fierce independence and a long history which gives the country a kind of security, despite the signs of impending doom which are knocking at its gate. After all, Sana’a is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world. If it has made it through the floods of Noah, I suppose it will make it through today’s challenges.

Below is a recipe for Yemeni shakshuka, which is a popular egg and tomato dish in the Middle East and North Africa. In North Africa, it is usually eaten with poached eggs but in Yemen, it usually has scrambled eggs and is made with green chilis so it is spicy. They also eat a similar shaksuka in Saudi and the gulf countries, but I am not sure exactly how it is different. Served with milk tea and malawah bread or Yemeni roti, it makes the prefect breakfast or quick dinner.

Ingredients

5 eggs

3 plum tomatoes, chopped (or uncooked canned tomato sauce)

1 chopped onion

1 green chili (more or less to taste)

½ tsp. hawaij

2 tablespoons oil

Salt to taste (about ¾ tsp.)

Ground black pepper

 

Directions

1.      Heat oil, onions, chilis, and salt in a pan and cook the onions until they are slightly brown.

2.      Add the chopped tomatoes, hawaij and black pepper and cook until the tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes.

3.      Lightly beat the eggs and add to the tomatoes. Let the mixture cook until half-way set, about 3 minutes, then stir the mixture slightly to ensure even cooking.

4.      Serve with bread and tea!

 

 

Horton, Michael. (2009). The Christian Science Monitor.  Why Southern Yemen is pushing for secession.  Retrieved November 9 2011 from http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2009/1215/Why-southern-Yemen-is-pushing-for-secession.

 

Koehler-Derrick, Gabriel. (2011). A False Foundation? Tribes and Ungoverned Spaces in Yemen. West Point: Combating Terrorism Center

 

images:

yemeni tribes symbol:  yemenfox.net

 yemen woman driving:  yobserver.com

 

Saudi Arabia: Her Bravery Led to a New Life

manal alsharif

patheos.com

 

 

She never sought out attention for herself.  She was a quiet individual but fiercely dedicated to what she believed in.  One of those beliefs was that women should not be controlled by the culture of Saudi Arabia.  She would be the first of the new generation to go out and drive.

If you have not figured it out already, this article is a tribute to Manal Al-Sharif.  Her choosing to drive back in 2011 in Khobar, Saudi Arabia kind of reminds me of the “shot that was heard around the world” during the American Revolutionary War.

Manal’s video of her driving went viral, she was apprehended by the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Muttawa), she got forced out of her job at Aramco and life has never been the same.

The first time Manal drove, in May 2011, there was little activity or stir.  She drove around Khobar by herself in her Cadillac SUV.  She was not detected or stopped. Yet when the video made of her driving was put up on youtube, it immediately went viral and her name and her daring act became known around the world.  She did not let that attention or the subsequent threats that followed phase her.

Instead, she decided to drive again and with passengers.  She, her brother, his wife and her child took a drive together with Manal again behind the wheel.  All was fine and calm until when stopped at a traffic light she was confronted by the Muttawa.  When Manal asked them outright what law had she broken she was informed while having not violated any legal law, she had violated Saudi custom.  Both she and her brother were apprehended.  Her brother was subsequently released but Manal remained in custody for more than a week until King Abdullah granted a plea made by her father to release her.  Her father promised the King his daughter would never attempt to drive in the Kingdom again.

After her bold actions and attention she was forced out of her job at Aramco.  Manal left Saudi Arabia and created a new life for herself in Dubai where she can legally drive whenever she wants with no worry of apprehension by the Muttawa.  However, Manal paid a price for her brave and historical actions.  She is a divorced woman with a young son.  Her former Saudi husband refuses to allow her son out of the country.  As a result, Manal will travel back to Saudi Arabia whenever she can on weekends to see and spend time with her son.

She has, however, found love again!  After moving to Dubai she eventually married a man from Brazil who was one of her co-workers when she worked at Aramco.  They are very happy and much in love.  Yet, ironically, in order to marry the new love in her life, she had to obtain permission from King Abdullah to marry a foreign man as she wanted her marriage to be legally recognized in Saudi Arabia.

New life old life road sign on background clouds and sunburst.

colourbox.com

 

 

Manal is a young woman from Makkah who came from a conservative but open-minded family.  She looks upon herself as a normal woman wanting to do things, such as driving, that a normal woman would do.  She has shown to the world over and over that she is a strong woman with a resolve of steel for what she believes in.

Manal Al-Sharif is without a doubt a trailblazer.  It may not be there now, but when all woman are legally able to drive in Saudi Arabia, and eventually they will, her name will be cited in the history books.  She is the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian clerics insult new female shoura members

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Several prominent Saudi Arabian clerics have taken to insulting the new female Shoura members. The female Shoura members have been chosen amongst the professional women of Saudi Arabia, all highly achieving female academics and technocrats. The 30 women have said to stand as one voice to lift the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia.
Two female members of the Shoura Council told the local al-Jazirah daily that they plan to form a united front at the council to push for allowing women to drive. Councilwoman Dr. Salwa al-Hazzaa said; “God willing, we will discuss women driving. Especially as we are 30 female members in the council and we will be one voice.”

The also newly appointed councilwoman Thurayya Al-Urayed told the newspaper that the door is always open for the public to petition the council to look into different issues. “It is likely that there would be other petitions about [women driving] brought to the council.”

King Abdullah’s decision to include women into the Shoura council has made many conservative clerics very angry. A group of conservative clerics staged a protest last month outside the royal court in Riyadh to express their anger.

The clerics tweets against the female councilmembers included derogatory terms as ”The filth of society” and ”Prostitutes”.

 

Naser al Omar tweeted:

“No wonder. Corrupt beginnings lead to corrupt results. Wait for more Westernization.”
Al-Omar described the women Shoura members enthusiasm to tackle the ban on driving as “suspicious” and accused them of ignoring “major women issues” that are more pressing.

nasr

A member of the Islamic Ministry for ”Da’wah, Guidance and Endowments”, Ahmed Al-Abedulqader, expressed his discontent in these subtle words:
“They thought they can mock the mufti by giving these ‘prostitutes’ legitimacy to be in power. I am not an imposter, and imposters do not fool me. For how long will the forts of virtues be torn down?”
Following angry reactions by Twitter users, Ahmed Al-Abedulqader said:
“We have heard and read many insults against (God) as well as mockery against the prophet, prayer be upon him, and none of those defending (these female) members was angered.”

A former teaching assistant at King Saud University, Dr. Saleh al-Sugair, slammed the assignment of female members at the council and tweeted:
“The insolent (women) wearing make-up at the Shuora Council represent the society? God, no. They are the filth of society.”
This wasn’t the first controversial statement by al-Sugair, who is not a cleric but a medical doctor known for extreme religious views. Sugair has over 40 thousand followers on twitter and is known for advocating against women employment, women driving, and women treating male patients.

It is important to also note that although the infamous tweets were re-tweeted and hash-tagged, many Saudis condemned the attacks on the female Shoura members, especially since they came from figures who are supposed to preach tolerance, compassion and respect.

Author Maha al-Shahri tweeted:
“(These statements) are a moral crime. The government has to set laws to (teach) them and their likes (morals).”

Abdelrahman al-Sobeyhi, tweeted:
“Every disease has a medicine to heal it except stupidity.”

Ali Abdelrahman, tweeted:
“This is ignorance that does not belong to Islam.”

Another twitter user tweeted:
“The problem is that they think they have immunity from God!”

AA

Read more:

Al Arabiya

Riyadh Bureau

Saudi Arabia, A woman school bus driver

saudi-woman-driver1

Saudis first female bus driver is called Saliha. Living in the remote area of Asir, Saliha’s family is poor, and her father had devised an idea to make money by starting a schoolbus to drive the  area’s school girls to school.  As Saliha is a good driver she begged her father to be allowed to be the driver of this bus.

“I live with my parents and four sisters and our conditions are very difficult,” Saliha said. “One day, my father thought about launching a bus service to drive female students in our area to their schools. He discussed the idea with the village men and they all agreed since they trusted my father and they were confident that he would be keen on protecting them. They also thought that driving the bus would be an opportunity for him to make some money,” 

“I looked at his poor health condition and advanced age and I requested him to allow me to replace him, especially that I was a good driver. My father in fact taught me how to drive since I was young. It took some time before he was convinced that I could drive the bus instead of him,” 

Her  father agreed, so Saliha disguised herself as a man and the bus service started off. Aftter some young men noticed one day she had henna on her hands the game was up!

“They assembled around me to try to understand why a ‘man’ would put some henna on and I told them that I was a woman and explained the whole situation. The next day, some elders from the village came to see my father and we were afraid they would reprimand him for what happened. However, we were relieved to learn that they were delighted with the fact that I could drive their daughters to school”, she said.

Saliha said that she reverted to her woman’s clothes and that she was earning SR4,000 a month for her job.

“The fact that there is no traffic police in the area and the absence of major administrative facilities have enabled me to drive freely,” she said.

 

saudi-woman-driver

 

AA

 

Read more:

Riyadh connection

Saudi Arabia Breaking News: SAUDI WOMEN NOW PERMITTED TO DRIVE

 

Women in Saudi Arabia, and in some other Middle Eastern countries are now permitted to drive for the first time…

 

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