Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Will Christmas in MENA 2012 Herald A Better Era?

Issa Kassissieh, an Arab Israeli, rings a bell in front of the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City, December 23, 2012. Times Staff. From The Times Multimedia Archive,"Pictures: Christmas around the world".

Christmas is the first major celebration of the Christian liturgical calendar, which begins 4 Sundays prior with the Advent Season of preparing for the birth of the Christ child. In that sense it marks a new year, a new beginning, a new era. Its occurrence with the Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere, a natural and cultural marker of a time of death and renewal of the sun, and of the year's seasonal and human cycles further emphasizes that Christmas is a time of change and renewal.

In the title of this post I have posed a complex question, in a much simplified way. One has only to think of current struggles, political, economic, and social, in those countries which led the Arab Spring, and in those which participated heavily, or to the best of their abilities within much constrained circumstances, to realize that this is a revolution in progress, evolving over time, and with the customary advances, setbacks, twists of fate, and surprise complications that history blurs for past revolutions.

As a reminder of some of what transpired and impacted celebrations at this time last year, below I have re-titled (in bold) and re-ordered (alphabetically by country, with Palestine at the end), pictures from the 2011 Aljazeera  "In Depth: In Pictures" feature,"Christmas in the Middle East: Christians in the Arab world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ after year of unprecedented political upheaval."

I look forward to your comments on how these and other countries in MENA have evolved, and what concerns and hopes you have for them, or any other thoughts, comments, feelings these pictures inspire.

Christmas in MENA 2011: Mixed Blessings

Egypt


FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
At the end of a year of political turmoil, faithful arrive to attend Christmas Eve mass at St Therese Christian Armenian church in Cairo, Egypt [AFP]

Iraq


SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images
An Iraqi security officer walks on the rooftop of a church to tighten security measures prior to Christmas mass [AFP]

SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images
Iraq's Christians, markedly fewer in number following attacks on their minority community, are increasingly fearful in the face of a rise in sectarian tensions after the withdrawal of US troops [AFP]


SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images
An elderly Iraqi Christian walks past a statue of Virgin Mary attending the Christmas mass at the Virgin Mary Chaldean Christian church in the capital Baghdad [AFP]

Iraqis in Jordan

ALI JAREKJI/REUTERS
Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled to neighbouring Jordan following a spate of bombings that targeted churches in Iraqi cities in the past few years [Reuters]

ALI JAREKJI/REUTERS
Iraqi Christians light candles during a mass on Christmas Eve [Reuters]

ALI JAREKJI/REUTERS
Iraqi Christian boys attend a Christmas mass at Chaldean Catholic church in Amman [Reuters]

ALI JAREKJI/REUTERS
Many Iraqi Christians who fled their homeland are pessimistic about their chances of ever returning [Reuters]

Syria

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian man dressed as Santa Claus plays with orphans. Nine months of unrest in Syria have stripped Christian neighbourhoods of any sign of Christmas joy as Syrian Christians have decided to cancel celebrations and only observe Christmas mass [AFP]

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
Syrian children attend a Christmas celebration at the Mar Takla monastery in the Christian village of Ma'alula [AFP]

Palestine

AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS
A man dressed as Santa Claus waves to passersby in front of the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City during a Christmas tree distribution by Jerusalem's municipality [Reuters]

SAIF DAHLAH/AFP/Getty Images
A Palestinian girl dressed as Santa Claus prays at the Latin Church in the West Bank village of Zababdah, near Jenin [AFP]

♫"O little town of Bethlehem, how entrenched we see thee lie..."♫

MUSA AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty Images
A man dressed as Father Christmas drives past the Israeli-built separation barrier as Christians arrive to celebrate Christmas mass in the West Bank city of Bethlehem [AFP]

MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS
A car loaded with balloons to be given to residents as part of Christmas celebrations [Reuters]

AMMAR AWAD/Reuters
A Palestinian wood carver works on a Christian religious figure, made out of olive wood, in a factory in the West Bank town of Bethlehem [Reuters]

MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, gestures as he heads to the Church of the Nativity to attend Christmas celebrations [Reuters]

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images
Palestinian girls gather outside the Church of the Nativity, which is built over the site where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable and then laid him in an animal's feeding trough, or manger [AFP]

MUSA AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty Images
Palestinian Scouts play the bagpipes outside the Church of the Nativity as thousands of Christian pilgrims descend on Bethlehem to celebrate in Jesus' traditional birthplace [AFP]

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images
Christians and others gather in Manger Square, the central plaza next to the Church of the Nativity, as people prepare to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem [AFP]

POOL/REUTERS
Christian priests hold a Christmas midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem [Reuters]

For related posts see the ArabiaHistory, Celebrations, MENA,  Religion/Interfaith/Islam categories in the side bar, or search the blog by country or topic.

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Dec 12 2012 Ramallah – Christmas tree lighting Photo by Mohamed Farrag/WAFA

Sunday, October 28, 2012

!عيد مبارك Eid Al-Adha Mubarak! 1433/2012



A Blessed and Happy Eid

to All Muslims Around the World!

!عيد مبارك وسعيد لجميع المسلمين في جميع أنحاء العالم


A livestock market ahead of the sacrificial Eid al-Adha festival in Karachi, Oct. 24, 2012. Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, honors Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael on the order of God, who according to tradition then provided a lamb in the boy's place. (Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images) [The Big Picture, In Preparation for Eid]

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Honoured with a BEAUTIFUL BLOGGER AWARD!



I have been honoured to receive a Beautiful Blogger Award, in part because of the award itself, and mostly because the nomination came from Jaraad/Malik of the blog Jaraad.

The rules of the Award:
  • Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and place it in your post;
  •  Thank the person who nominated you, and link back to their blog;
  •  Tell 7 things about yourself;
  • Nominate 7 other bloggers for their own Beautiful Blogger Award, and comment on their blogs to let them know.


At first I had some trouble with the idea of nominating others, because there are so many, and because I am not sure that those nominated would all care to acknowledge the award. Finally, I decided to nominate as I wished,  and let the nominees decide if/how to acknowledge the award. That left the challenge of narrowing, impossible to fully resolve; and so, I have come up with the following "compromise formation" (Freud's idea of the manifestation of a compromise among conflicting desires), in alphabetical order within categories defined by me:

Nominations: 

I'm glad they blog (and they blog a lot more than I do at the moment, so I can't complain about their quantitative production):


I'm glad when they blog (and I wish they would blog more often/regularly):


Honourable Mentions:

I would have nominated you but you just received the award/nomination:


I tried to nominate you only to discover you have deleted your blog:

Observations of a tired sOul-When did this happen? Why wasn't I consulted? Does my admiration of dishwashing men mean nothing to you? When are you starting a new one? :D

Addendum:

 I belatedly nominate you because you can run/change your URL but you can't hide:

Observations of a tired sOul-I've decided to forgive you for changing URLs without so much as a by your leave! :)

7 Things About Me:

1. Curry is my favourite comfort food--ironic, since I never had it in childhood, and am not allowed to have it in my family's presence now. I'm not even allowed down the tea aisle without an escort lest I buy chai tea. Note to self: curry is not a good comfort food when you have a low grade migraine, or think the migraine is over.

2.  I am a giggler. My giggling heyday was in Grade 3-4 (the same year I first learned about Saudi Arabia), when I even got into trouble with the teacher for giggling too much! Alas, or perhaps for the better, my giggle partner moved, and I have only had sporadic giggling fits since. They are still great fun and a marvelous tonic, however!

3. I am a hula hoop champion (My Local Playground--Under age 5 Category). I consider this the beginning of my athletic career, even if hula hooping had long past its heyday at the time.

4. I am a candle-aholic. In private, I like to light candles at home, especially on gloomy winter days, and particularly when I am spending a lot of time there. In public, when I am missing my Dad, I go to mass and light candles to various saints (to honour them as protectors of my Dad in heaven). Sometimes, like around the anniversary of his passing, I run out of saints and have to start over, with a second round after a second mass of the day.

5. I sometimes have trouble with fixed parametres. See above list(s). 

6. I love markets, souks, etc. of all types. This is a good thing as the hub likes to visit fish markets--won't eat fish, but can't resist a seaside fisherman's market. Personally, I prefer flower markets, farmer's markets, craft markets, mixed markets, dress souks, and well, who doesn't love a gold souk!

7. I have had a Twitter account for a year. @Chiara_ChezC. I fully expect Twitter to send me birthday greetings, even though I have never tweeted (though a spammer did on my account, requiring me to change my password 3 times). Now that I am out of Twitter infancy, and heading into toddlerhood, I intend to tweet and follow the tweetie people whose blogs I follow, and whose tweets I follow now via Google Reader (some of you know who you are). Baby steps...baby steps...



Finally, I would like to thank Jaraad again for honouring my blog; to reassure those I have nominated that they are free to acknowledge the nomination, in whatever manner they prefer, or not at all, if they so choose; and, to acknowledge that there are many more I would have liked to nominate than was possible!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

!عيد مبارك Eid al-Fitr Mubarak! Happy Eid al-Fitr! 1433/2012




!عيد مبارك Eid al-Fitr Mubarak! 

Happy Eid al-Fitr! 

 All Blessings at this time of thanks giving 

to you and yours!



Friday, August 3, 2012

Woohoo Wojdan! Bold and Beautiful, Courageous in Compromise, Gracious under Pressure


 Saudi Judoka  Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics, London (Reuters).

I specifically watched Saudi Arabia's team march into the stadium of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies in order to see the two women who had the fortitude to serve as their country's first women representatives: Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar.

While others were struck by their place at the back of  the team, I was struck by their beautiful traditional clothing, their happiness, and their salutations to the crowds. Both were waving confidently and proudly; both were beaming to be there. Wojdan in particular caught my attention, perhaps initially because of her size, but primarily because she appeared so warm and gracious toward the crowd, handling the extra attention with aplomb.


Friday, July 27, 2012 Saudi Arabia's Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, parades, along with her team, during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Judo competitor Wojdan is only 16, and at her first Olympics. A first Olympics is what many Olympians would call their "experience Olympics", that is, the one they go to with no hope of medal contention but to gain first-hand knowledge of the Olympic experience in preparation for their future "performance Olympics" where they are better ranked and do expect better results. Unlike these other athletes who largely escape individual attention during their first Olympics, Wojdan has faced massive media attention internationally, and harsh criticism nationally. Her entry ticket into the Olympics, by invitation rather than qualification, her lack of a black belt, her hair and hijab, and mostly her gender have been the focus of consternation and criticism.

To her immense credit she has remained focused and steadfast in performing her Olympic duties as the chosen representative of her country.She agreed to fight in a modified hijab as a compromise between the safety demands of the International Judo Federation, and the religious demands of Saudi officials. She complied with her nation's demand that she be accompanied by a mahram, in this instance her brother, and had the permission of her father--two men who have also been courageous, when it should have been enough to be proud and supportive.


Saudi Arabia's Wojdan Shahrkani [standing with her brother] reacts after the women's 78-kg judo competition against Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, in London. Photo: Paul Sancya / AP 

Some have sniggered that Wojdan's qualification fight lasted lasted only 82 seconds. I celebrate that she arrived, did her best, and bowed out respectfully after her loss--like a sportswoman should!


Saudi Arabia's Wojdan Shaherkani and Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica compete during the women's 78-kg judo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, in London. Photo: Mike Groll / AP


Wojdan Shaherkani of Saudi Arabia (white) fights against Mojica Melissa of Puerto Rico (blue) during their women's -78kg elimination round of 32 judo matches.(EPA)



Saudi Arabia's Wojdan Shaherkani walks away after her women's +78kg elimination round of 32 judo match against Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica at the London 2012 Olympic Games August 3, 2012.(Reuters)

As a Saudi sportswoman, Wojdan has highlighted--for those who don't know--that they exist, that they can achieve a high level in sport, that they have family support, that they are taking a stand, real and symbolic, by showing up to compete. That should be quite enough as individuals.


To her detractors I say, "What were you accomplishing at 16? Did you singlehandedly turn around your country's social mores and power structures? What are you doing constructively at this moment in time?"

To Wojdan I say, "Brava!!! Congratulations!!! You go girl!!! and Woohoo!!! (a true expression of jubilation, since I never say that)".

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Wojdan and Sarah,
May you always walk in joy and peace!

Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani and Sarah Attar march in the center of the Saudi delegation AP

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day 2012!


Father's Day may have had its origin in marketing, or in religious observance (See Father's Day June 2010: Some Cross-Cultural and Personal Observations), but it remains a joyous opportunity to celebrate the men in one's life who are fathers or father figures, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, special friends.

For me, this is the 3rd Father's Day since my father died on February 19, 2010. The emotional impact of  this loss on Father's Day is still present, though the sadness is less, or at least more manageable. That is partly through the healing effects of time, and partly through the experience of grieving and lessons learned.

Everyone copes with their losses in their own way. For me, it is better to find ways to mark this day, mindful of my father, than it would be to just ignore it, as some do, which is the best way for them to deal with their grief. It is also a reminder that my father would appreciate the gesture while not wanting any fuss, and certainly nothing maudlin or melancholic! And so I will celebrate with flowers, a card, and attending a religious service as ways of connecting with my father and feeling that I have recognized him on this special day...

Blogging on this day is another way of marking its specialness for all, and for me and my father. So, while I apologize for my long, though unintended, silence (minor medical misadventures of the most mischievous and maddening mold),  I am happy to post today, and hopefully more regularly (Insha'Allah).

To all fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, special friends and paternal figures,
Happy Father's Day! 

 Related Posts:
Father's Day June 2010: Some Cross-Cultural and Personal Observations
Happy Father's Day 2011!

Please share your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and comments on this day.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012: Mobilize the Earth; A Billion Acts of Green



As every year, this year's Earth Day offers an opportunity to reflect on institutional and personal initives to take better care of the planet.Although one make make such efforts any day, or better everyday, a designated day of celebration and activism does contribute to greater awareness and mindfulness. The video which follows is a part of the official effort this year.


 The central website is a repository for recording and stimultating acts of green around the globe. Aside from the site menu, if you do a search you can find further details about acts of green, like this list of individual Saudi contributions

While larger initiatives are admirable, community ones in particular, like those of  neighbourhoods, social clubs, faith community, and schools, have the potential to make a significant, observable change in the immediate environment, and inspire longer lasting attitudinal change. Individual changes also have an impact. No (wo)man is an island, so an individual change impacts the immediate environment, but also may serve as role model or inspiration to others, including prompting the individual to make further changes.


The Google Doodle, which I saw first as a still, as above, and then animated as represented below, reminded me that one of the things I can do to be more green is to renew my windowsill herb garden. This is something that is easy to do, easy to maintain, and makes a small change, but one that adds to the greening of my household.

I say renewing because I have an herb garden in the windowsill already, but one that is rather worse for the wear, even indoors, during winter, when there is less sunlight. The parsley hasn't been able to keep up with my usage, the basil flourished but could be better tamed, and the oregano alas didn't survive those times of underwatering. These three occupants of a standard window box container need some TLC, and a few new plantings.

Like all good members of my maternal family, I also have a rosemary plant for Italian cuisine. Or rather I should say had. Somehow in this location I am not having my usual rosemary plant success. This is Rosemary II, may she also rest in peace.

For the first time this year, I tried a bay laurel, so I could have fresh bay leaves on hand when I want to add them to a sauce or stew, without having one of those boxes of dried bay leaves that become ancient through infrequent use. For a while this was wonderful, and the taste from a fresh bay leaf in a sauce encouraged me to use it more often. However, Laurel has been breathing in the supposedly non-toxic soap insecticide used to keep the hibiscus blooming and uninfested, and now requires intensive medical care following a surgical amputation.

Aside from the pleasure I take in gardening, even indoor gardening, having and expanding this herb garden contributes to our nutrition, with fresh non-treated herbs, and reduces waste from unused cut herbs bought at the store, and usually wrapped in plastic or at least in a plastic bag. It is also an encouragement to cook more often from scratch, though I usually do so. Perhaps to expand my culinary repertoire then!



Related Post:
Earth Day 2010--Why We Shouldn't Mess With Mother Nature; and, Saudi's Mangroves

What are your plans for Earth Day?
Did you observe Earth Hour in March this year?
Any herbal garden suggestions?
Any other recommendations for small but significant changes?
Other comments, thoughts, experiences, impressions?


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Princess Basma's Priorities for Saudi Arabia: The Source vs The Substance

Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz, niece of King Abdullah. (Photo: Arabian Business)

Recently Princess Basma, the youngest daughter of Saudi's second king, King Saud, and the niece of the current king, King Abdullah, gave an interview to the program Outlook, on BBC World News, as printed below, with a link to the audio version, outlining 5 key changes she prioritizes to improve her country, Saudi Arabia.

I have seen a limited amount of commentary as yet about the piece, although it is beginning to draw attention on blogs and Twitter. So far the commentary has focused on Princess Basma's personal life, questioning whether someone of her status and privilege, who was raised and educated largely outside the Kingdom (in Lebanon, England, and Switzerland), and who lives in London, is an appropriate spokesperson for change in the Kingdom. As in the past, I have seen her both praised for her activism, and criticized for being a non-professional, living outside the Kingdom, yet often interviewed, quoted, and published by the Western, and especially the British press.

On reading her views in this piece, I was impressed that she was arguing for substantive changes, that would go a long way towards redressing social injustices within Saudi at an official level, and therefore giving legal backing to reforms that would limit abuses by those who prefer differential treatment of others based on gender, origin, social status. I wonder about the feasibility and timing of these types of institutional reforms, but it seems to me that it would be hard to argue against these items as key to reform, even if one were to include others, including governmental reform of a more substantive nature.

I was also interested in her view of the issue of Saudi women driving as being more of a Western interest, and how that seems born out by the headlines in the Western press about this interview. From all I have read on the topic of Saudi women driving, including from Saudi women proposing it, this is acknowledged as the kind of issue which interests the West in particular, and thus helps gain traction for international support and pressure for other reforms of women's status in Saudi Arabia. In saying this, I don't deny the arguments made about the concrete importance of driving to improve Saudi women's ability to access education, health care, work, and social functions independently of a web of transportation constraints. However, I do think that it is worth bearing in mind its place in the broader scheme of Saudi life for both genders, as well as for women, and its role in social activism.

The BBC article uses the following 3 images and captions in sidebars to situate Princess Basma, and context of the Kingdom.

Princess Basma is divorced and lives with her children in London

An insular kingdom

  • Established in 1932 by King Abd-al-Aziz
  • One of the most devout and insular countries in the Middle East
  • The royal family is 15,000 strong
  • The Al Saud dynasty holds a monopoly of power; political parties are banned
  • Saudi women live a restricted life and are banned from driving
  • The country includes the Hijaz region - the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the cradle of Islam
  • Saudi Arabia sits on more than 25% of the world's known oil reserves

Princess Basma

  • Youngest daughter of the country's second king and niece to its current ruler
  • Educated in Britain and Switzerland
  • Lives in Acton, London
  • Princess Basma, pictured above pointing to her place in the Saudi family tree, was interviewed by Outlook on the BBC World Service
After you read the article below (or in Arabic in BBC Arabic here), I would be interested in reading your comments and thoughts.

BBC News Magazine
Saudi princess: What I'd change about my country
8 April 2012 Last updated at 19:21 ET


Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz tells the BBC there are many changes she would like to see in Saudi Arabia - but that now is not the time for women to be allowed to drive.

I speak as the daughter of King Saud, the former ruler of Saudi Arabia. My father established the first women's university in the kingdom, abolished slavery and tried to establish a constitutional monarchy that separates the position of king from that of prime minister. But I am saddened to say that my beloved country today has not fulfilled that early promise.

Our ancient culture, of which I am very proud, is renowned for its nobility and generosity, but we lack, and urgently need, fundamental civil laws with which to govern our society.

As a daughter, sister, (former) wife, mother, businesswoman and a working journalist, these are the things that I would like to see changed in Saudi Arabia.

1. Constitution

I would like to see a proper constitution that treats all men and women on an equal footing before the law but that also serves as a guide to our civil laws and political culture.

For example, today in Saudi courts, all decisions are made according to the individual judge's interpretation of the holy Koran. This is entirely dependent on his own personal beliefs and upbringing rather than universally agreed principles or a written constitution as a guide.

I am not calling for a western system but an adaptation of that system to suit our needs and culture. Thus our constitution should be inspired by the philosophy of the Koran with principles that are set in stone and not open to the whims of individual judges as is the case now.

In particular, the constitution should protect every citizen's basic human rights regardless of their sex, status or sect. Everyone should be equal before the law.

2. Divorce laws

I strongly believe that current divorce laws are abusive.

Today in Saudi, a woman can ask for a divorce only if she files for what is called "Khali and Dhali". This means either she pays a big sum of money running into tens of thousands of dollars or she has to get someone to witness the reason why she is filing for a divorce - an impossible condition to fulfil given that such reasons usually are the kind that remain within the four walls of a marriage.

Another way to keep a woman in the marital home against her will is the automatic granting of custody of any children over the age of six to the father in any divorce settlements.

This state of affairs is in complete contradiction to the Koran, upon which our laws are supposed to be based. In it a woman is given full rights to divorce simply in the case of "irreconcilable differences".

3. Overhaul of the education system

The way women today are treated in Saudi Arabia is a direct result of the education our children, boys and girls, receive at school.

The content of the syllabus is extremely dangerous. For one, our young are taught that a woman's position in society is inferior. Her role is strictly limited to serving her family and raising children. They are actually taught that if a woman has to worship anyone other than God it should be her husband; "that the angels will curse her if she is not submissive to her husband's needs". Girls are also strictly forbidden from taking part in any physical education. This is a result of a complete misinterpretation of the Koran. I consider these ideologies to be inherently abusive.

Aside from that, the focus in most of our educational system is on religious subjects such as hadith (sayings attributed to the prophet), Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), tafssir (interpretation of the Koran) and of course the Koran. The attitude is that "learning itself, anything other than religion won't get you into heaven so don't waste your time". I would like to see religious teaching limited to the Koran and the Sunna (the way the prophet lived), where the true ethics of Islam lie. The rest is blind rote learning of the most dangerous kind. It has left our youth vulnerable to fundamentalist ideologies that have led to terrorism and abuse of the true meaning of the Koran.

Instead of wasting our youths' intellect on memorising quotations whose origins is uncertain (such as those found in hadith, Fiqh and tafssir) we need to encourage them to think freely, innovate and use their initiative for the betterment of our society. Early Islam was a time of great creativity. Scholars excelled in sciences and literature. Our religion should not be a shield behind which we hide from the world but a driving force that inspires us to innovate and contribute to our surroundings. This is the true spirit of Islam.

4. A complete reform of social services

The ministry of social affairs is tolerating cruelty towards women rather than protecting them. The only refuge homes that abused women can turn to are state ones. In these, women are continuously told that by seeking refuge they have brought shame on their families.

If they come from powerful families then they will be sent straight back to their homes in fear of the wrath of a powerful patriarch. As a result we have seen many cases of suicide by educated women, doctors and scientists who were sent back to their abusers.

We need independent women's refuges where the rights of women are upheld and backed up by powerful laws that can override family traditions and protect women.

The ministry of social affairs not only abuses women's rights but is also one of the reasons poverty is rife in the kingdom. A corrupt system that lacks transparency has meant that more than 50% of our population is poor and needy even though we are one of the wealthiest countries on earth.

5. The role of the Mahram (chaperone)

Women in Saudi cannot get around or travel without a mahram (a kind of chaperone - usually a male relative).

At the time of the prophet, women used to have a man to accompany them but in those days Arabia was a desert literally full of pirates.

Today the only purpose of such a law is to curtail women's freedom of movement. This not only infantilises women but turns them unnecessarily into a burden on their men and on society.

Today women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive.

This one seems to concern western observers the most but there are more essential rights we need to obtain first.

I am definitely for women driving but I don't think this is the right time for a reversal of this law. In the current climate if a woman drives, she could be stopped, harassed beaten or worse to teach her a lesson.

This is why I am against women driving until we are educated enough and until we have the necessary laws to protect us from such madness. Otherwise we might as well hand out a licence to the extremists to abuse us further. If as drivers we get harassed, they will say to the Islamic world "see what happens when women drive, they get harassed they get beaten" and they will call for even more stringent laws to control women. This is something we can't afford. Fundamental changes in the law and its attitude to women are needed before we take this step.

On the whole it is the rights and freedoms of all citizens that are crucial in Saudi Arabia and from those the rights of women will emanate.

Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service.

**********

Listen to Princess Basma's 20-minute interview for Outlook, BBC World News Service

Who has the right to argue for reform of a country?
What role do the privileged play in change?
Who counts as privileged?
What is the place of international pressure?
Do insiders and outsiders prioritize the same issues?
What opinion do you have of the substance of Princess Basma's interview?
If you are Saudi, please identify yourself as such (even if you use the anonymous option to comment).
If you are not, how do these questions relate to reform in your own country?
What would your priorities be for your own country?
Other?

Related Posts:
Recent:
On Mother's Day 2012: Calling on Saudi Men to Advocate for Saudi Women's Rights
Saudi Women Driving: Public Naming and Shaming along with the Arresting, Fining, and Flogging
HH Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel Interview: On Saudi Women, Driving, Clinton, Obama, Allegations Against Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal
Who Says Saudi Women Don't Want to Work?
Saudi Women Driving Garners Attention; Saudi Women's Education Brings Substantive Change--Including to Driving
On Women Driving, in the West and Saudi; Other Parameters of Women's Quality of Life; Hope for Change

For additional and older posts: see the Category SaudiSocietyCultureLaw in the side bar; use the search function for all posts on Saudi women and driving, and other topic related keywords

See Also:
الأميرة بسمة بنت سعود: التغييرات التي أود تحقيقها في بلادي [Above interview in BBC Arabic]
‫مقالات الأميرة بسمة بنت سعود..
[Princess Basma's blog, most often in Arabic, BBC interview above in Arabic and English here]
Most powerful Saudi women: In pictures

Princess Basma on BBC's Hardtalk

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails