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A True Story on the Lives of Saudi Women in names only—on a piece of paper.

Readers please do not be


shocked at such an appalling treatment of our women—they are just
like domestic animals--always owned by some one. They could not
subsist on their own as human beings. The law in Saudi Arabia , vis-
By Khaled à-vis women, stipulates that no girl/woman in a college could insert
her own photograph in her identity card; instead, only the photograph
2006/01/30
of her father, brother, husband or her mahram (guardian) must be
attached.
MANY PEOPLE HAD SAID that Islam respects women and values
them. But, from my own experience, I have found this to be just a fat
Anyway, after finishing their Teachers Training, these two sisters of
lie. As a native of Saudi Arabia , I have personally witnessed how
mine had to wait for jobs which must be in the vicinity of their
despicably women are treated in our Islamic society. In this short
dwelling. They cannot go away from my father’s control. If they
article I shall narrate my experience of such oppressive and horrific
dared to do so, they will never get jobs.
treatment of our women, a-la Islamic style. Every word that I am
going to write is absolutely true—nothing has been fabricated or As a conscientious brother, I firmly believe that my sisters are wise
exaggerated. No one coerced me to write this story, because, I am and responsible—more than many men in my area, even more than I.
born a Saudi and I live, right here in Saudi Arabia . I am certain that given the chance to live and manage their lives by
themselves, they will succeed without any problems. In fact, they are
I have three sisters. They were highly motivated to be educated, and
capable of accomplishing far more difficult tasks than many of us
on their own effort, pursued modern education. But because of many
could.
absurd, outdated and unfair impediments imposed on women’s
education in our society, they could not finish their chosen field of But alas! This three educated, wise, responsible and ambitious girls
learning. Despite my sincere intention, I could simply do nothing to are held prisoners at home by their illiterate father. He does not know
help them get proper education. My hands were tied; our society anything about the world outside of home. He sees no need at all for
frowns upon women who are highly educated in modern way. any progress or development of civilization. And he has forced my
sisters to live his periphery of life.
One of my sisters finished Secondary School, and then she stopped
studying, because she was keen on beauty training. But in a pure This illiterate father banned them (my sisters) from getting married. It
Islamic society like ours, it is not that easy for her to pursue her was because of his strict demand for non-smoking, strictly Islamic
ambition to be a beauty therapist. bridegrooms from the same tribe which he belongs to. It looks like
such dim-witted demands might keep my sisters remain spinsters for
My other two sisters wanted to be school teachers. So they continued
the foreseeable future.
with their studies and finished their Higher Secondary Level.
In our society of strict Islamic adherence, all men who are smokers
I clearly remember when they were in the college, their ID cards were
and/or who do not pray regularly in mosques are considered unfit for
in their own names, but the photographs on the cards were that of my
marriage. As a binding rule, a man who is considering to get married
father! This meant my sisters had no physical existence—they existed
must produce at least two witnesses who would vouch that the
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prospective bridegroom regularly prays in a mosque. This condition is For the reasons stated above, many Saudi fathers ask for double
so important in Saudi society that failure to produce such witnesses marriages—that is: give me your daughter and I will give you my
might result in the break up of the proposed marriage. More daughter or sister…and so on. In this way, they feel comfortable, that
importantly, a Saudi woman from one tribe must not marry a man is: we will protect his honour if he protects ours. This is how people
from another tribe or from another nationality, even though the man is in our society use women for their own benefit—when they need
a Muslim. Forget about a Saudi woman marrying a non-Muslim—this money, or when they need new wives. There are some Saudi women
is haram. who earn wages, but the money they get goes to the pockets of their
fathers or husbands. For the fear that their daughters’ salary might be
In our tribe the girls outnumber the boys two or three times. This appropriated by their husbands, many Saudi fathers do not want their
means that many of our girls will never get married, as marrying daughters married. To me, this might be another reason why my
outside our tribe is absolutely unthinkable. In our society men prefer father has literally put a ban on the marriage of my sisters.
to marry girls less than twenty years old. They have a special
penchant for girls who are around sixteen years or less. The
conclusion from this absurd desire for very young girls is that the
marriage prospect of our girls more than twenty years old is almost So, how my sisters live in this society?
zero. Or, they might get married but to older men.
As Saudi women, my sisters go through extraordinary suffering. They
Thus, because of these ridiculous Islamic rules, the lives of these have no right whatsoever to manage their lives by themselves. They
grown-up girls mean nothing in our puritanical society. are totally dependent on my father, on me and their other brothers.
They cannot go anywhere alone, by themselves. Whenever anyone of
Let us now return to my father’s mentality and find the real reason them ventures outside, some men (brother or father) must accompany
why he does not want his daughters to be married to strangers (I her as her protector and minder. They cannot even go out for such
mean, men from another tribe or another nationality). events like accident, hospital emergency, etc. Believe me, when they
need to go to a hospital, they have to call my brother to take them
Saudi men strongly believe that women have no hopes, desires and there. He has to come from another city, 300km afar. Because they
aspiration of their own. Thus, when it comes to marriage, a Saudi cannot drive (women in Saudi Arabia are banned from driving cars
woman’s opinion is irrelevant. She is totally dependent on her owner and are not allowed to go with non mahram) and my father cannot
about her fate. Saudi men also consider it shameful to give someone’s drive, my sisters have no choice but to undergo such unspeakable
daughter to be married to a stranger—outside one’s own tribal ordeal of agony. No matter how much urgent and emergency their
boundary. It is difficult for a Saudi man to accept that outsiders could case, they must wait for their mahram (in this case, their brother) to
look at the sacred ‘honour’ of their daughters. It is inconceivable for a take them to hospital. There is no way out for them. Since my father
Saudi father to envisage that a stranger could have sex with her does not know how to use an ATM, when any of my sisters wants to
daughter—even in marriage, and even when the bridegroom is a withdraw money from ATM, she must handover her card to a stranger
Muslim. So, this is the real reason why my father would not allow my (a man) to withdraw money for her. When my sisters want to do
sisters to marry ‘foreigners’. He is simply paranoid that ‘foreigners’ regular shopping, they must hand over the money to a stranger and he
would have sexual intercourse with her daughters. will charge whatever price he wishes. These are just a few examples
of the plights Saudi women go through in their daily lives.
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Some times I do think to leave my job, just to stay with them. she is his probity. According to Sharia, the government is not allowed
to kill a father if he kills his daughter or son for any reason.
So, you might say: why not take them out of Saudi Arabia ? This is
utterly impossible. In Saudi Arabia , to secure a passport, a woman In Islam, a daughter cannot marry without her father’s permission—it
must have the written permission from her mahram (father, brother or is haram. In nutshell, in Islam, a father is a holy man, a commander
husband). Obtaining a passport is not enough for a Saudi woman to and a petulant dictator. Even when he is illiterate, obdurate, unjust
travel alone. Her father (in case she is unmarried) must sign special and insensible, their children—especially the daughters, can do
papers to permit her to go on a voyage on her own. Being illiterate my nothing against him.
father will never allow his daughters to leave Saudi Arabia , I am
absolutely certain of this.

Sometime, I really wonder why such an unbearable torment has been So, in my case what can I do?
imposed on our women. My sisters cannot do anything without the
permission and assistance of my father or brother. They are at home, The straightforward answer to this question would be: nothing, I can
all the time, watching television. There is no sport for them to play, do virtually next to nothing to change the situation. If I file a case
no work to attend to, no hope and nothing to live for. The reality is against my father, the religious judge will ask him, ‘Why don’t you
that they are incarcerated in the biggest prison in the world— Saudi let your daughters get married?’ My father’s vague answer will be,
Arabia , the land of the pure, unadulterated Islam. “These girls are my responsibility (that is, under my safe custody),
and Allah will punish me if I don’t choose good husbands for them.”
One might legitimately ask: why all these happen to Saudi women? As a proof of his sincere effort he might even produce evidence that
Who is to be blamed for this loathsome ordeal perpetrated on our all the men he had sought were smokers and also will bring witnesses
women? It is quite easy to blame the silly, inane Saudi laws, the wide- that they were also non-praying (in mosque) Muslims. This will
spread illiteracy prevalent among the Saudi people and the archaic completely silence the Islamic judge. He will find no ground to
traditions for the hopeless condition of our women. But think again. chastise my father; instead, he might impose punishment on me for
All these factors are firmly rooted in Islam. It is Islam which is clearly not respecting my father and his decisions.
the culprit. It is the Islamic laws in Saudi Arabia which have rendered
our women chattels of men, forced them into their servitude and have With such anguish and frustration in my heart, I am patiently waiting
completely robbed their dignity, honour and respect they should for the death of my father. Once he dies, the control of my sisters will
deserve as women. To say the least, Islam has shaken and shamed the automatically transfer to me. Their ownership will officially be in my
very basic foundation of womanhood. name. I shall be their new possessor—just like cars, houses, goats,
camels etc. Then I shall be completely free to do with them whatever
Islam provides complete authority to a father to control his daughter/s. I wish—Islam gives me all the authority. I could take them to Hell or
He has full control to give her in marriage, to ban her from social life to Heaven—wherever I desire.
or even to kill her. You might be shocked to learn that a Saudi father
can kill his daughter with complete impunity. Please know that even Readers: please do not feel sorry or pity for my sisters. Compared to
when he kills his daughter, government will not kill the father because many other Saudi women, they are quite lucky—they can visit
shopping centres, once or twice a year. They can use make ups and
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they can even listen to music. The best freedom they have is that they
can choose Television channels they like to watch. For many Saudi
women, this is a great privilege, if you did not know.