I was watching this documentary yesterday about how so many Saudi women are fleeing from Saudi Arabia.
The documentary was about Rahaf Mohammed, the Saudi woman who managed to successfully flee her allegedly abusive family. She claimed that countless women in Saudi Arabia are trapped under the abusive male guardianship system. According to the documentary, Saudi women face systematic discrimination and are left exposed to domestic violence under the male guardianship system and have few places to turn when they face abuse, leading some women to undertake dangerous escape attempts to flee the country. When I was watching this documentary, I remembered my first day at the university in Geneva. The first thing my residence hall director told me pointing at one of the rooms was to stay away from that room. I asked why and she said there are two Saudi girls in that room, and they do drugs and participate in activities that are prohibited by the university and society at large.
Fast forward to 2010 when I got an opportunity to teach at a university in Saudi Arabia. I taught at a women’s university. What I saw in that university contradicts what these women like Rahaf Mohammad proclaim about not having any rights in Saudi Arabia. The girls in my college acted, dressed and behaved in a western manner. These girls would wear western clothing, had a lot of make up on all the time, hair was done all the time like they had just come from a salon, they were on social media all the time and had more knowledge about western pop culture than me. There were even girls who were homosexuals! I even saw girls kissing each other in one classroom. Fast forward to 2020 and I’m watching these documentaries about Saudi women escaping from Saudi Arabia and claiming that they are abused in in that country and that they have no rights.
I lived in Saudi Arabia for four years as an expatriate and I got an opportunity to build relationships not only with other expats there but also with Saudi women as well. I was invited to their houses for dinner and other gatherings and what I saw in their homes, their relationships with their spouses and other men in the family, is totally conflicting of what these women are claiming today. I have personally spoken to Saudi women and Saudi girls about their rights and responsibilities in that country. They always said that they were content and have all the privileges that any women in the west has. The head of my university was a woman who graduated with a PhD from United States. Many of my Saudi colleagues were sent to study in America by the university for free. I met such strong and powerful Saudi women during my time there. They were free to move about. They had drivers to take them wherever they wanted to go. They would travel around the world with their families during every vacation. They have all the material wealth they desire and according to my Saudi female friends, they can marry whoever they like. They can get to know their future spouse over a period of time before getting married. In my experience, working with Saudi women and teaching young Saudi ladies, they seemed very happy, privileged and blessed in every way. So, my question is, what is the real reason behind these stories of Saudi women running away from their homeland? I saw a different picture than what is being shown in the media currently.
So, are Saudi women really abused and oppressed or is it yet another propaganda against the Islamic states? I will leave it up to you to figure that out!
Author: Asma Syed – Buffalo, NY
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not necessarily reflect Alfafaa’s editorial views