Thursday, June 12, 2014

A friend in Saudi Arabia

I can hear them say
how much everything has changed
over the years.
A friend of mine
just moved to Saudi Arabia;
she cannot leave her house
without her husband;

her gender encircles her life,
what she can do,
and what she can’t.

Windows close to the ceiling,
 heads wrapped in abayas,
cars with male drivers.

“I brought you your woman,” somebody
said to her husband,
announcing his belonging.

 The world is busy praying.

Justice does not fit in our mindsets.

Freedom is  a frail word
with fragile bones, 
 as a forsaken dream
whenever you believe
that every woman is ready to submit.

Julia Hones

In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to study or work without the permission of a male family member. They are not allowed to drive, and they cannot travel overseas unless they have the consent of a man.
I dedicate this poem to the women in Saudi Arabia who are silenced or beaten whenever they try to change their situation.
 I dedicate this poem to the victims of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. The ones who don't belong to the statistics, the women and kids whose silent suffering is forgotten by the world...

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Marin Luther King


  1. Amazing post, Julia! It is truly a difficult life for women in Saudi Arabia.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Nellie.
      The media does not talk about this important issue. And their indifference conveys the message that gender discrimination is not an important matter.
      Indifference is not the solution.
      They need to know that we care.
      Thanks, again.

  2. I would hate to have someone have the right to beat me. That would be very scary. The most a woman could hope for would be that her parents arrange her marriage with a kind man. But it is not too unlike the lives of women here in the 1800's. My grandmother's life was similiar to that but yet she was very happy. Perhaps she had secret longings but my grandfather was also a very reasonable man and since her marriage had been arranged, she had good luck in the draw.

    But no, that would never work in today's American lifestyle. I imagine a woman has to grow up in that atmosphere and expecting that lifestyle.

    1. No, that's a myth, Manzanita. Not every woman expects that lifestyle in Saudi Arabia. That is what I wanted to debunk.
      There are women in Saudi Arabia who try to protest. Their voices are repressed. (The poem is a true story, by the way.)
      So many people here in the United States believe that women in Saudi Arabia are happy the way they are. They have no choice. Men are the ones who dominate there.
      Gender discrimination exists. Not only in Saudi Arabia.

    2. And one more thing, Manzanita: your grandmother wouldn't have been sent to jail for leaving her house without her husband. It is not the same.

  3. Julia, your poem expresses so clearly how unnecessarily difficult and horrendous life is for women in Saudi Arabia, and in many parts of the world. Mindless gender-based restrictions centuries old based on nothing that makes any sense in the past or present! Women as chattel, possessions. Sadly, I’m not sure it can change as long as women are viewed as objects in certain cultures, and it’s primarily based on strict religious interpretations. I feel badly for your friend and for all the women there. The way women are forced to live (“forced” being the operative word here, there is no freedom to choose) is not really living, it’s just existing to get by. No one is truly happy that way.

    I knew that women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to drive, study or work without male permission, but I need to ask about “windows close to the ceiling.” Are women not even allowed to look out windows there? That’s terrible and inhumane.

    Julia, this is an outstanding post and a compassionate poem dedicated to the women of Saudi Arabia. The ending quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., really says it all.

    1. Thank you for your support, Jersey. The system in Saudi Arabia is a gender-based apartheid.
      Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to have medical treatments without a man's consent. If a woman has no man to give a consent she can die from the malady. They don't care. Also, women in Saudi Arabia can make no decisions when they raise their kids. They have no say.
      Why doesn't this kind of apartheid awaken the outrage that the apartheid in South African triggered? Women's rights ARE human rights, but the world does not care. Saudi Arabia is a wealthy nation and money is more important than human rights.
      International pressure would help to make a difference. In one of the articles a Saudi Arabian woman said it.
      No religion should be used to justify apartheids or violence against women.
      Yes, the windows are close to the ceiling so that the women inside the house cannot be seen by anybody.
      I will finish my comment with Martin Luther King's quote:
      "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Rachna.
      I believe in the power of compassion and peace.

  5. That outrageous state of affairs in Saudi Arabia is described so vividly in your thoughtful prose. There are factions in British society that hold such contemptible values, or lack of, of women as the norm.

    Thank you for this enlightenment.


    1. Hi Gary.
      In Saudi Arabia a woman that is abused by her husband needs to ask him for permission to be sued. He needs to sign a consent to allow the victim to sue her abuser. This sounds like a joke, but it is the sad reality in Saudi Arabia.
      Thank you for commenting.

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  7. Hi Julia,

Your post is brilliant. Congratulations. This is an area that I like to give my point of view. I consider that even in many 'others countries’, like US that you do not see so sad and nasty women discriminations, still exist a different grade of discrimination. For example, still the payment is inferior to men, still there are no regulation about real paid maternity leave, still women have to struggle with children, home, career, why not husbands? In Sweden exists a very long Paternal paid leave absence. And why not to tell this? Even there is much more discrimination against women if a woman is not loyal!! Still the research shows that even both parents working full time, the mayor "homework' is made by women. I would like to recommend the book 'Lean in" by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

    1. I would like to read Sandberg's book. I think she unearths many issues that are always buried under the carpet.
      You opened a new spectrum of discussion.
      I do believe that in many cultures women are judged differently . Women are always more prone to be blamed for everything.

  8. Just I want to add some more words to my comment. Regarding all the abuses against women in many countries,all are very wrong.The problem is the extreme difficulty to deal with this situation. Some women escape ,others barely,others die .The international community can do very little .It is so sad.

    1. The international community can do a lot by talking about it. These women need to know that they are not alone. And the ones who abuse their power need to know that the world IS watching them. Shame on them.

  9. Hi Julia ..we had a film as part of the film society this year called "Wadjda" - there's a write up in Wiki .. but it was very interesting: the write up for our film society read:

    "The title is, in act, the name of the central character - is a film which sets out to show us what life is like today in Saudi Arabia, and what is more, it seeks to do so from a female perspective.

    That is true twice over, first because the first-time writer/director is allowed to film on location in Riyadh is herself a woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, and secondly because the story she chooses to tell is one seen through the eyes of the eponymous heroine who is an 11 year old school girl.

    Given the extent to which men dominate in this part of the world leaving women unempowered, getting this film made has been a considerable achievement in itself. That it is, in the event, a film of exceptional quality justifies me (our film selector) in saying that for Haifaa Al-Mansour Wadjda is a triumph."

    Here's a shorter summary: "Next Wednesday the current season of the Eastbourne Film Society comes to an end with what could well be one of the most appealing films they have shown in 2013/14. The film, with seats available once again for the general public, is the much acclaimed Wadjda made in Saudi Arabia and notable for giving a female perspective on life in that country today.

    This is, in fact, true twice over. First of all, the film is written and directed by a woman, the talented Haifaa Al-Mansour, and, secondly, the story she tells is presented through the eyes of its 11 year-old heroine the eponymous Wadjda. In this key role (she is rarely off-screen) young Waad Mohammed is an absolute delight, totally engaging but also totally in character. This girl, first seen in school where the outlook is strictly traditional, is an independent spirit. Her dream is to save up and buy a bike like that belonging to her best friend Abdullah. But in Saudi Arabia any girl with such plans is looked on askance.

    The other central figure here is Wadjda’s mother (Reem Abdullah) who has not produced a son and fears that there may be some truth in the rumours that she has heard that her husband intends to seek a second wife. This adds to the drama and to the sympathetic portrayal of women’s lives in Saudi Arabia, but it does not distract from the big question: given attitudes in this country, is Wadjda’s dream bound to fail or could it somehow succeed?"

    Hope you can make a plan to see it sometime .. cheers Hilary

    1. Wow, Hilary!
      Thank you for your recommendation. I will have to watch this movie!
      Stay well and have a wonderful week!


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