Saudi Arabia: Truth or Exaggeration?

An article appeared last month in Arab News in which an American teacher claims she has been held against her will in Saudi Arabia for more than 400 days.  That’s a pretty strong statement to make.

Trina Flowers infers that she was brought to Saudi Arabia under false pretences.  She stated her papers indicated she was to work at King Saud University but was sent to Najran University. She arrived to the Kingdom on a visit visa and describes how the other teachers she knew all had visit visas rather than work visas.  The visit visa would be renewed every 90 days according to the article.

According to Ms. Flowers she was unhappy with the situation and wished to leave Saudi Arabia.  However she claims that the company for whom she worked did not comply with her wishes and that soon she became an expat in the Kingdom without a valid visa due to the expiration of the visitor visa.

At the time the article was published in Arab News, Ms. Flowers claims to be homeless and penniless.  She was staying at a hotel while awaiting to receive a valid visa and compensation which she says is due to her.  She alleges to other wrongdoings on the part of the company.

Until her situation is resolved she has placed advertisements to teach English in exchange for food.

I may sound harsh but I find this account suspect and a little too theatrical.  Or is Ms. Flowers really that naïve?  If so, she should never be working abroad.  Nowhere In the article is there any mention that she attempted to contact the American Embassy which has a U.S. Citizen Services Officer whose job is to provide assistance in such circumstances.  The US Embassy could certainly assist Ms. Flowers to leave the Kingdom as she claims to desire.

In fact, any expat in Saudi Arabia, should register their presence in Saudi Arabia with their local embassy.  This way, in the event of any conflict or emergency, the embassy knows how to contact its citizens.  In turn, expats can contact their embassies for advice and guidance in situations where they do not have control or do not know what to do.  Most embassies will allow a citizen to register their presence through the embassy’s web site.

Back back to Ms. Flowers, does her story sound like truth or exaggeration?

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47 Responses

  1. Ms. Tina Fowler paid a visit to CDHR’s office in DC when she returned from Saudi Arabia.

    As I recall, she told me she was going to reach out to Christians and mobilize them to go after Muslims. I wounder what happened to that project.

    I told her she would have easier task and faster results if she mobilize Muslims against each other because Western Christians have it good and as they say., if ain’t broken don’t fix it.

  2. Well, that’s an evangelical for you. Run around making trouble and then whine about it.

  3. Carol, I personally observed a number of similar cases in Qatar, a highly moderate nation in the region.
    In ALL cases, said US consulate section was as useful as tits on a bull. Actually, LESS than as useful.
    Their stance was one of helplessness and the US citizen was SOL.
    As both an expat AND a CIA collector, I expect far more from you!
    It’s lousy, true, but REALITY shines a different light than what you suggest. Though, it IS a bad light for the US Department of State.

    All Alyami, can you provide a citation for your claims? Gwendolyn, I expect better, as in demanding PROOF of a claim, rather than acceptance of such. Otherwise, *I* am the Lard, thy Godling. Worship my flatulence (or something)!
    Or demand proof.
    And to be blunt, I trust no creature in this or any universe, not even myself.
    But then, my retired military career was one of security. *I* might not get in, if I lose or forget credentials, but the almighty would have a bit of trouble.
    Or more simply put, to get access to anything of interest, I had to pass through THREE entry points of definitive proof of identity AND one of proof of self AND one of proof of knowledge at a minimum. And THAT was just to get onto the base. To get into the network or sensitive areas, it was worse. Also, highly functional, after the requirements were defined to all accessing said areas.

  4. @ Wzrd1, “All Alyami, can you provide a citation for your claims?

    What proof do you need and for what claim?”

    Do you have a name? Profession? email address? website? published work?

  5. After having read the entire article at Arab News that Carol provided, I came back with the feeling that this woman is a “drama queen”, with lots and lots of chips on her shoulders. Especially after what she confided in Dr. Aliyami, she came across to me as simply “white trash b****” :)-

    According to “urban dictionary”:

    white trash is a slang term for those who usually live in a trailer park. With low incomes, they spend their tax returns on things like big screen TV’s instead of clothes for their kids. These people tend to be mouthy and fight frequently. Generally these people are uneducated and have little concern for personal hygiene.

    To see these people at their best watch Jerry Springer show. Like, “What happened on Jerry Springer today? Oh, the usual. Some white trash ho beat down her white trash boo because he was getting freaky wid the white trash neighbor who is married to her father”.

    Having said all that, I believe TRUTH is somewhere is the middle ….

  6. Where does it say she was an evangelical? I skimmed so I must have missed that part of the article. She does seem rather dramatic.

  7. After listening to horror stories, seeing thruth and make believe for quite a while now, i can only say there’s her side of the story, the employers side of the story and the actual story :-)

    It’s not hard to believe she may be kept against her will, again US embassy may or may not help and again she could have gone there or maybe not. Either way i’d say conduct a fair probe ( sigh!! but that’s in saudi – might as well give it up)
    lessons for everyone, — let someone back home know your whareabouts, keep in contact and at the slightest issue let them try contact the authorities…what else can you do.

    I’ve heard enough horror stories about saudi at the same time i have lived there quite safely and without coersion, so i don’t know what to believe. I always tell my daughter her heritage is half saudi but in her upbringing she is a full citizen of this world and if i were her i wouldn’t step into saudi not trust the family there. go if you want but under her dad’s watchful gaze and enjoy all that saudi has to offer.
    so far no takers neither she nor my son have shown the slightest interest in goin there, guess there are more interesting places for the young ones :-)

  8. I was once evangelical. It is part of the culture to force the belief on others without regard of respect for the beliefs of another. Evangelicals consider it their sworn duty to take gospel to Saudi in spite of the warnings. And if you resist, they are spewers of hate; war mongers of the lowest order.

  9. I think people are being way too harsh on Ms. Flowers. I have sent her my prayers, positive energy and well wishes.

    May he be dealt that which he dealeth.

  10. The article was published in 2011…

  11. Ali Alyami, I asked for citations on the comments you made, “Ms. Tina Fowler paid a visit to CDHR’s office in DC when she returned from Saudi Arabia.

    As I recall, she told me she was going to reach out to Christians and mobilize them to go after Muslims. I wounder what happened to that project.”

    Those weren’t mentioned in the included article, nor in this article. Hence, I ask for the source, in order to be more fully informed on this topic.

    Yes, I have a name, an e-mail address and a website. My published works, few that they are, are classified, from my former post. All of the former are private and typically not posted in open forums. The latter are, as I said, classified (other than their security classification, they’re classified further as “extremely boring”).
    What relevance my name, e-mail address, website and published works are to the question is beyond me though.
    I simply asked for information, so that I can read further on this matter.

  12. Ask Ms. Flowers about the visit and her project.

    What’s so strange about wanting to know about who you are, what you stand for and why should others prove their credibility to you if you refuse to prove yours?

    The reason I participate in this discussion infrequently is because I offer some suggestions, analysis and solutions to issues and problems that have lethal implications for the oppressed Saudi people and the international community.

    Let’s hear your thoughts, analysis and prognosis or is that classified too?

  13. To ask her about it would be to get more of the same side of the story. Hence, why I asked about your source of information. I prefer to hear ALL sides of a story before I believe any of it.

    I haven’t heard any suggestion, analysis (which would include source information to show the analytic process) or solution, other than to make claims without substantiation. That is all that I asked for, more information that you seem to possess (I’ll shelve the recollection, as we all have those but cannot provide documentation).
    For issues and problems that have potentially lethal implications, your goal is laudable, but your method, that of presenting unsubstantiated evidence is not useful, as there is no verification of information that is basing the information presented.

    My personal thoughts… Well, slow cultural growth, which eventually cascades in growth rate, culturally speaking. Think Arab spring in slow motion, with a few regressive periods. Of course, falloff after peak oil tends to cloud the forecast.
    Change doesn’t happen overnight, especially massive change. Massive changes induce culture shock, which triggers a reverse effect from the populace. So, it’s slow, gradual change, introduced over many years.

  14. Had you done your homework first, you would have saved yourself unnecessary heartache and avoid wasting my precious time. Go to http://www.cdhr. info

  15. if one has a case with the labour office- like ms. flowers- she has to stay and follow up in saudi. If she leaves the country, she will never be able to get her compensation.

  16. .I worked in Riyadh for a period of two years,and currently in the process of returning(hopefully) I loved it! I never had a problem.
    As,for Ms Flowers,and her story,which was published in Arab news,several people from the article have commented,that worked with her.Who knows what the real truth is !

    If you don’t follow the rules,you will have a problem,especially when your not respectful!

  17. All Alyami, so MY homework is to provide references from ONE site that is rather opinionated, for YOUR sources!
    A fascinating viewpoint! One that would NEVER pass muster in any responsible intelligence service, private or government.

    Gigi, as I recall from the code, ONLY if her case was HEARD and not dismissed. As she’d not have a passport nor clearance papers, she’d NOT be permitted to depart the nation, especially after overstay of visa. It’s a bit, erm, interesting in that regard…

  18. Good for you. Now you did a small piece of your homework. Sadly, you missed the point because that’s what people like you are paid and groomed to do.

    You concluded, erroneously, that I was sold to Ms. Flowers’ story. I quoted some (the polite part) of what she told me in a lengthy and taxing meeting.

    You are absolutely right, I am intolerant (opinionated) of injustice, corruption, oppression, manufacturing and dissemination of lethal doctrines that are designed to deny both of us the right to engage in a useless dialogue like this.

    Sleep well and if you are in the area let’s meet and pursue this discussion in person or will that make you a supporter of good causes like the ones I promote?

  19. @wzrd1 this is not the first time i hear this kind of story, especially with regards to companies bringing english teachers for the universities. nonetheless her case became more extreme.
    it is not acceptable letting women work with 3 month visas only- that means she cannot travel during holidays or emergencies.
    i dont know if her case was dismissed by the labour office, but if a case is not dismissed that means that she can get an exit visa only if she drops the case or resultion is found ( that could take a year or more!).

  20. if she went to the US embassy for help, i assume they would help her to leave only, but she would loose her case for compensation. i guess her stay was to take up her case and see if she can actual have it resolved.

  21. by they way? just thought of it: can someone working with a 3 month visa file for a complain at the labour office: saudi labour law is only applicable if you have a residence permit,,,maybe that is why those companies preferred to keep staff on these 3 month temporary visas……

  22. Ali Alyami the website link is unavailable

    When people are starved and mistreated I have no doubt they might say some crazy stuff!

    Some people hold out and fight based on principle rather than tucking their heads between their tails while they take a piss on the floor…such people are the movers and the shakers of society who by their determination bring about positive change NOT those who sit comfortably and their chairs and make vain attempts at damage control. Pandora’s box is open…hahahah

  23. hope – just click on dr ali’s name and it will work. it’s an excellent website, btw.

  24. Hi Rosemary…I googled him and saw a brief bio on him but the one he mentioned is blocked here…

  25. In addition, clicking on his name here brings me to a blocked site…

  26. This comment was deleted due to inappropriate and offensive language which is NOT tolerated on American Bedu. Further attempts using such language will result in your being blocked from the blog.

  27. No loss actually…

  28. Thanks, Wendy. The classified critic out to read, learn and then explain to us how did he/she/it come to the conclusion that CDHR’s work lacks integrity. If anything, concerned people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, profession or religion ought to support this unique and essential undertaking.

  29. You’re welcome. I often take a look at the site to see what’s happening!

  30. Thanks. Please share the sections you think would be of interest to others.

  31. This story may or may not be exaggerated, but I hear plenty of stories from single women working here in universities, one of which is particularly noted for problems. They frequently have to share accommodation though their contract states otherwise, they work on temporary visas so they cannot get bank accounts or travel out of the country during holidays, their passports are always held by the company, and they often have to buy their own whiteboard markers and provide photocopy paper, if the photocopier is working at all. It is unfortunate that these visiting women are put into a position that may have serious consequences to them, and has resulted in several that I have heard of, from several sources, not being paid for a period of time through no fault of their own. For obvious reasons I am being circumspect in what I say here. I have met many who do, never-the-less, manage to have a good time here, if they can get over the stress of trying to do a professional job in less than ideal circumstances. Somebody asked me why these people put up with it, and my response is that sometimes a job in difficult circumstances abroad may be better than no job at all at home.

  32. All Alyami, sorry for the delay in response, had family medical things to take care of.

    As for sleeping well, I always do. Thanks. ;)
    Seriously though, you invited me to speak in person, but didn’t define what area you are in. I assume the D.C. metro area, I may end up in that general area soon. If so, we might be able to catch each other.
    As for a lengthy and taxing interview, I know THAT feeling, though my end was more in the DoD arena. To hazard a guess, you had to listen to the Avatar of whiners, who complained over a self-inflicted injury, thinking her view is paramount all around the globe and the Ugly American behavior should be respected?
    That considered (though, I’m NOT putting words in your mouth), I’d STILL like to hear the Saudi side. I doubt I would, because it is the exception to the rule of Arab politeness to call someone an asshole.

  33. @HEB: definitely I have heard a number of stories too. Especially single women are assummed to be ‘ easy targets’ as they do not have a wider family or substatial ‘ mahram’ power to stick up for them. It is sad really.

  34. @HEB: of course they would leave as you rightly say- but- once you have left another job behind for a so called ‘ new opportunity’, then you also need some time to re-apply for other jobs.
    On top of that it would take a few months to realise the trap you are in, another few months to see if you can change it and then once you realise it is a dead end you need again a few months to get another job.

  35. People thinking about working abroad need to do a lot of homework and research first. They also need to learn about the culture, religion and the language – at least enough to cover the basics before they go anywhere. Americans especially have to understand that things will probably not be as easy or as smooth as they are at home and their resources might not be so plentiful. Housing will be different, job supplies not there, etc. etc. etc.

  36. Wendy,

    That is an excellent suggestion about doing “a lot of homework”, before thinking about working abroad, especially in saudi and other third world countries. In addition to culture, religion and language that you suggested, one should also be aware the criminal and penal justice systems.

    Here’s a very informative mini-documentary about the saudi criminal/penal system involving a canadian, and two other expats:

    http://documentaryheaven.com/confessions-of-an-innocent-man/

  37. Really, one of the points of going to another country should be to experience a different lifestyle and culture. Of course people want money but learning about other countries and peoples should be the primary goal IMHO. Of course people have to learn about the laws and criminal activities – it’s part of the research.
    Sampson is an old but true story. He recently died.

  38. @ Wendy: yes there needs to be a lot of research before taking up any post, especially abroad. Unfortunately though, some of the truths are only in the small print.
    The lucky thing is that we live in the age of the internet, so people can go on blogs or forums and share experiences with people who have been there before them.

  39. @Honest Abe: Thanks for sharing the documentary. I’ve gone ahead and bookmarked the site itself as I am a documentary junkie.

  40. Friends of ours had a horrific experience while employed in KSA. He was a specialist scientist in a private hospital and they had 5 young children and had lived in KSA happily for a number of years. They felt it was time to return home and he gave in his notice. He was told that he would not be able to leave until they found a replacement for him. Reasonable, I guess. He was then told that as he had given in his notice they were no longer required to pay him or provide him accommodation and so his family were made homeless in a matter of a few days. They camped out with various friends over a period of weeks until his employer agreed to release his wife and children’s passports so they could leave the country. He remained an unpaid prisoner in KSA for many months until he was finally given back his passport and left to return to Australia. His employer continued to expect him to show up to work even though they were not paying him any more. And all the while the Australian consulate were powerless to assist. In conversation with an embassy official we discovered that this sort of situation was reasonably common.
    In my husband’s case, he was employed as a white collar professional but his employer only ever organised a technician’s visa for him which would have been a problem had they ever been found out by the authorities. This woman’s story doesn’t sound over dramatised at all. Not all expats have a pleasant time soaking up the culture in kingdom.

  41. yes this is common thing !! people who come here cant leave at thier own will .THye will only be given their passport back when the employer feels he has a replacement for this guy who can handle work.

  42. Interesting, abab. In Qatar, one still needed an exit permit, but one kept one’s passport. Save for day workers, who had theirs unlawfully retained by their sponsor.
    Of course, I did my homework and made sure I had both an alternate means of egress and a secondary passport, just in case.
    But then, I’d do the same even going to the UK or Canada (Mexico would take a book to consider contingencies if things went way wrong).
    And no, I never worked for any US agency, other than military. I just was in a field where one took very few chances and had multiple egress plans if thing sent awry. But, in that field, one learns things from those agency types. Then, adds to them.

  43. I thought this name sounded familiar and a quick google and here is a similar situation surrounding a woman with the same name posted proudly by the great anti muslim and all things Islam, Daniel Pipes. Coincidence? http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/26776

  44. I think more than half of that article is over exaggerated garbage!

  45. I met with Trina Flowers in Riyadh on many occasions and I witnessed atrocious behaviour from her and she appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the conflict that she was embroiled in, whilst constantly reminding all and sundry of her suffering. She was ungrateful of help given to her and intent on fighting the Saudi system. It seems that she went through exactly the same experience in Kuwait in 2005. Why would any regular person go to KSA to teach after the experience in Kuwait?

  46. I also was initially taken in by Trina Flowers and her ‘predicament.’ Then, I witnessed on numerous occasions the most unbelievable behaviour from her. She was definitely a person looking for trouble and she would stir and stir until she made trouble, I saw her in action on many occasions, really unbelievable. I believe that some of the articles that strongly support Trina Flowers and her situation are actually written by Trina Flowers herself. Her demeanour is so outrageously aggressive and the way that she verbally expresses herself is always so politically incorrect that I can’t see any right minded person supporting her views or her agenda. Articles written about her experiences in Kuwait in 2005, which are almost identical to her situation in Saudi describe her as a human rights activist. That must have been her own label for herself then. I think that she has a personality disorder and will continue finding ways to get herself into predicaments then blaming everyone but herself and then demand compensation for her suffering. It’s a pattern and she doesn’t realise that we can see through her and all of her strange games. SAD!

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