To veil or to die, that’s the question

niqab-4

Yesterday a student at the women only campus of a Riyad university collapsed and died of a heart attack. Allegedly the male paramedics had to wait for an hour before they were admitted due to ”modesty concerns”

The student, now identified as Amna Bawazir was known to suffer from heart problems.

Okaz newspaper said administrators at the King Saud University impeded efforts by the paramedics to save the student’s life because of rules banning men from being onsite. According to the paper, the incident took place on Wednesday and the university staff took an hour before allowing the paramedics in.

king saud university

However, the university’s rector, Badran al-Omar, denied the report, saying there was no hesitation in letting the paramedics in. He said the university did all it could to save the life of Amna.

Professors at King Saud University are demanding an investigation. “We need management who can make quick decisions without thinking of what the family will say or what culture will say,” said Professor Aziza Youssef.
One staff member, who witnessed the situation, said paramedics were not called immediately. She said they were also not given immediate permission to enter the campus and that it appeared that the female dean of the university and the female dean of the college of social studies panicked. The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from university management.

Al-Omar said the staff called campus health officials within minutes of Amna Bawazeer collapsing and that about 25 minutes later they called paramedics.

The students insisted that the officials who refused to allow the medical team into the college on the pretext they were men should be held accountable for the incident.
”Islam is a religion that facilitates practices, and the religious rule, in exceptional situations, are relaxed,” some of the students told the daily. “We do not see any necessity that is more pressing than rescuing the life of a human being from imminent death.”

Amna Bawazir’s death sparked a debate on Twitter by Saudis who created a hashtag to talk about the incident.  Thousands of Saudis vented their anger online. In the debate, many Saudis said the kingdom’s strictly enforced rules governing the segregation of the sexes were to blame for the delay in helping Amna Bawazeer.

In 2002, a fire broke out at a girl’s school in Mecca, killing at least 15
girls. The religious police would not allow the girls to escape, actually chased them back into the burning school, because they were not wearing headscarves or abayas.

Petition: Save my life, then my Modesty
Read more:

Al Arabiya

ABC news

Gulf News

Old Mecca and the kaaba

Very little is left of the ancient city that is Mecca, and more is making way for modern buildings every year. Mecca used to be like a romantic dream city, full of beautiful elegant buildings.

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Far fewer people could make the actual journey to Mecca, so the area around the Kaaba was much smaller.

mecca4

mecca-4

Flash floods occurred from time to time, about every two years

mecca5

mecca4 mecca6

The Gold embroidered black cloth, Kiswa, which drapes the Kaaba is renewed every year,

mecca7

The kiswa used to be made in Egypt,

the departure from Egypt.mecca departure from Egypt

The kiswa on a photo from the early 20th century, in front the crescent shaped wall, the hateem

Mecca8

Suspension of text messages when women leave Saudi Arabia

The automatic text message service where a text message is send to a man to inform him that one of his ”dependants” is leaving the country is being suspended for the time being. Pending adjustment. So it’s not going away, but adjusted. Maybe they will be going back to men having to sign up for this service instead of all men being warned automatically.

saudi woman

In Saudi Arabia women and children are considered dependants. So if a woman or children, or household personnel, is at the airport in order to leave the country, the husband/father/employer gets a text message that ”dependants are leaving the country”. Now any man would be aware anyway that his ”dependants” are leaving the country because women and children also need a ”yellow paper”, a form signed by the husband/father/son/grandson/any related male, confirming that he allows them to leave the country.

Sometimes the form is not enough, especially if it is a Western woman with children, and the man has to go to the airport to give his consent personally on the spot. Even a very old woman needs male permission, if necessary from a young grandson.

So now the text service, which was made an automatic one in 2012, is suspended. “The system has been suspended due to some observations and it will undergo amendment,” said Lt. Col. Ahmad Al-Laheedan, spokesperson of the Passports Department in comments published on Monday. He indicated that the system could be reintroduced, adding new options.

Many women rejoice of course. And there are a lot of Saudi men who do not like the system either. But most interesting is the reactions on twitter, blogs and in the comments on Arab News. Read the comments in the link provided below!

Reactions are very diverse:

  • Sabria S. Jawhar  ”The notification process should have never been introduced in the first place because it is humiliating for women. It is demeaning to women and restricts their freedom.”
  • ”Without such a system, a woman or a child would be free to come and go and travel abroad without her or his family knowing about it. If such is the case, we will find many of our women and children going abroad without our knowledge.
  • Salwa, another blogger, said that since the aim of the notification system is to provide a good service for families, men should also be included to augment the advantages. “I am sure that many problems would be solved if women were aware of their husbands’ cross-border movements as well,” Salwa said. “In fact, women would benefit from the system much more than men. So please include men and alert their wives about their international departures and arrivals,” she said.
  • ”What is the big issue? As a muslim women we shouldnt be travelling without a mahram anyway except for necessity and if your guardian has already given you permission then whats the big deal that he gets a text
    message?”

What do you think?

read more:

Arab News

Saudi Arabia: American Bedu’s Quiet Secret

Dear readers and friends of Carol, here you find Carol’s last article, which she had scheduled a long time in the future. This article illustrates Carol’s great capacity for love and forgiveness.

We miss you Carol.

After careful thought and deliberation I have decided to come out with something I have danced around and never discussed outright.  Why?  Because of my own inner conflicts on the issue.  However, I realize that to be fair to the memory of the man with whom I shared the best times of my life and to his family and heritage, I should speak out.  This may not put me in the most favored of light but as the saying goes, it is what it is. It is part of who I am and my life I had shared with my late husband, Abdullah.

When I first met Abdullah back in the late 1990’s I was under the belief he was separated and in the process of divorce.  After all, we met in Pakistan, he was there alone and if asked, he did not acknowledge that he was married.  Truthfully I also made it very difficult for him to be candid as I was brash and vocal on my views on men who had more than wife.  Besides, at that time, I never imagined we’d have a life or future together.  Yet as time went on and I got to know this kind, caring and compassionate man, I gave him my heart with no holds barred.

Time passed and we discussed marriage.  He chose to be less than direct on the topic of marriage other than he had children with a good woman and whom he respected highly.  The implication was that a divorce had taken place but he would do whatever he could for his children and their mother.  I admired his integrity and loyalty.

It was not until we had been married for more than three years that I learned he had never divorced his first wife.  From a western and emotional perspective I felt abandoned and betrayed.  Yet at the same time, Abdullah was always true to his words and actions.  He never made me feel incomplete or less than loved or his only love for that matter.  He had a relationship similar to many around the world of couples who were divorced and had children in common.  He never spoke against the fine woman who was his first wife.  It was my own insecurities that would make this subject an issue.  Yes; like a whining banshee I would feel some periods of self pity and fear.  Oh how silly I was.

As more time passed I like to say that my eyes opened wider and wiser.  I became aware of intimate family details and especially so how a Saudi woman can lose so much of herself and her own opportunities if there is perceived abandonment or divorce.  Abdullah, showcasing his honor, would never place a woman in such a position.  He wanted her to always have the protection of his name, integrity and family.  She raised his children and raised them so well.

She and I never met, never talked.  There was no need.  Over time I came to realize there was no need for me to feel threatened or insecure.  If anything, one could say I was in the stronger position since I was the one recognized and known as Abdullah’s wife to whom he openly gave his heart and was willing to sacrifice his position in order to merge a life together.

I only have all the more admiration for Abdullah.  He was a man caught in tradition and heritage.  Like me, he never dreamed he’d also find that ‘once in a lifetime love.’  He did not want to lose me and chose to hold back from me until I asked him point blank directly about his marital status.  Even when I did confront him all those years ago, I still see the fear and concern which etched over his face.  He was ready for me to let him go because of my strong abhorrence against the concept of multiple wives in Islam.  But all it took was for me to see his face, his fear, his love and yes, his fear to hope.  I knew… I could not let this man go.  We would move forward and move forward even stronger.  We would learn to dissolve the time which had been lost by my own fears and insecurities.

Don’t say it can’t happen to you.  It can.  It does.  It happened to me.  Don’t be quick to judge or point fingers either.  Don’t blame him.  Don’t blame me.  Don’t blame her.  We all may find ourselves in circumstances beyond which imagined.

My late husband taught me an invaluable life lesson on compassion, honor, integrity and how to accept compromises for less hurt, great gain and immeasurable love.

Ramadan Kareem

Tomorrow will be the start of the month of Ramadan. The holy month is a good occasion for Muslims to remember the less fortunate and help with their generosity. It is also a time for spiritual reflection.

We wish all Muslims peace and joy during the sacred month.

 

ramadan1

Ramadan and the lunar calendar

moon_phases_diagram

This year the Ramadan starts on the 9th of July. The month of Ramadan is a month of partial fasting and extra prayers. Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, and that includes not drinking. As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the months migrate through the seasons, moving forward every year by 11 to 12 days. A Lunar calendar is based on the cycle of the lunar phase. Twelve lunar months make up 354,37 days.

Ramadan dates can vary in different countries depending on whether one goes with the calculated time of the new moon, or the actual sighting of the new moon. All countries on the planet will see the new moon within a 24 hour period, starting from the first sighting in the east

The lunar calendar with twelve months, the Hijri Qamari, is the official calendar in Saudi Arabia. Other lunar calendars may include the addition of extra months to synchronise them to the solar calendar and make them better linked to the seasons, and are in fact ”lunarsolar” calendars. Most calendars used in antiquity had some adjustment to bring it in synchronisation with the solar year.

In the hijri lunar calendar it takes about 33 years and five days for the month of Ramadan to migrate through the solar year and end up where it started.

Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month when the Quran was revealed. We know it moves up 11 to 12 days every year, and that it takes 33 years and five days to make the cycle through the solar year, so we could calculate when exactly the Quran was revealed on the Gregorian calendar.
Anybody like to try? Please share the result!

AA

Read more:

The lunisolar calendar

The lunar calendar

‘Saudi Arabian liberals’ website founder detained since one year

Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi

Amnesty International urged the Saudi Arabian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally a website founder who is still detained and on trial one year after his arrest for expressing his views online.

After founding “Saudi Arabian Liberals” – an online forum for political and social debate – Raif Badawi, 29, was charged last June with “setting up a website that undermines public security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures. The prosecution had on the basis of this called for him to be tried for “apostasy”, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.
He has been detained for the past year in a prison in Briman, in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah, after being arrested on 17 June 2012.

“One year on, Raif Badawi remains behind bars as his trial continues for the ‘crime’ of encouraging social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“His detention shows the authorities’ contempt for online expression, and serves as a warning to the third of the Saudi Arabian population who are resorting to social media to express themselves, particularly if they are thinking of airing dissenting views.”

The charges against Raif Badawi relate to a number of articles he has written, including one about Valentine’s Day for which he is accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

One of his articles concluded:
“Congratulations to us for the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue for teaching us virtue and for its eagerness to ensure that all members of the Saudi public are among the people of paradise.”

The charges against the website founder also mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website, including one that insinuates that Al-Imam Mohamed ibn Saud University had become “a den for terrorists”.

“Amnesty International considers Raif Badawi to be a prisoner of conscience and therefore calls for him to be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther.

His trial began in June 2012 in the District Court in Jeddah, and was marred by irregularities there. According to his lawyer, the original trial judge was replaced by a judge who had advocated that Raif Badawi be punished for “apostasy”. His lawyer contested the judge’s impartiality in the case.

On 17 December, the District Court referred the case to the General Court in Jeddah, which five days later made Raif Badawi sign documents to enable his trial for “apostasy” to proceed.
Conflicting views over which court had jurisdiction over the case, relating in part to the judge at the District Court insisting that he be tried for “apostasy” – something only the General Court can do – resulted in the case being shuffled between several courts. Most recently on 8 June the District Court sent the case back to the appeal court once again insisting that he be tried for “apostasy” despite the appeal court not considering that he be tried on that charge.

“Raif Badawi’s trial has been an attempt to intimidate him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives,” said Philip Luther.
Over the past two years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested several others for expressing online views deemed to be contrary to Islam.
Hamza Kashgari remains detained without charge or trial since he was extradited from Malaysia in February 2012, where he had fled after he wrote about the Prophet Muhammed on the social network Twitter.
The prominent writer and academic Turki al-Hamad was reportedly released without charge on 5 June after he was detained in December 2012 for tweets also deemed contrary to Islam.

Bloggers, critics and activists have been increasingly singled out for their online activism in the Gulf kingdom.

On 9 March 2013, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) was required to shut down its social media accounts and disband. Two of ACPRA’s founders, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Dr Abdullah al-Hamid, were sentenced to 10 and 11 years’ imprisonment respectively. They submitted appeals against their sentences on 28 May.

From: Amnesty International

Saudi women jailed for helping a Canadian woman

saudi woman jail

Fawzia al-Ayuni and Wajiha al-Huwaider, the well known Saudi women activist, have been sentenced to 10 months in jail and banned from leaving the country for two years.

They have a month to appeal against the judgment.
The two women were convicted of the Islamic sharia law offence of takhbib*, or incitement of a wife to defy the authority of her husband. They had been briefly detained by police a year and a half ago in the company of the Canadian woman who at the time wanted to flee the kingdom with her children, although they were only taking the woman to go shopping for food because her husband had left her in the apartment without enough provisions.

When they left the apartment the women were taken into custody.

Regional rights group the Gulf Forum for Civil Societies expressed “deep concern” over the jail sentences handed down against two women, who had “defended a humanitarian right”.

Wajeha Al Huwaider

Wajeha Al Huwaider

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*) Takhbib:  In Shari`ah, ”takhbib” means to estrange a wife from her husband in order to marry her. The Prophet disowned those committing such a sin saying, “He is not one of us who estranges a wife from her husband or the wife of his slave in order to marry her” (Reported by Abu Dawud).

AA

Saudi Arabia and witchcraft

magic

 

In the western world the belief in witchcraft and black and white magic is usually considered an anachronistic superstition of the dark ages. But in Saudi Arabia the belief in witchcraft and magic is not only fully alive but every year people are executed on the charge of witchcraft. It is usually foreigners or illiterate poor people who are accused and executed for witchcraft, but just as in the dark ages of Europe, those who (claim to) be able to practice magic but perform for the rich and powerful are left in peace . Practises like fortune telling and astrology are considered un-Islamic.

For witchcraft being proven, and a persons life to be forfeit, such items as glass bottles with fluids, charms, and owning a book about witchcraft are enough. Other evidence arrayed against witchcraft suspects typically revolves around statements from accusers and suspicious personal belongings that suggest the supernatural, in a country where superstition is still widespread.

In Saudi Arabia in modern times real witch hunts still happen. The religious police have an Anti witchcraft unit and sorcery hotline.  There is no legal definition for ”witchcraft”  or which body of evidence would prove it.

The judges in Saudi Arabia have a lot of leeway in interpreting sharia and there are no codified laws.

Amnesty international claims these judges use witchcraft charges to arbitrarily “punish people, generally after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion.”

There’s evidence that the cases may involve coerced confessions and miscarriages of justice as well. Human Rights Watch chronicles the plight of an illiterate Saudi woman named Fawza Falih who was beaten, forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read, tried without a lawyer, and sentenced to death for “witchcraft, recourse to jinn, and slaughter” of animals after a man accused Falih of rendering him impotent and authorities found a “foul-smelling substance,” a white robe with money inside it, and another robe hanging from a tree in or near her home.

A Lebanese  television personality on a religious pilgrimage to Medina, for making psychic predictions on a Lebanon-based satellite channel. Sabat was arrested by the Saudi religious police after they recognized him from television and pressured him to confess to violating Islam if he hoped to return to Lebanon. His confession landed him a beheading instead.
The only evidence presented in court was reportedly the claim he appeared regularly on Lebanese satellite issuing general advice on life and making predictions about the future.
After intense international pressure the Saudi Supreme Court eventually freed Sabat after ruling that his actions hadn’t harmed anyone.

Especially foreign maids are considered to practice sorcery. From the Saudi Gazette:
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a) has said it has broken a spell that a housemaid in Taif put on the five daughters of the elderly man she was employed to look after.
Muhammad Fari’, head of the Hai’a’s Shihar District branch in Taif, said the maid cast a spell on the women, who live with their husbands and children in other parts of the country, to stop them visiting and increasing her workload.
“They would visit with husbands and children during the holidays and it would appear that their numerous demands during those visits led to her putting the spell on them to stop them visiting their father,” Fari’ said. “The Hai’a in Shihar stepped in to break the spell and return affairs to their normal course.”
Fari’ said that foreigners, and particularly women, were responsible for acts of magic in Saudi Arabia.
“These practices are foreign to the Saudi society,” he said.

 

AA

 

Saudi Arabia: Call Her Selma, “J”, Saudi Stepford Wife…She’s Still an Abused Woman

domestic violence

Abuse takes place in all places of the world.  However, most places do have a fair and just legal system in place if that abuse is reported.  While inroads are being made in Saudi Arabia, they are not being made fast enough.

This past week, Selma Ahmed (not her real name) was apprehended and arrested because she left with her two daughters to get out of an abusive relationship from her Saudi husband.  Selma, although not of Saudi origin, does have Saudi citizenship.  Monday, April 29, police officers came to her place of work and arrested her.  The charges are she and her two adult daughters had left the home of her husband without his permission.

Activist and photographer, Samia El-Moslimany, spoke with the police officer and he told her that Selma will be detained until she is willing to return to her husband’s house.  In spite of the fact that Selma fears for her life is she returns, the police officer put on deaf ears and stated that Selma will continue to be detained until she goes back to her husband.

According to the policeman, the “established procedure” is that Selma must first return home and then she can file a formal complaint.  Selma’s husband came to the police station and insisted she return home with him.  He attempted to force her and assaulted her in front of police officers.

Selma was transferred to Briman Women’s Prison in Jeddah.  The fate of her daughters is unknown and there is fear that the father may have forcibly made them return home.

Selma’s case is here and now and requires immediate action.  She should not be contained in a prison because she fears for her life from her abusive husband.  Now is the time for Saudi Arabia’s reforms in domestic violence to be put into immediate action.

Sadly, Selma is not my first exposure of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia.  Another case was “Saudi Stepford Wife.”  Saudi Stepford Wife was an engaging American woman married to a Saudi and had also obtained Saudi nationality.  She lived in the Eastern Province.  She maintained a blog which I enjoyed reading very much.  We got to know one another through our blogs which eventually led to email exchanges and finally a personal meeting in 2008.  I hosted her in my home while her Saudi husband attended business meetings.

By that time we had become pretty close and she shared her dark secret with me.  She was married to an abusive man and feared for her safety.  Her parents were elderly and she did not want them to know.  She also swore me to silence.

I rue that day.  If I could go back and do things differently, I would.  I would not have honored my promise to her.  Although I never met or saw her husband, my spouse met him when he came to pick up Saudi Stepford Wife from my home.  I’ll never forget my husband coming back in to the house with such a look of distaste on his face.  He looked at me and said “That man is a pig and gives his wife no respect.”

After that visit I only heard from Saudi Stepford Wife two more times.  Since she had shared her secret with me, she was telling me how she had plans to leave her husband and take a job in Jeddah.  Sadly, her plans never came to fruition.  She simply disappeared off the radar.  Enquiries revealed that she had suffered a bad fall and as a result, was afflicted with terrible brain damage.  She did not know who she was or even where she was.  No one was able to make contact with her.  Her husband made sure of that.  This is a heavy burden of guilt that I still continue to bear for in retrospect, I should never have kept her secret.

Last but not least, there is dear “J” , a Saudi woman, who candidly shared her experience with American Bedu readers.  Thankfully she was able to get herself extracted from her hideous experience and find true love.  Sadly though, she was taken too soon due to the insidious disease of cancer.  However, she left her imprint on many of us around the world.

Yes; I am aware of other cases of domestic violence in the Kingdom.  However, I am much more outspoken and forward with any woman who shares that secret with me.  At a minimum, any woman in Saudi Arabia should have the web site and phone numbers for the Kingdom’s new domestic violence program sponsored by the King Khalid Foundation.

 

nb Update:  American Bedu is so happy to report that thanks to the efforts of Samia El-Moslimany and her team of heros, Selma is now safe!  She has been released from jail and safe with Samia.  They are now searching for her daughters.  Please take time out and say a prayer that Selma and her daughters will be reunited soon.

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