The romance of Valentine in Saudi Arabia

Valentines day, the day dedicated to the celebration of love, is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, even for married couples. In Saudi Arabia any kind of interaction between people of opposite sex are forbidden, even just talking. Any public display of affection is taboo.

valentine-haya1

Religious police ”Anti Valentine patrols” roam the malls and shops, they confiscate any red or heart shaped items days before the infidel ‘V-day”.
All this makes Valentines day especially romantic in Saudi. Imagine the dangers, trials and tribulations, not to mention he enormous costs your loved one has gone through to get you that contraband red rose, and heart shaped box of chocolates!

valentine

From AFP Friday 14 2014

Red roses lurk hidden in flower shop back rooms and heart-shaped chocolates are sold under the counter, but Saudis still manage to buy Valentine’s gifts and defy the religious police.

Florist Hussein came up with a simple solution to a ban on red tokens of love: he filled his window with white roses, orange irises and violet hydrangeas.
“I’ve hidden everything red in the shop, so when a religious police patrol comes along, they find nothing to complain about,” he said.
Hussein’s shop window may be blooming with white, orange and violet, but he still has the real thing — red roses — out the back.
“I’ve sold at least 350 red roses at 20 riyals ($5, 3.90 euros) a pop. Many women call us on the phone to order roses, because they fear the religious police.”

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Kumar, another florist, was persuaded by a Muttawa visit not even to consider flouting the Valentine’s Day ban. However: “We’re going to sell these to a chocolate shop,” he said, pointing to bouquets of red flowers in a back room of his store.

Confectioners do have chocolate hearts for discreet sale, but only to the right people. “Of course we have them, but the religious police came by and warned us against selling them,” said one chocolate shop owner who asked not to be identified. “We hid them because we don’t want any problems,” he added, smiling, indicating that an illicit transaction involving the chocolate contraband would be more than acceptable.

val1

This year in Jeddah, a city more open and relaxed than most of the rest of Saudi Arabia, some florists have been openly selling red roses, and are unafraid to give their names.
“The religious police didn’t come. We’re doing nothing wrong anyway,” said Abu Zakaria, who runs a flower shop in the north of the city.

Another man, Thamer Hussein, said some people with romantic yearnings marked the Valentine’s festival a day in advance, to ensure the experience was hassle-free. “Some young people celebrated St Valentine’s Day on Wednesday evening, with small parties and exchanges of gifts,” he said.

Read more:

 Ahram online

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: Women are to blame for rise of harrassment

niqab-3

From a survey conducted by the King Abdul Aziz centre for National Dialogue it seems that Saudi  men believe women are to blame for the rising cases involving molestation of females on the grounds they are seduced by women’s excessive make up.
The findings were included in a survey conducted by the Riyadh-based King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue and involved 992 males and females.

The survey, carried by Saudi newspapers, found that 86.5 per cent of the men polled believe that women’s exaggeration in wearing make-up is the main cause of the rise in molestation cases in public places.

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Although women are forced to be fully covered in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf region is also known for the fashion of a more ”expressive” style of make-up. Especially at weddings women indulge in very strong make-up styles. All humans, in all times and places, even our pre-homo sapiens ancestors, felt the need to express themselves with beads, shells and colour. This is actually the first manifestation of human artistic creativity.

Cave Painting, South Algeria
It is therefore only to be expected that when people are allowed no part of themselves to be visible except the eyes, then the human need to express oneself will be concentrated on the eyes.

Photo from Blue Abaya Blog

Photo from Blue Abaya Blog

About 80 per cent of the persons polled believe lack of deterrent penalties and the absence of specific anti-molestation laws are also to blame for the phenomenon
The report also said 91 per cent of the respondents, all aged above 19, believe another key factor is the “poor religious sentiment” while nearly 75 per cent said the problem is caused by lack of awareness campaigns and warning notices at most public places.

Emirates 24/7 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.

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

.

*) 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: Fluffy the Comedian Visits Saudi Arabia

I’ve had a series of serious posts on sensitive issues so I decided it was time for something light and entertaining.

This 24 minute video is worth watching in its duration and guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccnwzScp6bM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

 

Saudi Arabia: The Presence of Public Relations

pr

jazarah.net

 

I became curious about the demographics and number of public relation firms within the Kingdom.  As I started my search, I believe I may have found a story within the story.

To begin with, there are a number of public relations firms located throughout the Kingdom.  The force behind some of these firms may be blurred in that it is difficult to determine if the key officials are Saudis or non-Saudis.

However, what truly surprised me the most in conducting this research is that the Saudi government had engaged a PR firm which was Jewish owned.  Given the limited lack of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, I never expected to uncover a Jewish owned firm providing public relation services on behalf of the Kingdom.

Another refreshing surprise was when searching LinkedIn with the key words public relations and Saudi Arabia, in addition to many male profiles, a number of female profiles came up too.  It seems that public relations is a viable and acceptable industry for women in the Kingdom.

Here are some of the numerous hits I received about PR firms in the Kingdom:

Traccs Public Relations with offices in Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman.

Tihama Advertising and Public Relations located in Jeddah.

This site provides a comprehensive list of PR firms in the Kingdom, to include the presence of the US firm, Hill and Knowlton, located in Riyadh.

This site contains even more listings of PR firms located throughout the Kingdom.

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.

Saudi Arabia: Expatriates Should Not Take Advantage of Sympathy or Generosity

public laundry

valleygirltalk.com

 

There was a recent incident which took place in Jeddah.  A Pakistani couple claim they were accosted by a Saudi couple in a public place of business.  However, all anyone has to go on is the expatriate’s account of the incident.  We all know there are always two sides to every story.

The incident, from what the expatriate couple are stating, seemed to stem from an initial altercation between the Pakistani woman and a Saudi woman.  The altercation intensified and the husband’s became involved.

There have been no accounts from any witnesses of the incident.  Yet the incident as it was relayed evoked shock, outrage and sympathy for the Pakistani couple.  Senior officials from the place of business were made aware of the incident and contacted the Pakistani couple.  A well known English language daily in the Kingdom even carried an article about the incident with an apology to the Pakistani couple.

Yet since the incident has taken place, instead of responding with grace and a positive outlook, the Pakistani woman seems more intent on raising ire with Saudi nationals, expatriates in the Kingdom and her own homeland.

As a result, support and sympathy for the couple is dwindling.  The Pakistani woman even created a specific Facebook Page for further discussions about the incident and demand for change to occur within the Kingdom on Saudis attitudes of expatriates.

American Bedu was part of the Facebook Group but found herself unceremoniously removed from the group when declaring that what the Pakistani woman was now doing and saying was not appropriate.

I can live with being declared persona non grata of a Facebook Group.  But I will restate what I believe was sound advice to the Pakistani woman.  If one is dissatisfied with action or lack thereof from an incident in Saudi Arabia, do not continue to talk badly about your host country.  Even –if- (which is now questionable) she has a valid complaint, she remains a guest in the country.  Both she and her husband are under the sponsorship of a Saudi employer.  Secondly, it is not appropriate to post private correspondence between her and her country’s Consulate in a public Facebook Group.  In addition, although she is not satisfied with the response from the Consulate, she should not mock her country’s role in Saudi Arabia and its relationship with the Kingdom.

Okay, enough of what should not have been done.  Instead she should have filed a report with the manager at the place of business where the incident occurred.  The police should have been called immediately.  Statements should have been collected from witnesses.  She did notify her Consulate.  She did speak with senior officials at the place of business.  However, rather than complain and make a mockery of the positive that took place, she should instead have delivered a comprehensive –and realistic- action plan of what she wanted to see in the way of restitution and resolution.  Details of which should remain between her and the officials involved, rather than share in a “dissing” manner on a public Facebook Page.

It is American Bedu’s assessment based on her own years of experience that the Pakistani woman, more so than her husband, is enjoying her “15 minutes of global fame” and trying to prolong the attention to herself.  Instead of reaching a positive resolution her husband may very well receive unwanted pressure due to his wife’s inappropriate actions.

Wrongs can be righted but it must be done within the parameters of an established procedure.

Saudi Arabia: Which One is She? Maid, Helper or Friend?

domestic help

sulit.com.ph

 

With Ramadan 2013 starting on or about the 8th of July, many Muslims throughout the Kingdom will be looking for additional assistance during the Holy month and perhaps through the Hajj season.  This is a period of time when meals take on an additional importance and particularly after the second week of Ramadan has passed, many large families gather to spend the rest of Ramadan together.  Ramadan is a high season throughout the Kingdom with housemaids in demand.

But my question is, who is the housemaid?  Is she just a maid or instead perhaps a helper or friend?  I think it is fair to say that the Saudi families who have had the same domestic worker for multiple years the formal employee-employer relationship begins to blur a little.  Instead of a mere maid she may be better viewed as a helper (less derogatory sounding) or maybe even a friend.  Regardless of what term applied there still needs to be a modicum of distance to preserve the employee-employer relationship.

If you have the opportunities to talk to Saudis who have had the same domestic worker in their home for a period of years, they generally refer to her with affection.  They know about her family, her desires and goals for both herself and her family and in many cases, these Saudis will do what they can to further improve her life.  They’ll not only keep her clothed or have her receive medical attention when ill but sometimes go beyond to help with her family giving her children better educational opportunities.

When a housemaid is serving a family for whom both know is only a limited period of time, the same degree of closeness or trust may never develop.  This can be especially true among expatriates who have engaged a housemaid while in the Kingdom.  Unlike the Saudi family, the expatriate family will eventually either go on to another assignment in a different country or return to their home country.

Expatriates, with an emphasis on Western Expatriates, may have a reputation for treating their domestic help nicer and more like a family member or friend.  Expatriates will generally pay the domestic help a higher salary too.  As a result, many domestics would prefer to work for an expatriate family.

But that does not mean the domestic may view acts of kindness by the expatriate in the same manner as the expatriate.  Domestic help may try to take advantage of the expatriate who has not grown up in a culture where domestic help is the norm.  As a result, the relationship gets blurred and the domestic help may try to manipulate the expatriate.  The manipulation can take place in requesting salary advances, loans, request for medicines or simply sharing how bad they have it such as poor living accommodations, etc.

The domestic may start out working well for the expatriate but ultimately her work ethics may start to slack off.  She may not be as punctual or reliable.  Eventually the expatriate may learn she was also stealing small items or monies from the household.  This tends to happen not only because the domestic does not have a pure heart but because the expatiate family has been too kind as well.

I’m not trying to say that Saudis are the best managers of domestic help or that all is rosy if a domestic helper works for a Saudi.  But I wish to sensitive readers that engaging and retaining reliable and trustworthy domestic help is also its own work in progress.

I believe there could be a market for seminars on both engaging, treating and retaining domestic help in addition to seminars for the domestic help on training and having a successful long term relationship with their employer.

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