Saudi Arabia: Where Have All the Honorable Men Gone?

It’s been a tough week. Let’s see… one Western wife received a divorce from her Saudi husband. She is now struggling to find a sponsor so she can remain in the Kingdom to be close to her two sons. Of course the husband would not consider giving her custody and seems to take glee in the situation his former wife is now in. Another Western wife left in the middle of the night with the clothes on her back in order to escape an abusive husband. She’s not sure what she will do next other than for the moment, make it to her family in the UK and take some refuge to heal her wounds. Another first wife continues her struggle of what to do with her life since learning her husband not only had taken a second wife but that they had a young child together. This Saudi recently relocated his second wife and child to the Kingdom and is telling his Western wife of many years that they will likely need to relocate to another residence now that he has two families to support and he cannot maintain the previous lifestyle shared with the first wife. A second wife continues her struggles on learning when coming to the Kingdom with her Saudi husband that he was not divorced as he had sworn to her. He is also telling her that she must work and support herself as he has to take care of his other family. Gee, what does that mean about her? She’s not family? Is she like chopped liver or something? Then I continue to hear of many other bi-cultural marriages that routinely have the ups and downs and struggles.

Is it any wonder that hearing of such circumstances makes me sometimes question how many honorable men are really here? Can one really and truly trust a Saudi man? Why does one continue to hear tale after heart wrenching tale? I better understand why so many women who are here and married to a Saudi discourage other woman from doing so. I’m not sure if I am at that point yet, but I’m getting close. I realize life never has any guarantees but one has got to ensure a deck is stacked in their favor before contemplating giving up jobs, family ties, what is known before venturing off into the unknown of Saudi Arabia for a man one may not have seen in his natural habitat. Hmm…get me started here and I may start to compare Saudi men to chameleons…adaptable to a situation and taking on whatever role will get them their way…

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90 Responses

  1. It’s really a tough one Carol. I can relate to something similar. I once heard several depressing news in the same week. it effected my mood :) I saw everything black that week … That’s life, unfortunately, everywhere (east or west / south or north) :) happy or dejecting stories continue to happen ..
    PS: I showed my bro and his wife this post … (you are to be blamed if their mood changed) :)

  2. Just tell them to join the blog and write some uplifting positive comments about marriages and life! (smile)

    Thanks for commenting, Khalid.

  3. Those poor women. My heart goes out to them. It makes my blood boil every time a woman is victimized. These men are just chauvinistic, misogynistic a-holes. And they call themselves Muslims? They need to open the Quran and read a little more.

  4. None of this really surprises me and if anything, I am surprised that you find this to be unusual. I guess because I lived it — not with a Saudi but a Kuwaiti — that I figured out that the way many Arabs interpret Islam allows them to oppress women and non-Muslims. No matter how much Muslim women want to dress it up to present to Westerners (and I iwould have ncluded myself in this category until recently), the fact is that the Arab world and its interpretation of Islam at this point in time does allow the wholesale oppression of women in my opinion. I thank GOD I am not the product of a country that sees me as a second class citizen — in its laws or its culture. While I do really love living in Qatar, it is because as a divorced American professor I am treated differently than I would be if I were a Khaleejia.

    Until we re-evaluate the way we implement Islam — and I believe women will have to force this issue as they have in every other histprical struggle for human rights — you can’t expect much to change in “the kingdom” or the rest of the Muslim world.


  5. For one thing, I do not think it is ever a good idea at all for any western woman to simply pick up and go to Saudi where her husband lives. This of course is only my opinion. But I believe, if a Saudi man wants a western woman then he needs to realize that he prbbably has to be the one to make the transition, not the other way around.

    A woman needs to be smart and think future not in the moment. And of course, before jumping into any situation, one should weigh all matters, good and bad and never ever ignore the signs.

    For instance, the woman who ran off at night from her abusive husband. I am sorry but a man does not become abusive over night, she must have seen many red flags but she probably ignored them hoping that “he will change” ( I am saying this because I fell into the same trap but learned from my mistake).

    A woman can never ever change a man no matter how much she tries and if she feels or thinks that the man needs change, then probably that man is NOT for her, regardless of being a Saudi or not.

    Now, when it comes to Saudi men, in general, I am sorry and no offense to anyone who is married to Saudi men and they are happy either, but in all honestly and truth, it is very safe to say that unfortunately the majority, not the minority, of Saudi men suck!!!

    I have heard of such stories many times over and over again. It becomes the norm, unfortunately. At this point, when someone tells me of a story where a woman is mistreated unjustly, abused or what have you by her Saudi husband, it is of no surprise or shocker to me at all.

    The interesting thing is if someone were to tell me that their Saudi husband is decent, honorable, caring, compassionate, fears God, and the list goes on with good qualities of a truly practicing Muslim human being, then I am surprised and shocked. Otherwise, this is is business as usual………

    I feel very bad for these women and their children. It is heart breaking in every way imaginable and especially for the children who always never ask to be here in this world to begin with…………..May God help them resolve their situations.

  6. I understand where you are coming from. It is VERY hard to find an upstanding, honest and reliable Saudi man, especially if you are dealing with the ones working in the Saudi government!

    My wife and I get along great, I would offer that IMHO, we are a good example of a bi-cultural relationship that has worked gwell, alhamdulillah. Our major issue indeed deals with Saudi men, but it is in trying to get them to recognise what God already does.

    I have dealt with my Saudi men in this question, and unfortunately, hasnt given me a very good impression of them. Sure, there are bad in every lot, but I would expect to run into at least ONE decent Saudi guy, but that hasnt happened yet.

    I would have to say that the only decent Saudi guy I have ever “met” is “Saudi in the US” who posts here and I “met” him on nothing more than a phone call, but he seems to be a great guy.

    One out of how many?

    I dont really think this is a Saudi issue, it is a Middle Eastern issue. The culture is not conducive to honesty and being upfront. “Jamile kadaba” and “kalam fadi” are the phrases that control how things work. Appearances are more import reality or substance; so if you have to lie to keep things looking good, feel free.

    I guess I am too used to the idea that truth is more important than window dressing.

    This all goes back to a portion of the culture that is a failed one.

  7. I suppose why this is a Saudi issue is the fact that while bi-cultural marriages may fall apart in a number of countries, the women typically have another way of residing in the man’s home country-visit visas, ability to seek employment and be sponsored, etc. I think it happens in other parts of the region,as Abu Sinan suggested, but the situation of the wife is seemingly more dire when she’s forced to leave the country-and quite possibly leave her children behind.

  8. I better jump in here and say while I authored the post, I do remain married to a decent Saudi guy and live in the Kingdom… I just get saddened when hearing of too many who came with such bright great hopes that were shattered to pieces.

    Thanks all for your comments.

  9. Men like that should be whipped and humiliated and shamed in front of the entire female population. THIS is the type of guy who DEMANDS a female cover? BS!

    Sorry this post made my blood boil! I’m glad you are in a good marriage and have a loving Saudi husband. Makes me appreciate the good but sounds like rare ones out there.

    *sigh* another sad day for a fellow sister. :( Will we ever have equality? Or at least not be treated this way?

  10. Yes; it was such a sad week to see multiple issues arise at once.

  11. ive heard that gulf nationals (i.e saudi, emiratis etc) started losin their heads after oil. its like suddenly u get a lot of money and u dont kno wat to do with it. anyway for the marriage issue i dont understand one thing. how can a woman marry a man (saudi or otherwise) without meeting his family or finding more about him. if polygamy is outlawed in the west (atleast i thnk it is) then how can they marry because all embassies ask about ur marital status before giving u a visa? dont they have to show their visas or permits before gettin married? and its just plainly wrong on the men’s part to marry another woman without the first wives written and signed(preferably) consent. Such marriages either be outlawed as it is a clear attack on the firsr wife’s rights. and if that woman in ur post gets a divorce isnt she entitled to an alimony?

  12. This is simply horrible. What gets to me the most is how religion has always been a major part of these peoples lives and yet they seem to have learned nothing when they exhibit such shameful behavior of oppressing the ones who they’re supposed to be loving and protecting.
    And to know that one does not need religion to be a decent human being it’s so much more surprising to hear these stories coming from a land so obsessive with religion. I think all they like doing is talking. bleh.

    Sorry, but I just hate it when people have no self-respect leading them to disrespecting others around them. I hope those women and the millions of others worldwide find the strength they need to overcome the horrible situations they’re in and that they find the peace and love they deserve.

    Thank you American Bedu for writing these posts. Although these cases are not limited to Saudi men but to men in general, you serve as a voice for these women and hopefully everybody’s situation gets better over time!

  13. This is what happens when White Western women get involved with foreign men, especially Muslims who are known to be brutal against women.

  14. Marriage to a Saudi is very difficult in Saudi Arabia because of the social pressure put on the Saudis to conform. There are many good men, but with this new ‘secret wife’ (misyar) arrangement, it has thrown the country into turmoil. I noticed that there was a fatwa stating that misyar’s are illegal now. So, what is one to believe now….one fatwa one day says it’s ok, and another says it’s illegal. Legal or not, people do what they want.
    Many Saudi guys get married to their cousins or women their mothers find for them. After a few years, they want to find their own woman…can’t blame them for that. But for the guys that married Americans, and fell in love, I am shocked that many of these guys have started taking second wives. Why? I really think that it’s just a new ‘social’ thing. Instead of wearing a Rolex, the new thing is to have two wives, one being western.
    Women have all different reasons for staying in these relationships. I have found that you really need to know all the circumstances before concluding anything. We need to give these women our support to get through a very difficult situation.

  15. LOL, I’ll tell you Carol what my bro’s husband said (but don’t kill me plz :) :) :) ) She said some women deserve such things. I said “haram alaiki” men are always bad. She told me you should once come and listen to women when they are talking together, and you’ll find out that men are so poor and how badly some women treat their husbands. I said I don’t want to know :) … Let me keep the good pic I have about women :)

    Anyway, not all men are angels and not all women are angels.

    __Peaceful Me
    ” the way many Arabs interpret Islam allows them to oppress women” I’d say instead, “”many Arabs interpret Islam according to their heart’s content and they allow themselves to oppress women. Islam never oppress women, handicaps, people from different races etc. I’d not even call it “interpreting Islam” cause making others suffer (no matter who the other is) is far from Islamic teachings. I’d also not say”‘many Arabs” Cause this is over generalization.

    Yup _Anonymous a woman (western or non-western) should never ignore any signs as you said about the woman who ran off at night from her abusive husband. “a man does not become abusive over night, she must have seen many red flags but she probably ignored them” I don’t blame the woman of course, but I agree with your idea.

    I believe even if the man was very talented in acting and was a super lire, still a woman should be able to catch him — no one, (a man or a woman) I believe, can pretend to be someone else forever. A sign here or there should be visible.

    AbuSinan yup, sadly, it’s a failing portion. Always “truth is more important than window dressing.” So always keep it no matter what some people in the ME believe in…

    _OnigiriFB, may I add something to your statement, Thanks for allowing me :) .. I’d say,
    “Men like that should be whipped and humiliated and shamed in front of the entire female and male population. Men too should be allowed to watch, so they will never ever think of doing such thing.. Really it’s a good idea — I’d like it to be implemented everywhere. Whomever does something wrong, he should be an example, so no one will dare to think of repeating it. In a perfect world, maybe such thing will happen…

  16. Honorable—no they are just looking for lighter skinned kids.

  17. *gasp* what happened to my comment??

  18. Since, I am a Saudi male, I waited a little before inserting my comments.

    Carol, I feel so sorry for your friends as they are in a tough situation with very little legal recourse.

    AbuSinan, thanks for your kind words. I hope I can live up to them.

    Now for the issues:

    1) I saw a few blames for women in some of the comments. In general a woman can make mistakes that may end the marriage. This is no different than any other place on earth. What is unique is the impact of such mistake when it comes to Saudi. So my thought is the woman is almost always a victim in these cases as she stands to lose her financial support, a country she called home and access to her children. No mistake within a marital situation can deserves such harsh punishment. And that is assuming the worst case where the wife is responsible for all the problems.

    I am also concerned about the idea that the Western women should have known better. I think most of us are at an age where we have gained some experience in life and know how to examine things. You have to remember that most of these marriages occur where the women are in their early 20′s. I am sure most of us where not wise at that age and valued romantic notions like love and adventure without examination. Again, yes young people can make mistakes, but they are victims if the price paid is too high.

    2) Regarding the men, Saudi men have good and bad. When talking about men that marry Westerns you tend to get more of the maverick types. Being a maverick is not necessarily bad on its own, it just seems to amplify other traits good or bad. So when you talk about lies and the like, these guys become very good at it to implement their plans. In the case where the marriage is ending that personality type may also go to extremes to win all they can. The unfortunate part is they can, because all the laws are on their side. When you can kick a person out of the country they lose any little rights they have under the law. This will take me to my last point.

    3) The laws, Saudi Law is not capable of dealing with international marriages. The only reason laws are needed is to allow for justice to take place for the weakest in society. Unfortunately, Western wives fall into one of the weakest categories being a woman, and foreign under Saudi law is not a good place to be. The goverment of Saudi can take care of this issue as there is a process for issuing Visas which can be utilized to make things right, not just having a long bureaucratic process with no value. There has been enough cases of this nature for the goverment to step in and implement things like the following:

    a) Permanent residency for wives should be issued without a requirement for a sponsor
    b) A contract must be in place that deals with issues of divorce. This can be enforced, since bringing a foreign wife is a privilege and servers to educate the Western wife about her rights.
    c) Require a course to be given to both covering all issues of inter-cultural marriages. I know someone that will be great at teaching this (hint hint Mrs Bedu :) )
    d) Require support post divorce for a wife in the case there are children involved. The wife may not be able to support herself in Saudi and should be allowed to live in country with support until her kids are over 18. Again, asking for the permission is a privilege and the goverment can enforce such rules, if a man wants that granted. Other issues like loss of professional job by moving to Saudi can be covered under b) above.

    Just to close this out, not all Saudis are dishonorable. Laws are required to restore the honorable traditions of Saudis and not let some of us give the rest a bad name. Honor is about treating others well and always doing the right thing. When a husband makes a mistake he should be a man and pay for it, if he doesn’t the law should make him honorable.

  19. Good post Saudi in US.

  20. Very good, thoughtful comments from everyone. And I especially thank Saudi in the US for addressing the points so well.

    What do I want individuals, especially single foreign women who may be seeing a Saudi to take away from this post, make sure the eyes are wide open and do not lead with the heart. Know your man, know his family, know his country, know his religion AND how closely he may or may not follow it. But also bear in mind that much of what goes in Saudi, the heart of Islam, may be a cultural mandate moreso than a religious mandate.

    Not all Saudis are bad or dishonorable and this post is not meant to Saudi bash but it also illustrates one side of realities here and especially the lack or rights and recourse for a western woman.

  21. i agree with saudi in us but he said that most girls in their early 20s tend to romanticize their married lyf. It is true but i most of my female friends(including “western” women) in all 3; saudi, pakistan and uae, have inquired about their husbands-to-be’s families . I thnk there should be some sort of pre-maritial counselling sessions for inter-racial or inter-religious marriages as the problems faced by these couples some time after marriage cause them a lot of distress and have the potential to develop into depressions. btw there are also inter-racial/religious marriages which are very successful but as they say, care is better than cure.

  22. Samir,

    I too would like to know how these guys are getting married in America while already married. When my husband and I decided to marry ( in American law ) he had to show divorce papers from his previous marriage as did I. Because his ex-wife was in Saudia and he could not make travel arrangements just for the divorce he had 2 of his brothers show as witnesses along with his ex-wife to finalize the divorce. This was done in French by the Chadian Embassy and copies were sent to us here in America and then we had to take them to the American Red Cross where they were translated into English. If we hadn’t had these papers then we would not have been able to marry here, however we were married in Islamic Law 6 months prior to our American Law marriage. Perhaps there is someone here who can explain this? Very sad week for the women and children but I’m sure the men are happy-go-lucky!!!

  23. Carol i just showed ur post to a friend and she told me that one of her Scottish friends in glasgow had a divorce 3 days after her marriage becoz the emarati man she married already had TWO wives back home. She actually lodged a legal complaint against him. But the UAE consulate rescued him and hes back in Abu dhabi(probably still looking for a third one)

  24. I believe in the US the requirements prior to marriage can vary. For example in many states one still goes by word of honor and taking an oath that all information provided on the marriage application is true such as if a man has been married before or widowed. Therefore a lot of men may claim they are divorced, swear on oath they are divorced but in reality still have the wife or wives back in a home country. They are not asked to present documentation to the effect of being divorced.

    Now I do wonder if marriages performed with “false pretenses” such as above are legal or can they become annulled?

    Islamic marriages of course are another matter as having more than one wife is allowable. One key with an islamic marriage is to have a good wali (guardian) who truly looks out for the well being of the woman; that her marriage contract is solid and secure for her and that the man has been well checked out.

  25. Carol,

    I agree the laws of the US do not protect against fraudulent marriages. They are local and not every locality can develop a sophisticated system to catch such issues. I think the US law tries to maintain individual liberty by allowing people to make their own decisions with little goverment interference. However, there are protections in the case of fraud that can be utilized at the point of discovery. A polygamist can be prosecuted under criminal law and sued under civil law with a likely financial impact.

    Regarding annulment, illegal grounds for marriage is one of primary reasons for annulment. Since, polygamy makes a marriage illegal, it can be granted in every case.

  26. Carol,

    While having the American marriage annulled may bring the woman some satisfaction will it give her any rights to her children if they have made the move to Saudia?

  27. Tina,

    My understanding is that if the father is a Saudi national, the children are automatically muslim and Saudi citizens and the father has all the rights. But honestly, if a marriage were performed under “false” pretenses and children came later before the mother was aware of the situation, I really do not know what that would mean in regards to legal rights and entitlements. Good question.

  28. […] Saudi Arabia: Where Have All the Honorable Men Gone? It’s been a tough week. Let’s see… one Western wife received a divorce from her Saudi husband. She is now struggling to find a sponsor so she can remain in the Kingdom to be close to her two sons. … Another Western wife left in the middle of the night with the clothes on her back in order to escape an abusive husband. … Another first wife continues her struggle of what to do with her life since learning her husband not only had taken a second wife but that they had a young child together. [Sounds like Obama’s mum.] This Saudi recently relocated his second wife and child to the Kingdom and is telling his Western wife of many years that they will likely need to relocate to another residence now that he has two families to support and he cannot maintain the previous lifestyle shared with the first wife. [Always about the almighty dollar!] A second wife continues her struggles on learning when coming to the Kingdom with her Saudi husband that he was not divorced as he had sworn to her. He is also telling her that she must work and support herself as he has to take care of his other family. [$$$] Gee, what does that mean about her? She’s not family? Is she like chopped liver or something? [A bit of Yiddish would have been effective here.] … […]

  29. First of all Carol, none of what you’ve written is surprising. For the posters who thought some women deserved this, sorry, no woman deserves to be abused and lose their children. Why is legal to marry Christian and Jewish foreign women and allow them to come to Saudi-yet she cannot stay if she is divorced without a sponsor? Inhumane comes to mind.

    Where are all the compassionate in-laws of these women who can legally sponsor them for the sake of the minor children? Where is the mercy? Would a Saudi mother in the U.S. like to be treated in this manner? Alone, with no family in a system ruled by men? It’s all about basic empathy, and as women and mothers we should ”feel” for these women.

    Secondly, there are abusive husbands worldwide, the difference here is how the woman is treated after the divorce. Where are her rights? Where are her children’s rights? She is ”allowed” to procreate, but not allowed the basic right of raising them due to a lack of sponsorship? Let’s see, so she leaves the country and emails her children?

    For those who consider women (and I am one of them) stupid for marrying these men, there is not enough media attention given to these stories. We
    need to update the story to 2008 to show nothing has changed.

    Kuwait and any other Arab/Muslim country does not fare much better. We have a ton of stories just as the above quoted. My position now as a wise adult is: Christian women should not under any circumstances marry Muslims. Ditto for Jewish women. Parents in the West need to wake up and smell the coffee and refuse these marriages.

    Saudi in US: you made some intelligent points on the topic, but at the end of the day the systems in the Middle East do not favour any woman. Top this with ”wasta” and other totally deceptive practices and tribalism, these women are gambling their lives away. Gambling is haraam in any sense of the word and deception goes against most human principles.

    Speaking for myself, I’ve simply decided to never marry another Muslim man in any country.

  30. I try to have my blog reflect all sides and I agree that more attention needs to be drawn on women marrying from other cultures, customs and traditions and especially so from this region. Instead it is too easy to get into a relationship, have children before realizing in the tragic circumstances what price may be paid.

  31. I am unable to write a thoughtfull reasonable comment here, It makes me sick to read of such injustice.

  32. Having been married to a Bahraini man for 20 years…and wanting to divorce him for 18 but caught by the laws in this country that would cause me to lose my children and possibly have no contact with them again….I was between a rock and a hard place. I was miserable with him…but would be even more miserable without them. So I endured year after year…until the law was recently softened due to the number f foreign wives complaining about divorce laws here and how they were robbed of their basic rights as mothers because of the patriarchal leadership within the Sharia Court that has the lives of divorced and abused women in their hands and not dealing with them with justice. I am divorced for nearly two years now…and all my children are with me…they havent seen him since the day I kicked him out and changed the locks on the doors. Turns out that he held me chained by the threat of losing my kids…they were his and I was never getting them…but as soon as I got the divorce and the kids…he walked away and never came back. Makes me wonder why he put up such a fight and made all our lives so miserable in the first place….hmmmm?

    I might add…women who meet Arabs in their own countries should be made aware of the fact that Arab men abroad under go quite a personality shift while outside their country and away from their culture. Where as he can be charming, adoring, loving, generous, and quite willing to date u, have sex with you, wine and dine you, introduce you to all his friends, and meet the male friends you might have…and a million other things that make up the American culture…once back in his country you will most likely wake up the morning after your arrival with a completely different man then you knew before. Like night and day….by which time its probably too late to easily remove yourself from the situation you now find yoursef in. Once in a foreign Arab country your personal identity tends to become obsolete. Thats my personal opinion and what Ive seen all these 21 years.

    I hope those women find the support they need….its the least important thing they deserve.

  33. Although there is truth in the stories Carol [I believe that’s your name from what I can tell] shared with us… we need to be careful from generalizing a nation’s men due to the actions of some bad apples. I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for 20+ years, and have my share of meeting the good AND the bad, but to go to the extreme of selecting a title such as “Saudi Arabia: Where have all the honorable men gone?” may give an unfair view of the Kingdom to outsiders.

    I know that stories of injustice occur all the time, but I can go on and on about the abuse men in “civilized” countries inflict on women and children as well. But yes, although there is bad here, alhamdulilah I see more good than elsewhere…

    Allaho a’lam (Allah knows best).


  34. Ali, I do agree with you. It was the shock of knowing these women and having these incidents occur in the same week that was/is very disturbing. I will also point out that I have written a number of posts on this blog which also portray positive accounts. I realize you are a relatively new reader but for those who have followed my blog awhile, I (hope) they agree that my blog is pretty representative of a full picture.

  35. yes Carol, forgive me if I made you feel that I was judging you or your blog. I honestly wasn’t. I am sure that you have shed light on the goods in this country, I mean you ARE married to a Saudi hehe (If I remember correctly)… anyhow… just thought I’d throw in my 2 cents to a fellow blogger in the Kingdom.

  36. Ali A.Bashiti: Carol is always very objective in all her posts, Actually this is one of the véry rare instances of a more emotional post and opinion.
    Although when considering the subject, and remembering that these are not just ”stories”, but the real sufferings of real people whom I seem to understand are personal aquaintances, than I still consider the tone and title of this post extremely subdued and objective. It is not Carol’s fault that the existing percentage of male bastards seems even higher than in the rest of the world. Nor do I consider it nesseccary to admonish her for stating so if this is fact. (read some of the other comments)

    And I always get VERY irritated when, as soon as any suffering by women comes up, we are admonished ”not to generalise” but to realise ”not all men are like this”
    Yeah, duuuhhhh, but an incredible large portion are!!!
    And there is never any problem when women are generalised! (in a negative way!)
    And Bedu is right; the concept of ”honour” seems very alien to most men, and especially in the region where this blog is originating from.

    Only one of these women’s experiences would be sufficient to blow off some steam, let alone a week’s long!
    I deleted the biased, generalised, angry comment I wanted to post this morning, this is a very calm, toned down comment. Go figure…

  37. Thanks Ali, Aafke for your comments.

  38. coolred38,

    I am very aware of the issues of the Wastas and the corruption in the region. I think these are very hard to resolve. However, if there are contractual agreement and residency established for the wives, their situation can be better. I know full justice may not be served, but some rights are better than non considering a mother can be deported and does not have a fighting chance. As it stands today for most of these women, when cases go in front of a judge, he may not understand the complexity of these marriages. He will only have his limited experience to render a judgment that can be disastrous for the woman (even if he was will meaning). Having a framework for foreign wives with a marriage contract can provide him with a basis to reach a better judgment.


    Regarding objectivity, I think you have a good mix of articles and you have showed both sides. Although, you try to be as objective as possible, I do not think it is a requirement. Since you are a blogger and not a reporter, objectivity is not a hurdle. One of the reasons I like about blogs is they show the personality of the writer and some times their believes. It makes for interesting reading and better discussions. I for one enjoy your free style of expressing your thoughts. You allow enough freedom in comments for people to express their opinion in a polite manner, which brings objectivity.

    Lastly, I think King Abdullah is genuine about reforming the country. What if a group of foreign Saudi wives create a petition and present it to the royal court and request a hearing to improve conditions in cases of divorce. I have put some ideas forward, not that I think mine are the best, but a lawyer can draw a good framework with similar objectives for the petition. Just a thought…

  39. Saudi in US — thank you! I do like your suggestion of a group of foreign wives creating a petition and I believe I know just the right group of women to present such an idea to (and two very much know WHO they are!).

  40. I agree with Saudi in US. I’ve personally written many letters to the Amiri Diwan in Kuwait to state the problems I have endured.

    I do believe King Abdullah is doing a great job and would be open to human rights laws.

    I can’t take full credit but one of the laws was changed regarding child support, yet still more need to be reformed.

    I’ve noted many similar stories in the Gulf countries and perhaps we could actually present a petition that could be spread around.

  41. Viking Daughter, your efforts and activities are to be commended and I hope folks click on your hyper link so they can learn from your experiences and actions.

  42. “For one thing, I do not think it is ever a good idea at all for any western woman to simply pick up and go to Saudi where her husband lives. This of course is only my opinion. But I believe, if a Saudi man wants a western woman then he needs to realize that he prbbably has to be the one to make the transition, not the other way around.”

    While I agree w/ this statement, I think women are, overall, the more accommodating creature between the two sexes. I’m married to a Muslim man, and many of my friends and former colleagues are in the same situation. Time and time again, it is the western/non-Muslim wife who makes changes to please her spouse, his family, and his culture. Many of these wives convert, and much of the time it is done to please husband, in-laws, etc. I sometimes wonder if part of the attraction to certain western women is the sense that they’ll adapt to life is their spouses’ home country.

  43. I don’t think it is the expectation that they’ll adapt but perhaps they are seen as more independent and less needy than an arab wife?

  44. From my years of experience here…the young empty headed “so much in love not looking at the future” wife is the one usually brought home when the man has travelled abroad. Easier to convince her that everything will turn out right and the middle east is the ideal place to live…and that she will never have any problems adjusting cause they are “in love”…that bubble is usually popped pretty quick. One of the hardest parts for her to get accustomed to in my opinion….the usual wrath of his family…particularly his mother…as a result of him bringing home something unexpected from his trip….somehow this anger and refusal to accept is aimed solely at the new bewildered wife that is just starting to realize shes not in Kansas anymore.

  45. That is so true Coolred… and then one wonders why it is so hard for a foreigner to get married to a Saudi…

  46. “I don’t think it is the expectation that they’ll adapt but perhaps they are seen as more independent and less needy than an arab wife?”

    I think that’s true, too. Many Arab men comment on the lack of emotional games when dating/marrying a non-Arab woman. The new wife will also not have the same cultural demands that a woman from his own country will have-making his life “easier.”

  47. Cry Me A River, You are obviously clueless here about what is going on in KSA. These women didn’t ask to be in these situations, and they are trying their best to get out of them without hurting their children. It’s not quite as black and white as you seem to think.

    Many of us fell in love in our late teens, early 20′s when information about the country was very limited. KSA seemed like a wonderful place 30 years ago. But, the past 10 years have been terrible for the majority of mixed marriages in Saudi…at least in our circles. Some women have left the country with the kids and have never come back. Some men have stolen the kids from America when they were only supposed to take them to Disney or out for lunch. Some men ran off with their friend’s wife and vice versa. Some men have taken their wives to Europe and left them there with an exit-only visa (unbeknownst to them). Some men have told their children that their mother is dead and the husband just disappeared to another city…even after the courts granted the mother custody. Most recently, the first wife, who is putting in 50% or more of the money into the household for 10 or 20 years, finds out that there are other wives and children in the mix….which she never agreed to. Even after 30 years in this country, things are still happening that are very shocking to me.

    All I can say is, WOMEN BEWARE!!!!

    While there are some good mixed marriages, most of the ones that I’ve seen have major skeletons in their closets. Any woman coming to the Kingdom needs to have an ‘exit plan’ in case she too becomes one of the sad statistics here. And the tables of surviving are stacked against her. The majority of American women do not last past the 10 to 15 year mark in KSA. Unfortunately, young children are usually involved in these cases by then, and they are the ones that truly suffer the most. It is very heart wrenching to witness. I hope that we can find a solution to
    STOPPING THE MADNESS !!!! Yes, CoolRED, ….Kansas is indeed very far away from here—that’s for sure!

  48. Stay tuned…just various realities lately have me working on a post on what every woman needs to know and do….

  49. American 2 Saudi and coolred: very perceptive comments.

    I am also a 30 year survivor, and as you stated the information highway was null back in the days when I married so very very young and naive.

    There is thought I’ve had recently (due to more divorces and abuse cases here) and wonder how other women feel about it. I’d hate to insult people like Carol, who is obviously happy, but my recent idea is asking the lawmakers in these countries to not ALLOW foreign women here as wives.

    My reasons would not be to torture the men in love with western women, rather a way to protect our women.

    It reminds me of all the abuse that goes on with servants-I keep muttering ”why does their government allow them in?” when I’ve seen cruel treatment done to my own women. They have no support, no family (which makes them 1000% vulnerable) and rarely any support from the men’s family as nobody wants to get involved!

    How many times must we hear ”laaaa, ayb, laaaaaaaa feshla” when we ask people to speak out? Enough of the ”shame” mentality, the ”embarassing” mentality, when you see a human being harmed, it’s haraam to sit and say nothing. This encourages abuse!

    What happened to ”enjoining the good and forbidding the evil” which at the very least requires speaking to the person being cruel, or praying for the person, which is a cop out if you didn’t apply the first steps first.

    Does anyone else think this is a bad idea? Banning foreign women?

  50. While we have never proposed banning the foreign wives, several of us are proponents that there should be a more stringent process and/or course so that the husband/wife are cognizant of all the issues that have been raised…maybe even include a pscyhological examination. Now of course there will be those crying human rights, civil liberties and freedoms but I doubt those who cry will have “been here, seen that.”

  51. Wishful thinking but… how about Saudi Arabia dict… sorry government implements a mandatory “Cultural and Marriage “Training” Session” before approving marriages… :P

    Other countries have citizenship tests (albeit some of them are a waste of time and money) but this is along the same lines.

  52. Why should that be aimed at the women? (again!)
    Why not give every woman who contemplates marriage a small (very small would suffice) booklet, starting with the responsibilities of a muslim man towards his wife, Some warnings (never contribute money) and advice (stow away a nest-egg) and a list of horrible things that happen to women and why they are less than the dirt in the street as soon as something does happen.
    Ending with an obligatory ”Basic Islamic Marriage Contract for Western Women marrying Arab Men” No Westtern woman get permission to marry without a proper contract.
    For example: No second wife allowed unless wife thinks it a lovely idea and give permission in writing (FIRST!!!), A BIG sum on divorce, And a substantial alimony, and children to remain with the mother.
    And the mother has the choice of where she will reside with those children.
    And extra money for each of those children.
    Would a contract like that be upheld by the courts? or would it just be swept away under the table because it favours the wife?
    Because if it would be upheld…
    I bet that would make saudi men think twice. :?

  53. There will be so many women who will read these warnings and say “silly them…that will NEVER happen to me.” But I agree, until there are some kind of enforcements in place such as training, or I like Aafke’s idea of a basic islamic marriage contract. That raises another valid point…many western women will marry a Saudi man in an Islamic ceremony unaware of the full rights and entitlements a woman should have in an islamic marriage contract. Instead he’ll have two friends or contacts stand up for them and the Imam may stand in as the mahrem for the woman. The woman, thinking in pure western terms and traditions may say she does not need or want a dowry from a man and thinking he is so pure, she might even say, in lieu of a dowry my new husband will instead be my quranic teacher. Training prior to marriage will unlikely not happen but maybe marriage classes and a good marriage contract could somehow be put in place. For example, I remember in the Catholic church a couple must go through pre-marital classes before the priest agrees to marry them and these are classes which are not only religious in nature but also oriented in teaching couples to learn about each other and what is important to each of them.

  54. Aafke,

    Your idea sounds good, but there are two ways that works. Sometimes it helps the woman, other times the men refuse to divorce because they cannot pay the financial penalties. Changes as to how the woman can initiate the divorce must be made.

    Currently it is very hard for a woman to initiate a divorce if the man doesnt want it.

  55. AbuSinan

    “Currently it is very hard for a woman to initiate a divorce if the man doesnt want it.”…I might say that its darn near impossible. Two of my friends have been married to Bahrainis for over 20 years each…both are very abused…ones husband is an abusive alcoholic….the other is just plain psycho and abusive. Both have been to the courts many times with police reports etc to back up their claims of abuse…both are still married….each time they stand before the judge…despite the evidence before him…he will ask the husband…do you want a divorce…husband says no…out they go to “sort out their problems and make a go of it”…the wife is usually cautioned to be more patient and try harder and not be so rash to rush to divorce….I kid you not.

    I was faced with the same situation…until I actually faced down the judge and had a shouting match with him…I got my divorce…and the world is a bright place again.

    I think there should be a program called….”Pretend to be married to an Arab for a month or something”…like a reality type show thing…that will defintely open some eyes…not saying all Arabs are bad…for sure not…but ladies need all the info and facts they can get before hand…marriage is hard enough as it is.

  56. Okeee, the contract also says women can choose to divorce. Isn’t that possible allready?
    Otherwise there is always a little something you can add to the qawa…
    Something that looks like natural causes…

  57. You’re right about the prerequisite classes as required in the Catholic church, and this is between 2 people of the same culture and religion.

    Aafke: great concept except I’ve seen this fail too. I know a woman who did this in her contract, stipulated a huge amount upon divorce. Guess what? Then he really refused to divorce her! Cheaper to keep her.

    Coolred: Hysterical. Start a reality TV show? My wicked mind is whirling here. Abaya 101 courses, how to make laham machbous, chai haleeb, and mint tea, keeping your eyes downcast to avoid pervs, a list of the ”aybs” which would read like a New York phone book in length.

    Oh and considering the recent trend of taking more than one wife, we could title it ”Days of our Wives”…..

  58. Lol…dont forget the “Your Famiy Isnt as Important as Mine Anymore” class…and the ever popular….”She’s My Mother…What do You Want Me to Do?”. Hee hee
    And when you have time you can take the weekend class….”Your Nether Regions are My Property….I can Visit Them Whenever I Feel Like It”….this is required course for those that might happen to feel they have the right to refuse sex to their husbands for whatever reason….repeat if the concept doesnt stick the first time around,

    Sorry for any Arabs on here…but after 21 years…I just got tired of all the pussyfooting around…and just say it like it is. Much easier to be direct.

  59. Oh as for the second wife thing…how about name it ….”You and Me…and Fatma Makes Three”…sounds like a winner to me.

  60. LOL…enjoying all the recent comments! I like the thought of a parody on “Days of our Wives…”

    But seriously, good issues are raised here. Number one – not all Arab men are bad or abusive. At the same time, and especially with a bicultural relationship, a woman should be prepared and know her rights in a male-dominated society. Not only know her rights but what other mechanisms she can take for further protecting herself.

  61. Yes, I had forgotten to add the list of cool Arab men:
    -Saudi in US (I think he’s gorgeous)
    -Bedu’s hubby (if bedu chose him must be kosher guy)
    -Saudi Jeans
    -Bedu’s vet
    -The man who saved the kitten

    That’s five AbuSinan!

    Put up a post (or a separate blog) for those mechanisms Bedu! :D

  62. Well of course I am biased but if you do like the George Clooney type then that’s my hubby! (LOL)

    Dr. Majed is incredible and you can see him via the flickr photos.

    I think we have all adopted Saudi in US as a family member!

    Saudi Jeans is cool and a great individual to know.

    The man who saved the kitten gets my gold star.

    And I am pleased that I can add many more silent heros and overall GREAT Saudi guys to that list. They are out there…it’s just that one hears too much about the bad apples.

  63. Oh coolred, thanks for making me laugh! And no, not all Arab men are bad, I do know this.

    Saudi in US has great comments and advice.

    Also, (might I brag a bit) I have 2 amazing men sons! Some of my inlaws of the younger generation are really amazing too.

    I still love the ”reality show” concept, and somebody really needs to pursue this. I watch the Saudi/Kuwaiti soaps, but we need to add a few ”ejnabiyahs” or foreign women in them.

    Oh, and redcool, we all know the in law issues. :)

  64. Hey….I can add my two teen sons…despite the absolute worst example of what a Muslim man should be…they are two of the finest sons anyone can ask for. I envy the girls that will eventually snag them…lol.

  65. And while we are on the topic of reality shows et al, I also suggest anyone who enjoys reading to get a copy of “Florence of Arabia.” I apologize that I cannot recall the author’s name off the top of my head but it is an entertaining read. I will not say more than that for I do not want to give away the story and theme.

  66. Thanks Aafke, Viking Daughter and Carol, but I am just a person with thoughts and have a forum to share them thanks to Carol.

    For a real Saudi hero, you have to look at this man:

    Abdul Rahman al-Lahem

    He was jailed, prevented from travel and probably missed on great financial opportunities, but he remains a defender of the weakest in our society facing off a strong bureaucracy and corrupt institutions. Whenever I get discouraged about progress in the country, I am always reminded of Adul Rahman and the impact he is making. Some of the greatest leaders of our century, example Ghandi, Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr, started as simple civil defendants and grew into heroes. Saudi needs such a figure and Abdul Rahman is the closest we have so far. He earned the hero award.

  67. Just so we do not limit Sauid heroes to men. I am adding Wajiha Al-Hudair to the list. She has been an activist for women and civil rights. Some of you may have seen a video of her on youtube driving a car in Saudi roads. The video I am including is an interview, where she provides great insights on some of the issues we discuss here.

  68. Saudi in US: Oh, dear, how very remiss of me! Of course Abdul Rahman al-Lahem should have been at the top of the list!!! I’m a big fan!!! (and I’m fan to nobody)
    Yes! I have seen the video of Wajiha Al-Hudair, but she is a woman :)

  69. So do you think there are more Saudi men or women who stand out deserving special attention and recognition????

  70. Saudi in US. I promise to google these names. Aafke seems to be a fan of Abdul Rahman too.

    Carol: You’re back online, how wonderful. :) No jogging just yet, blogging is quite enough.

    I haven’t seen enough of Saudi women to say, so it would be the men who get the recognition in terms of progress. I’m rather fond of King Abdullah, he seems to be progressive, yet traditional too.

  71. Viking Daughter,

    Thank goodness for notebook computers that can sit in ones lap! Yes; I’m WAY behind in emails but thinking of everyone. I LOVED your beautiful SMS’s.

    Yes, King Abdullah would certainly start at the top of my list of Saudi men deserving recognition, as would Prince Salman (Gov of Riyadh) and Prince Bandar bin Sultan. That’s my short start…

  72. Here is a few to add to the list in addition to the 2 I gave earlier:

    – King Abdullah of course for his support of reforms
    – Pr. Khalid AL Faisal (gov of Makkah) is definitely a moderate and liberal voice in the family. Also an artist and a poet.
    – Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi: This also relates to your article regarding Breast Cancer. Dr. Al-Amoudi is a cancer survivor who chronicled her journey through treatment in a weekly column in Al-Madianah news paper. Her efforts are brave in breaking the taboos that lead to shame for women with breast cancer.
    – Adel al-Jubeir: the current Saudi Ambassador to the US. I think he is a rising star in Saudi politics and has been an adviser to the current king with good impact on policies.

    I object on Pr. Bndar being on the list as he is tainted by al-Yemamah scandal, but that is just a personal opinion.

  73. I must look up Dr. Samia Al-Amoudi. Just yesterday I was having a talk with a few Saudi women over 40 years of age who have yet to ever have a GYN or breast exam or mammogram. It really saddened me as I realized my well meant words had no impact; there mind was clearly made up that those areas are “off limits” and not to be discussed. So frustrating!

  74. I don’t really know much about this but I have an idea…..

    I think it’s because of the lack of authority in Soudi Arabia, I mean, it’s haram for men to be doing these stupid things to their wives, but who’s stopping them? Imagine all the things people do on a regular basis,knowing they’ll get punished for it,ok….I mean men living there don’t give a crap because they’re not getting punished for it…..they deserted the Quran completely, or at least took pieces of it and twisted it into what they wanted it to be and said to their wive ” This is Islam, and you may not reject it” Is it really a suprise men do this there, they have no worries, or hearts, so they figure”why not?” Of course they’ll do this” In the name of Allah” but it’s only an excuse. I live in America, I am Muslim, I am in junior high, but still…I read the Quran, I know what’s right and wrong, and it MAKES ME SICK THAT MEN DO THIS AND USE ISLAM AS AN EXCUSE. Point is, it’s situations like these that shows the colors of a man.

  75. Thank you for your comments Saran and I think pretty wise words coming from someone in Junior High. Welcome to the blog and hope to see more of your comments.

  76. Sarah…strong words from one so young…we need more fire in Muslim youth…apathy is what got Islam and Muslims where we are today. BTW some of us refer to that particular male ego driven brand of Islam as Hislam…made for men…by men.

  77. Lol, Hislam…….Perfect!

  78. Reuters chose to pick up this post:

  79. Dear Sister,

    I am very saddened by this truth. This has happened to me,just recently and I live in USA. I am a divorced mother of one and I thought I was married again to this wonderful muslim man but to later find out after two weeks he divorced me. I am still heart-broken and cry to this day for being used and deceived. I thought muslim men were honorable. This is happening to often to too many women. How are men thinking they are going to get away with this, in the Day of Judgement, they also go for umrah or Hajj after their fraud and deceiption.

    Thank you

  80. While this does not apply to all muslim men or to all Saudi men, there certainly are a lot of “Juma Muslims” walking around…ie, the men who seem to remember they must be a good muslim on Friday, the day of prayer and then immediately after resume their non-islamic activities and life.

  81. I am overwhelmed by your blog. All I can say at the moment is “Wish I had known about it during all those times I felt like I was swimming against a rip tide”.

  82. Um Magid,

    Welcome and thank you for the comments. Please do not hesitate to ask any questions or suggest topics for future posts.

  83. Saudi in US,

    I would like to add Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah and his colleagues that are making a difference in the lives of conjoined twins:

    I’m sure we will find many other heroes as well. I am in the medical field and it makes me proud of the effort that King Abdullah and these doctors have been undertaking in the field of medicine.

  84. Thanks S H,

    I hear great stories on all the conjoined twins operations. It is amazing that they have assembled such a top notch team that performs these operations. It is almost becoming routine, which speaks volumes as these are the most complicated of operations.

    You know what came to my mind as soon as I opened the link. It is the fact that you mentioned an accomplished Saudi. However, when you open the link the first thing I noticed is the picture of the King. Do not get me wrong I like King Abdulah, but it just occurred to me that may be we do not know of all the great Saudi’s because there is a focus on the King and the royals in every accomplishment. The people that are doing the work get overshadowed.

    Perhaps the King could show some leadership and humility and request that these practices stop. I know he did not ask them to include his picture, it just have become part of the culture. I would have loved to see a set of profiles of the medical team that performs the work instead. Just a thought….

    Thanks for your comment, I will do some readings on Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah.

  85. Saudi in US,

    I fully understand your position. Remember, we are just but humble servants…:)

    In respect to the conjoined surgeries, yes, medicine has come long ways. Back in the late 80′s, these same operations would be undertaken over three days. I recall when I was doing my fellowship at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Ben Carson and his team of over 130 did similar operations over three days. The key here to remember is, it was a team effort of many specialists.

    This is the same that Dr. Al Rabeeah and his team is undertaking in KSA. We are having many specialists (neurosurgery, pediatric surgery along with other doctors and surgical staff) that are part of the group that makes it all possible.

    Sadly, not many citizens of our country are entering the fields of science and medicine. Money is the lure and we do not see many more bright students undertaking the long education and training and they prefer to go into the fields like business. Most want to get rich fast and are still self-centered.

    I have hope and know in time, we will see change.

    Thank you for your input and please continue sharing of other great personalities that we have back home. Maybe this will inspire others for greatness.


  86. S H — I encourage you to read my earlier post about Separation of Siamese Twins. I’m proud to say that I work at National Guard and Dr. Rabeeah, his team and what they are doing is a legend.

    Saudi in US – I understand your comment about the King’s photo being the first one sees. I’m just guessing but perhaps in the case of conjoined twins his photo is prominent since he covers all expenses for the families from around the world who come to KSA for separation operations.

    Back at SH – Again, I’m so glad that I was at National Guard and treated by the Saudi doctors who made up my team when I underwent my major surgery and continuing treatment.

  87. Thank you for letting me know Carol. I was not aware of your earlier article. Remember, I am a recent visitor to your site. Upgraded from a lurker to now on an occasion commenting on articles.

    I know these doctors very well. I am very proud of their accomplishments. May we have many more the likes of them.

  88. You’re welcome SH.

    In my own opinion I believe every Saudi doctor practicing at National Guard is a silent hero. I believe if one needs treatment in KSA, NGHA is the place you want to be!

  89. […] activities which are perhaps overlooked such as the activities of some Saudi men I cited back in a post from […]

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