Thursday, October 18, 2007

I am chattel

Slavery is a social-economic system under which certain persons — known as slaves — are deprived of personal freedom and compelled to perform labor or services. The term also refers to the status or condition of those persons who are treated as the property of another person or household. This is referred to as "chattel slavery".

The 1926 Slavery Convention described slavery as "...the status and/or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised..." Slaves cannot leave an owner, an employer or a territory without explicit permission, and they will be returned if they escape. Therefore a system of slavery — as opposed to the isolated instances found in any society — requires official, legal recognition of ownership, or widespread tacit arrangements with local authorities, by masters who have some influence because of their social and/or economic status.

How could the above definition possibly apply to my life?:

1. I cannot leave my house without my husband’s permission. If I did and my husband wanted to exercise his “power”, he can have the police bring me back or even imprison me where Muslim women in other countries would only have to contemplate incurring divine punishment in the afterlife.

2. As a Saudi woman, I am not allowed to travel without my husbands documented permission. Even if escorted by my father, brother, uncle, son or other Islamic mahram, once married my husband’s permission is still requisite and I would be prevented from exiting the country without it.

3. If I had a less than understanding husband, I may feel compelled to provide marital “services” to him a legally recognized minimum of several times a month, or he could be granted a divorce from me where Muslim women in other countries would only have to consider “divine” punishment for refusing her husband without a good reason.

4. Even if I were to pursue my Islamic right to request a divorce from an unhappy marriage, I would have to get past the following hurdles as a woman, alone without male family members inside the country:
· I’d have to make contact with a male lawyer who is not a male relative of mine and therefore, I’m limited with the kind of contact I may have with him. At this point female lawyers are prevented from arguing in court.
· I cannot drive myself to meet with my lawyer or even to the court in order to pursue obtaining a divorce from my husband.
· If I did manage to get there, I’d have to deal with entire legions of men who are unaccustomed to dealing with a woman as most send their brethren to represent their interests.
· I’d have to pray that the judge appointed to my case truly tried to follow the Sunna and not a misogynistic, cultural version of Islam. Even if I were never wronged by my husband but simply didn’t like him leading to my being discontent, I should be granted a divorce if requested.
· I do not have access to official documents, which are obtained my husband, including those vital to everyday transactions such as the “family card”. Although legally, to my understanding, a law was recently passed allowing women to procure them, most women would send a male family member to do it (which is not an option for me).

5. I cannot even report the birth of my child and register his/her name.

6. Legally, the house I live in is not mine and I have no rights whatsoever to it. Even if I contributed money to it, unless my husband was kind and loving enough to add my name as partial owner on his own accord, it’s entirely his house. Upon divorce or death, I could be homeless if his relatives or children wanted to claim their portions (much larger than mine) as their rightful inheritance. This potential eviction would be delayed fortunately, until my youngest child reached legal adult age.

7. Although I’m a citizen, because I am foreign-born and don’t have anyone (male) in the country from my family to be my “guardian”, upon divorce those few rights I have as a Saudi woman to remain in the country near my children could be revoked with my citizenship and I’d be sent packing, childless, back to America where my father lives. (See Carol’s blog for more on this)

8. If I ever did need to dig up male family members to represent me, these are my options:
· I wait for 15 more years for my son to grow up and represent me.
· I make a couple more sons as backup in case the first one isn’t willing.
· I find my estranged scam-artist half-brother from my father’s second marriage who lives in America, who I can’t tolerate and who’d attempt to milk me dry for every riyal I have.
· I contact my other half-brother from my father’s first marriage on another continent who despite being a kind man who would no doubt help me out in desperate times, I can no longer communicate directly with because I’ve forgotten his language for the most part.
· I put my ailing, elderly father on a boat from America. He can’t fly because the pressure may cause him to have another stroke.

At this point I’d like to reassure my readers that these are NOT the circumstances of my life at present or anyone I know. Also, most Saudi women will live their entire lives without any/most of these list items every affecting them. Not every Saudi man is out to flex his muscles and exercise his legal “power” over his wife. I could cite several examples of women with similar circumstances to my own within my social circles who’s houses are in their names or who are bequeathed their “husband’s” house despite their being housewives and not contributing to it’s purchase (my MIL), as well as women who rule the roost. What pains me is that if the Devil took over my husband, these could be some of the potential results.

Many commenter’s may be keen to point out several items which are part of Islam and to which I’m subject to being a Muslim woman such as, not leaving the home without my husband’s permission. When living outside of the country, and being a believing woman, I “police” myself. Since my husband respect’s my judgement as a mature and intelligent woman, I have my husband’s understood and implied permission to do the errands I need to do during the day (FYI to non-Muslims: this doesn’t mean I have to go to him every time I step one toe out the door). As is customary between married couples around the world I say, “I’m running to the store before I pick up the girls, see ya”. He returns the same courtesy and doesn’t just wander out the door without giving me an idea of where he’s going and/or saying bye. If there were a conflict of interests, this would be dealt with between ourselves without the possibility of legal intervention.

Although I usually try to keep things a bit upbeat on my blog, there are times I feel the need to throw my own little pity-party. For all the good things in my life I say Al-Humdulillah (thank God) and pray for God to keep me safe and protect me from the above listed items. For any men who are reading this list and nodding their heads in agreement thinking, “yeah, this is the way it should be”, I’ll leave you with these messages:

From the Prophet’s (PBUH) last sermon:

O People, it is true that you have certain right with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.

From the Quran:

Lodge them (the divorced women) where you dwell, according to your means, and do not treat them in such a harmful way that they be obliged to leave. (Surat
Al-Talaq 65:6)

From Hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira, God's messenger said: "The believers who show the
most perfect faith are those who have the best disposition and the
best of you are those who are best to their wives." [Tirmidhi]


Desert Flower said...

You said, "If I had a less than understanding husband, I may feel compelled to provide marital “services” to him a legally recognized minimum of several times a month, or he could be granted a divorce from me where Muslim women in other countries would only have to consider “divine” punishment for refusing her husband without a good reason."

I have never heard of a legal requirement to have marital relations or face divorce so could you maybe elaborate on this for me??

You said, "Although I’m a citizen, because I am foreign-born and don’t have anyone (male) in the country from my family to be my “guardian”, upon divorce those few rights I have as a Saudi woman to remain in the country near my children could be revoked with my citizenship and I’d be sent packing, childless, back to America where my father lives. (See Carol’s blog for more on this)"

Again I've never heard of this and asked hubby and he says it is impossible for anyone to take your nationality away from you unless you are convicted of a crime.

Some times I wonder if I should revisited my decision to get Saudi nationality however I don't see any real benefits to be honest with you.

It always amazes me that we can live in the same area of Saudi yet see it so very differently.

When ever we drive by a wedding celebrations I always tell my husband that it is sad to see and he asked me why once and I told him that it was because some poor woman was going to jail. He laughed and said ya that is kinda true and even more so if she has a careless husband.

Sprite said...

It's terrible that one section of the population (women) should be forced to rely on the goodwill of another (men). There are so many examples in the world of cruel and unreasonable behaviour (by both men and women). Humans are so often not pleasant creatures. Laws are our only protection from the unpleasant side of our species' nature!

My partner tells me again and again that as a woman, I need to make sure I have my own career and own savings, even though I know he's never going to ill-treat me and rip me off. One of his sisters had a nasty divorce and another is unhappy in her marriage, and he reckons every woman should be able to be independent, for her own protection. (This is not in Saudi Arabia).

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

DF- this was based on a particular case of a man who went to a judge to divorce his wife on the grounds that she was not providing "services" for him. That judge decided that at least once every 10(?) days was a reasonable amount (I don't know how often he expected it from her).

As far as my citizenship being taken away, as many other laws, this seems open to wide interpretation and misuse. For example, the same "wasta" that was originally used to get my passport might be used to take it away. Secondly, the ambiguity attached to the definition of what is considered a "crime" troubles me. For example, I could be arrested for backing my car out of the driveway. Could this get me sent out or does it have to be a "major" crime. If so, what is a "major" crime here.

As far as taking the nationality goes, it has its perks. Especially if you're widowed you won't have the added burden of losing your Iqama sponsor (like our mutual friend). Plus, there are financial provisions to be made for a divorced Saudi woman.

See, I warned you this post was coming:P

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

sprite- "It's terrible that one section of the population (women) should be forced to rely on the goodwill of another (men)."

You sum it up exactly! Almost every process in a woman's life here must pass through the hands of a man in her life at some point.

I am less fortunate than most since I do not have a family here to back me up so I depend almost solely on the good graces of my husband. If a woman has a loving family behind her, as most women here do, she has a cushion to fall into should calamity strike the heart of her marriage.

Carol said...

Very thoughtful, insightful and provactive as well. Excellent topic which I am sure will generate many comments.

As I like to say, "life in the Kingdom is full of contrasts and contradictions."


Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading your blog.
I was just wondering what are a woman's rights regarding her medical care? does she have the right to accept or decline treatment or does her husband have supreme authority? Also, does a woman have the right to private medical records?
Thank you,

أبو سنان said...

That is sad. But much of this goes away if you have the money to bribe the right people (reshwa) or have the right connections.

My wife was married in Jeddah in her late teens. The guy turned out to be a creep.

She wanted a divorce, but of course women cannot really get a divorce and if they do it takes years. But, it was nothing her father couldnt sort out with a $10,000 bribe to the religious (hah) judge who would take care of it.

Anonymous said...

The legal state of women in KSA is thoroughly upsetting. I myself have never lived there, but I have Saudi family and Pakistani relatives there (in Riyadh and Jeddah). Some of the stories I hear are heart breaking. I'm not sure if I could ever opt to live there myself, I'm too outspoken and politically driven.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Carol- unfortunately, my 'denied access' status seemed to quash most ensuing commentary:-(

Lisa- You know, you brought up a very, VERY important issue! I know that I'm not able to sign myself out of the hospital nor am I able to consent for treatment for my own children! But I don't know if push came to shove and I wanted/didn't want a procedure and my husband/'guardian' in opinion what the outcome would be. I will definitely check on this (though it will probably take a while). I have a feeling based on the examples I already gave you what the answer may be though:-(

أبو سنان - I never request something that's contrary to Islam. In Islam women are allowed to seek a divorce however, the loophole which prevents/discourages us from this seems to be in all the red tape, time, effort and money women must go through to do it. Unfortunately, I've known several women with similar situations as Manal's .

Maya- we're cut from the same cloth, why do you think I'm blogging anon:P

apu said...

Hey I tried to drop you a mail but the link on your profile site is not working...

I picked up this lovely piece of yours for the latest Carnival of Feminists.. here (

Lalla Mona said...

The list of my life (sighs)

Lina said...

what is really sad about this comment is that people practice the old stupid traditions which i don't where do u they come from?
and leave out what Allah (sw) and the prophet Mohamed (pbuh) said...
I enjoyed reading this post it's so enlighting :)

arabianprincess13 said...

hi daisy,
i read this post and am still in denial of these facts. I am not saudi but i have lived there all my life. and during all these years i have heard a gazillion sad stories of women going through these situations. despite all that, i still fell in love with my boyfriend who is saudi (his family is originally from palestine). i was wondering, is there a way to know whether a guy's family is 'old-fashioned' and practice this stuff? oh, and tell me more about saudi culture.. your blogs are my only link to saudi at the moment since I'm all the way here in the US. i miss the sandbox sooo much! thanks and God bless!

arabianprincess :)

s said...

That's one of the reasons why I would never be able to *survive* if I had to live in Saudia. I find that some of the *rules* are just manmade and the women are still *caged*. Inshallah, someday, the women will have their rights according to the way stated in our holy texts. sf

Anonymous said...

very good post. your blog is very informative
sis from the usa

Maria said...

Wow-- thank you for writing this. I just discovered your blog via intlxpatr and really enjoy it.

I have always known that women in Saudi had limited rights, but didn't know all the specifics. Now I'll have some facts if it comes up again in conversation.

A [female] friend who is defensive of the Saudi government told me things are changing for the better for women. Is this true, or is it just lip service?

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

apu- thanks!

Lalla mona- At least your young enough you may see some change within your lifetime...but not before turning blue from holding your breath.

lina- salamat,if the women of the Sahaba were to see us now, they just shake there heads. THey were so strong and assertive.

arabianprincess13- sorry it took so long (computer issues and all). From what I've noticed, resident Arabs (non-Saudis) can go either way. There are the "everything a Saudi sheik says, we must do" variety who are more hard-core than the most fundamental Saudis. Then there are the "we aren't like these backwards Bedouins, we're enlightened" types who are much more prevalent. I don't know what to tell you but feel free to send me an email if you want to discuss specifics anytime!

sf- I've been working on a graphic for my blog forever because I suck at photo-shop, that illustrates just that, feeling "caged".

thanks sis from the usa!

Maria- there are changes being implemented, such as allowing women to get identification cards which were previously only a man's right. Many changes are on paper but will take forever to work its way into society itself.

Anonymous said...

As difficult as the situation you've described sounds, what stands out most is that to compare it to slavery means either you don't understand the depth of real slavery and/or you don't find it really terrible enough.

The things you've described don't match the severity of what people suffer under slavery. Oppressed, yes, bad, yes, slavery? No

Abdel_Haadie said...

Asalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh

It is so sad and a shame upon muslims that our sisters are speaking of laws in a country which symbolizes Islamic Law (Shariah). Thye have made a mockery out of Shariah. I do know that in his last few days of his life, Prophet Mohammad (sws) stressed upon muslims to care after women's rights. Unfortunately, we have put his advice beind us. The enemies of Islam have nothing that they can hold upon our(muslims) heads except violation of women and their rights. It is a shame that so many sisters after accepting Islam, leaving their native lands, serving their husbands suffer so much at the hands of those who claim to safeguard Islamic Law and values.

Having said that, I must advice my muslim sisters to be patient and disallow enemies of Islam to ridicule the Law of Allah and way of life prescribed by His messenger's (sws). I know soem may say, easy for me to say becasue I am a man. But, please do not drag out our dirty-laundry in front of the disbelievers...I know you all love Allah and His prophet (sws).

Allah is the Most Just and will punish those who violate others rights and oppress women needlessly. May be Allah will guide them. Stay firm on the deen, be patient and encourage others the same. May Allah make things easy for all those suffer.\\

Your brother in Islam;_ylt=AvpQsqdtrPd3nNW8xN03kSmkAOJ3

Abdel-haadie said...

Asalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahe wa Barakatuh:

After reading my own posting here(see above) I feel I need to be a little more clear.

Those of us who learn Islam (through the Qur'an and verifiable sunanh/hadith only) know well that Islam is about two things: Fullfilling the rights of our Creator (Allah) and His creation. All Islamic law falls within those two categories. All our worship, rituals, matters of mutual give and take between family, business-partners, etc. are covered therein. As long as we muslims follow the Quran and sunnah we will never violate any other humans rights. Let alone our own spouses rights. Problems arise when we give cultural values prefrence over Shariah. Now, Saudi law is most closely folowed by Shariah, yet the biases, bribes, discrimination of ethinicity, gender, etc. that exist in an Arab culture distort the application of that Shariah Law. In the Qura'n Allah (SWT) has strict repremain for thsoe who do not apply Laws laid down by Allah. Because, in the language of the Qur'an, these are truly the oppressors, injust, "fasiqoon".

On the otehr hand there are those, and yes many many of them are amongst "muslim feminists" or their supporters who do utilize to maginfy any disharmony, discontent among our muslim sisters. May Allah destroy them. Because they have contributed much to the destrcution and animosity amongst us. There sole goal is to dishearten us and present a negative image of Islam as a "backwards ideology".

The success for muslim ummah and our sisters is tied togetehr in firmly following the Qur'an and sunnah. Yes, some of tehir rights are not being fullfilled or being violated but this is test of their Imaan, steadfastness and Love for Alalh and His deeen.

was salamu alikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

Abdel-Haadie said...

-----------------------------------Excerpts from Sahih Bukhari
Volume 7, Book 62
Narrated 'Uqba:

The Prophet said: "The stipulations most entitled to be abided by are those with which you are given the right to enjoy the (women's) private parts (i.e. the stipulations of the marriage contract)."

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:

The Prophet said, "Everyone of you is a guardian and everyone of you is responsible (for his wards). A ruler is a guardian and is responsible(for his subjects); a man is a guardian of his family and responsible (for them); a wife is a guardian of her husband's house and she is responsible (for it), a slave is a guardian of his master's property and is responsible (for that). Beware! All of you are guardians and are responsible (for your wards)."

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 82:

Excerpts from Sahih Bukhari

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 114:
Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (trouble) his neighbor. And I advise you to take care of the women, for they are created from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part; if you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain crooked, so I urge you to take care of the women."

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "It is not lawful for a woman (at the time of wedding) to ask for the divorce of her sister (i.e. the other wife of her would-be husband) in order to have everything for herself, for she will take only what has been written for her."

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 120:
Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "A woman should not fast (optional fasts) except with her husband's permission if he is at home (staying with her)."

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 121:
Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "If a man Invites his wife to sleep with him and she refuses to come to him, then the angels send their curses on her till morning."

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 122:
Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "If a woman spends the night deserting her husband's bed (does not sleep with him), then the angels send their curses on her till she comes back (to her husband)."

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 123:
Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "It is not lawful for a lady to fast (Nawafil) without the permission of her husband when he is at home; and she should not allow anyone to enter his house except with his permission; and if she spends of his wealth (on charitable purposes) without being ordered by him, he will get half of the reward."

The Rendezvous said...

I agree with so many of you and someone said

" It is a shame that so many sisters after accepting Islam, leaving their native lands, serving their husbands suffer so much at the hands of those who claim to safeguard Islamic Law and values"....

I am a muslim, a resident of Dubai and walaahi I am not sure about all that, but I don't know what is wrong with the saudi culture...

My own culture of Somalia gives more priorities to women in reverse and we are Sunnis just like Saudi Arabia...

We treat women like queens..My own sister got two other women employees helping her at home...

I am just sorry for what you are passing through...Post more

cristina said...

Great Post, I reallly like it.



Anonymous said...

are you a real saudi or are you an american who married a saudi and became a citizen?

if you are the latter, why would you willingly submit yourself to the worst religion on earth? i dont get it.

i was a muslim for the first 25 years of my life until i was snapped out of my insanity and realized the truth about islam.

i live my life with a loving husband, freely. i work in an office, i dont have to wear an abaya or veil, people will not look at me like i am a slut, or worse, a belonging. they respect me.

a woman who willingly submits to the evil islam must be out of her mind, and worse, taking for granted her God given rights and human rights. i really hope you will not have to go through any of the bad situations you mentioned in this entry. i hope you will have the best life possible being a muslim living in saudi and all. God Bless You.

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