Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
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
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]
Friday, October 12, 2007
As we sat driving in the car, SMS messages started coming into our phones from family and friends congratulating us on Eid. But, didn't everything and everyone in the world tell us that Eid was supposed to be on Saturday?
-Eid housecleaning, not done
-henna, not done
-clothes that fit my midget Indonesian housekeeper after 2 failed tries, not done
-special Eid decorations, not done
Apparantly someone here saw the crescent moon.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Pictures like this are circulating through men's mobiles around the kingdom; snapshots taken of random women out shopping in all their ocular glory. This sister is on the mild end of the spectrum.
Many young ladies are spending inordinate amounts of time decorating their eyes with tools of the beauty trade before leaving their houses: mascara, eye-liners, colored contacts are combined with shades and combinations of eye-shadow that could make a peacock jealous. These perfectly painted provocative peepers are poised under painstakingly plucked puny eyebrows which punctuate their preposterousness.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I've proudly proclaimed to vast amounts of people "I feel safer in Saudia than in any western city". For the most part I still stand by that statement. I've been in and out of the country for the past few years and apparently, things have started to change while I was gone. Car-jackings, robbing people at ATM's, gang-rapes, motorcycle muggers grabbing mobile's out of people's hands as they talk as well as traditional pick-pockets are in the papers almost daily. I think what is most shocking to people is the perceived escalation of such crimes at such a fast pace. Are these things still happening at a much lower rate than in any typical western country? Yes.
It didn't take long after entering England for us to be a victim of petty crime. In fact, it took only a few weeks. Several of our friends had their houses burgled and in one case, the thieves were in their bedroom as they slept. In four years time, several of our friends had been the victim of crimes in addition to us and I was even the target of a physical assault as I walked down the street pushing a small EttaMae in her stroller.
In the almost 10 years in Saudia I have never been the victim of a crime. I only know one person amongst ALL the people I know that have been the victim of a crime; my SIL had her purse picked as she was shopping in the souk, but didn't discover it till some time later. I've heard of some things going missing from the majlis* at my in-laws house several years before I went there, but keep in mind that normally the front door to the street, which is adjacent to the majlis door, is wide open most afternoons to welcome in visitors (and apparently some wayward teens). In the souk, the most advanced security system in the world is used as a theft deterrent: tarp. Tarp is thrown loosely over the merchandise as trusting shopkeepers leave their goods completely unattended as they go off to pray.
I've been taking walks with EttaMae almost everyday a bit before sunset to burn-off some of her boundless energy, just the two of us, me and my little girl, two lone vulnerable females. As I walk through the neighborhood I notice that like my at my in-laws, there are many houses with the front doors left wide open. I've noticed the way I feel as I'm walking as well. While in the west, I follow all the common sense rules I've been taught since childhood; use the buddy system, don't walk alone at night, check under your car from a distance before you get in case someone's waiting under your car to ambush you, hold your keys or pepper-spray in a ready position in case you need to use them. I'm always "battle-ready" when I go out and to describe me as alert is an understatement. However, I've never yet had that feeling here. You couldn't pay me enough money to walk alone past abandoned urban construction sites in the west, what better place to lay in wait for a potential victim and then than that! I don't have that same feeling of foreboding here as I walk past the several unfinished houses that line my path.
I'd be in denial if I claimed that crime doesn't happen here and I don't need to hear about so-and-so who had this-and-that happen to them in Saudia. I know bad things happen here. And I don't need any smart-alecks trying to turn the comments-section into discourse on terrorist boogiemen…those kinds of attacks are very few in comparison to the thousands of heinous murders and assaults that occur daily in western cities. I used to live in the (at that time) murder capital of the U.S. and there were two murders and a hostage situation that happened in the vary apt. building that I lived in (during the course of two years). But Alhamdulillah (thank God), although things like this happen in Saudia, they are so few and far between that everyone in town knows about it when it happens. And don't bring up the hand-chopping thing: DD says he hasn't heard of anyone getting their hand cut off since he was little and attributes this lack of an effective deterrent to the ever-increasing crime-rate.
So as my western readers check the locks on their doors and windows, turn on their alarm systems and make sure the motion detector light is working before they go to bed, know that many of us here in Saudia still have our doors gaping open. Naïve? A bit, maybe.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Information passes through old Hasawi neighborhoods at a dizzying speed. This may be the reason that basic DSL connections are still under 1mg in the country…old women's wagging tongues far exceed the download speed of even the most modernized server so, why upgrade? Every weekday, there's a long-standing social tradition in the older neighborhoods. Old ladies file out of their houses after 'Asr prayer, sometimes armed with plastic baskets holding vacuum thermoses of hot tea and coffee and a few jingling glass tea cups as they walk to visit other old ladies in the neighborhood. The reason I say "old ladies" is because this tradition is dying out amongst the younger generation in newer neighborhoods.
Cities have expanded and completely new neighborhoods have sprung up in the deserts uprooting people from their old familiar neighborhoods and regrouping them into new, unfamiliar, constructed neighborhoods. Houses are bigger and further apart than in the old neighborhoods making it hard to get to know you neighbors. It's also harder to hear the arguments in the houses next door and you can't casually see their comings or goings without staking them out from your window either. All of the sudden, privacy reigns in the newer neighborhoods. Unlike in the older neighborhoods, you now need to announce your visit well in advance if you plan on visiting anyone to avoid majorly inconveniencing them.
Back in the old neighborhood after 'Asr, the old ladies knock on an open front door or clap their hands to announce their entrance to the residents inside. In many older houses, the magellat, or women's parlor, is located off of the family's living room. This means that the guest/intruder gets to see who's kept up house well, who's kids aren't cleaned up, and whether or not your hair was brushed upon stepping in the door. In order to keep up appearances, many women I know who live in these old neighborhoods sleep until noon then, cook lunch, eat, then rush to make fresh tea and coffee and promptly clean up and shower before the 'Asr prayer hits. If she's running a bit behind schedule, she risks un-announced guests arriving to see her and her house looking all torn up…what gossip fodder that is!
Ladies take a seat in the magellat in front of the a/c and are given a cup of water as they cool off a bit. Not having yet caught their breath and still wiping the perspiration from their faces with the inside of their now flipped-open face-veils, the Ayjoozat begin the day's gossip session with an exchange of pre-determined pleasantries to be said AT each other not TO each in a swift, simultaneous, robotic exchange without an obvious ounce of true concern to their demeanor:
"How are you…how's it going…how's your health…how's the family, good?…how's your parent's?...how's your mom's uncle's wife's father's cousin twice-removed's daughter doing?" (Ok, so I embellished a bit… but that's how it feels sometimes!)
Wedding invitations are like gold to these old women, there's really not much else to do around town. Anyone who receives an invitation with a +1 on it is everyones best friend. Many animated conversations revolve around events at these weddings and filling in the blanks for any non-attendees:
"Oh my God, there was this girl in a half-there purple dress! She was shaking her thang like this and her boobs were hoisted up like that (complete with actual booty shaking and boob-hoisting motions)"
"Ya, but the bride's mom, NO shame! Her hair's cut so short and she's wearing a sleeveless dress like this, at her age! And how's her stomach so flat?"
"Gurl, I heard she had a tummy-tuck and lipo just for the wedding"
"I heard they paid XXXX amount of money for the dress and they got it from Jeddah. And the tagagat** cost them XXX per hour and they were brought in from Kuwait.
And the beat goes on…
In one afternoon, sometimes 3 or 4 women visit my MIL's house. After sitting at her house for a bit and exchanging gossip, the women leave and many times go on to different houses to visit other friends in the neighborhood. Now it's math time:
4 women visit my MIL's house each bringing with them one piece of gossip to add to my MIL's gossip. After the exchange of gossip, each woman who'd originally had one piece of gossip leaves my MIL's house with 4 new pieces of gossip totaling 5 juicy tidbits. Then, each woman goes on her separate way once leaving my MIL's house and goes to another friend's house with her 5 bits of information where she meets 4 more women at the next house. She then spreads her 5 juicy tidbits to the 4 new women at her other friends house while acquiring at least 4 more juicy tidbits, at least one news bite from each woman totaling 9 interesting news bits for the day (I think). But if this is the second or third house the women at the other friend's house had visited that day, each woman may have more than one juicy tidbit to pass on!
Who from my readers is good at logarithms? LOL!
*Ayjooza= old woman
**Tagagat= female drum players/singers at weddings and parties (hired band)
Fasting doesn't bother me much. I'm an "eat to live" kinda gal anyway so as long as I get a caffeine fix at least once a day, I'm fine. Trouble is, I usually don't eat full meals on my best days- I'm a picky eater (not variety, just the method). I eat enough but it's a result of picking at small amounts of generally healthy food during the course of the day and/or while cooking and I rarely eat a full plate of food at any meal.
I delivered Buddy last Ramadan and wasn't able to make up those days till the month before this, resulting in two consecutive months of fasting. I think that 's why I'm so ready for Eid this year. Since my picking habits have been altered by Ramadan and I'm not staying up the whole night grazing like most people I know, I'm losing my 'womanly' curvesL
Want to follow the Daisy Diet Plan too? It's as easy as this:
- Fast 2 months straight.
- Breastfeed an insatiable infant till he sucks the vary life-force out of you.
- Stress yourself out with trying to write an academic research paper with three children home on school vacation.
- Make yourself so tired that by the time it's sunset and you're allowed to eat, fall asleep a few minutes after taking your first bite. Then, don't sleep any more than 4 hours in any 24 hour time period.
- Don't buy any of your favorite bootyfoods from Dammam because it's too hard to go anywhere during Ramadan.
Seeing as how I'm too stingy to go and buy clothes to fit my new Ramadan figure, I'll just have to gain the weight back after Ramadan's finished:P
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
(poking an unconscious DD) Yella, goom! (get up), it's time to take the girls to school.DD:
Aagh, I haven't slept at all for days.
I know, but the girls are all dressed and waiting for you.
Let them stay home today, I'll take them tomorrow.
Just make yourself get up and take them, maybe you can come home and sleep again.
Their not even having lessons now, don't bug me, let them stay home today.Daisy:
Believe me, I wish I didn't have to bug you like this but I don't have any choice, I can't help you out here. It's up to you.
"please, take my children with you, alone, every day as long as they eventually make it to and from school. I don't know anything about you or your real history and you could be the world's biggest, most perverted, undiscovered pedophile but I will allow you free access to my children".
(to an obviously tired DD) We're out of vegetables, when can you take me to get some?DD:
I can't today, I'm too tired and tomorrow I have meetings before and after it's time to pick up the girls. Even I don't know how I'm going to manage to pick them up, After I drop off EttaMae (who's school's an hour's drive round-trip) I only have two hours to sit and do any work until I have to pack up and set out again to pick them up. Since school's started I've hardly been able to get any work done.Daisy:
I wish I could help, but you know we have to depend on you to do this and we don't have any other options. This is food we're talking about my dear, not something that can be put off.
(as DD walks in the door from work, trying to still sound nice despite a rage building inside) you didn't get any fruit and vegetables, we've already been out for a few days.DD: I was too busy and I forgot. I'm too tired now to go out again.
Then don't take me, just try to stop on your way to or from someplace and grab a few things. And while your at it, we're out of bottled water and chicken too...
DD: My God, it's always requests, requests, requests from you.
This is from Riyadh