Is the Arab Middle East really ready for a true revolution? A genuine uprising in the Muslim world which does not focus on the issue of women’s rights is not much of an uprising and does not bode well for a true democracy, one defined by the rule of law, a constitutional system of checks and balances, a separation of mosque and state, freedom of religion, a free press, universal education, individual human rights and freedom.
Miraculously, amazingly, a Saudi woman or a number of Saudi women have just launched a new and fabulous Facebook page. They call it Saudi Women Revolution. It features a white smurf-like figure joyfully throwing off her chains and has links to the Saudi women’s drive-in and to campaigns against child brides.
They are talking about arranging meetings in Jeddah and Riyadh.
Given what they know can happen to them: divorce, loss of custody, being honor murdered by their families, jail, torture (flogging), and murder (beheading, stoning), I must congratulate them for their awe-inspiring bravery. Alas, we do not have such brave women here.
I will also pray for their safety.
Please realize: The Kingdom is very severe, quite serious about repressing, oppressing, tormenting women. Yes—even those women who can shop-until-they-drop and who can afford the most expensive clothing, jewelry, furniture, and electronic entertainment; even those who are well educated; even those who are members of the royal family. All women are subject to the same laws. Women keep women in line psychologically—but, in case that fails, the law takes over.
All Saudi women must be heavily, fully, face-and-body veiled, no matter how hot it is.
They must always be accompanied by a male escort if they leave home.
They cannot choose whom they wish to marry nor can they leave violent, polygamous, and philandering husbands.
They cannot leave the country without a male escort and without male family permission to travel.
They are forbidden to drive.
However, in 1990, Saudi women conducted a “drive-in” to protest the ban on women driving. I was privileged to know some of these magnificent women. Everyone was barred from foreign travel for one year. Those who had government jobs were fired. They were denounced from mosque pulpits by name as “immoral” women. According to one of the women, Fawzia al Bakr, “Wherever you work, you are labeled as a ‘driver’ and you will never be promoted, no matter how good you are,” she says.
The new Facebook page lists this drive-in as well as a petition to abolish child marriage. This is truly an example of great courage. Why?
All Saudi women live with the knowledge that even a Saudi royal princess is in no way exempt from these harsh laws. For example, in 1977, a Saudi princess dared to fall in love with a man of her own choosing. She tried to flee the Kingdom. She was caught. Her own grandfather sentenced her to be publicly shot in the head six times. Her fiancée was forced to watch her death—and he was then publicly beheaded. A gripping British documentary, “Death of a Princess,” was made in 1980 about this tragedy.