Currents of Change for Women in Saudi Arabia

This was written by Maha Akeel and was originally published in Common Ground News Service. “Saudi Arabia is not yet ready for women to participate in the upcoming municipal elections on 23 April.” The election commissioner made this bold statement late last month, referring to women’s roles as both voters and candidates. Two years earlier, however, the first female deputy minister was appointed, and in 2005 officials from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs promised that women would be able … [Read more...]

Free Samar: Saudi Bloggers Rally for Samar Al Badawi

When 32-year-old divorcee Samar Al Badawi went to Jeddah court to challenge a “filial ingratitude” complaint filed by her father, the judge rejected her claims and ruled in favor of her father. And despite documented physical abuse, previous court rulings to lift her father’s guardianship, and even a royal order to send her to an abused women’s shelter from governor of Mecca Prince Khalid al-Faisal, the judge sent her to prison. This was a year ago, and Al Bawadi has not been released or … [Read more...]

Putting Texts in Context: Saudi Text Tagging

Earlier this month, CNN Expansión reported that the Saudi government aimed to prohibit the Blackberry Messenger service, since it is considered a threat to national security because the service doesn’t allow the government to intercept messages. Blackberry has become very popular among single young people, who use it as a way to connect with men or women in a society where gender segregation is strictly imposed. Although negotiations continue between Blackberry and the government, the … [Read more...]

An Open Letter to Maureen Dowd

Dear Maureen, I hear you’re back from your jaunt over in Saudi Arabia. Kudos to you for making it back from that big, bad place. Somebody get this woman the gin and tonic she deserves! First, a secret: I am so tired of frothy, pop-culture media and art about the question of veiling. It’s really reached the point where whenever I hear about a story about the “Muslim world,” I feel premonitory exhaustion at the prospect of having to respond to its same tired clichés and unnecessary … [Read more...]

Rowdy Saudis: MTV’s “Resist the Power: Saudi Arabia”

As part of the True Life series, MTV recently aired an episode titled, “Resist the Power! Saudi Arabia,” in which the lives of several young Saudis were filmed. The show documents a handful of struggles experienced by Saudi Arabia’s large youth population. Among them, the show follows a young man named Ahmad in his fight to provide women a voice within Jeddah’s City Council and Fatima, a 20-year-old psychology student (pictured below), who is pioneering a colorful abaya line that will … [Read more...]

The Boy Who Cried “Witch!”: Saudis Investigate Domestic Workers for Witchcraft

Something decidedly medieval is in the air in Saudi Arabia. Fears of black magic and curses cast by Indonesian domestic helpers have spread across the country, and  Saudi employers increasingly feel the need to hire private investigators to check their domestic workers for suspicious behavior and evidence for witchcraft. Investigators, mostly foreign women from neighboring countries, are paid to search for photographs, hair, or clothes belonging to the employers before the domestic helpers are … [Read more...]

Ricci Worries, Wonders About us Poor Muslim Women

Reading Claudia Ricci’s scatterbrained piece in The Huffington Post about text message divorcing was not only infuriating, but also a reminder of many of the things, which I hate about attitudes towards women’s issues in the Middle East. The article opens with a snarky line about men being able to marry four women, and then moving to Ricci’s disgust with a man being able to divorce his wife through text messages. Ricci then discusses the advocacy work of the Saudi Arabian Wajeha … [Read more...]


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