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Living Under Sharia: The Plight of Women in Saudi Arabia

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She returned to Saudi in 1990, met her son Rasheed at the airport, picked daughter Amjad from school and headed to the U.S. Embassy, hoping to find refuge there. She had the biggest shock of her life: when she pleaded for help, the Embassy officials called two marines to kick her out. She was arrested by the Saudi police and imprisoned.

Amjad was sodomized by her half-brother (Rasheed was also sodomized by the same half-brother, as well as by his uncle) and married off by her father at age 12. She ran away and was divorced by her husband. In 2003, Amjad, 20, along with her mother and brother (all American citizens), was living in miserable condition in an abandoned Saudi school, not permitted to leave the country. Meanwhile, the members of her father's family travel to America freely.

Similar or worse is the story of Alia and Aisha al-Gheshayan: their Saudi father Khalid al-Gheshayan abducted them from their mother’s home in Chicago in 1986 when they were 7 and 3, respectively, and smuggled to Saudi Arabia. Barred from leaving the Saudi Kingdom, as of 2002, Alia, 23, was married off to a cousin of her father, while plans were in place to marry off Aisha, 19. Their mother had lobbied with four successive State Department officials and members of Congress, but failed to get any help in bringing her daughters home.

In February 2008, a 37-year-old American businesswoman, married mother of three, was thrown in jail by the Saudi Religious Police for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks in Riyadh.

Such totally innocent American citizens are condemned to jail or life-long misery and horror is Saudi Kingdom. The U.S. Government does not dare protest these gross violations of human rights of U.S. citizens by the Saudi authority. On the contrary, Saudi citizens, who commit grave crimes in American soil, are let go almost scot-free. Saudi Princess Buniah al-Saud shoved her Indonesian maid down a flight-stairs in Orlando (Florida) Airport in 2001. She was repeatedly beaten previously and kept as a virtual slave. The princess was allowed to leave America while her case on charges of felony was pending. She was eventually let go by paying $ 1,000 fine upon pleading guilty.

Other foreign women

Dr. Sami Alrabaa, a former Muslimwho has taught in universities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Americalists many harrowing tales of sufferance of foreign women in Saudi Arabia in his book, “Karin in Saudi Arabia”.

Karin, a German woman, fell in love with a Saudi man while briefly living in Saudi Arabia. The bestial Religious Police arrested her for going on a drive downtown alone in a taxi. Upon arrest, she was raped and thrown in prison. Her German-Saudi baby son was taken away and she was deported to Cyprus without passport and money.

Nisrin, a Bangladeshi woman, married a Saudi man. Saudis belong to an important tribe; they cannot just marry anyone, definitely not a lowly Bangladeshi. The marriage was annulled. The Religious Police raped her before deporting.

Luckier, young Moroccan woman Muna managed to smuggle herself and baby after one-night marriage with Sultan, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Tragic are stories of Mimi and Najat; they were brutally stoned to death.

Mimi, a Filipina house-maid, worked in Karin's lover’s house. Denounced by his wife, she was picked up by the Religious Police and stoned to death.

When such treatments are meted out to foreign women, including from powerful countries like America and Germay, it would not be difficult to grasp the treatment and cruelty the Saudi women suffer in the holy kingdom. Here is a story of a Saudi woman. Deaf-and-dumb Najat was arrested by the Religious Police, suspected of being a prostitute, as she waited for her brother in front of a shop-window. The Police Chief quickly passed sentence on Najat that "[She] was working as a prostitute and was caught in the very act of picking up a client. We advise that she be stoned to death..." Riyadh’s governor, Prince Salman, approved the punishment; Najat was publicly stoned to death the following Friday.

In the introduction of his book, Alrabaa writes,

When I delivered the manuscript of this book to friends outside of Saudi Arabia, asking them to read it over, their response was uniform: they shook their heads in disbelief. Nobody in the civilized world seemed able to fathom the extent of the arbitrariness and atrocities to which victims in Saudi Arabia are subjected. To them, it was incredible. Some remarked that I was telling stories about the actions of monsters from another planet. They could not believe that any human could act as a Saudi corrupted by power does.

In order to understand the kind of restrictive life women live in Saudi Arabia, one must read Inside the Kingdom by Swiss-born Carmen Bin Laden (who married a brother of Osama bin Laden and later divorced), sketching her rather liberal life there, owing to her belonging to the great bin Laden family.

But no such restrictions apply to men. Nesrine Malik, a young Muslim woman from Britain, writes of her experience of harassment in Saudi Arabia that “My sisters and I have been chased by cars full of youths many times through the streets of Riyadh, harassed through car windows and had telephone numbers expertly tossed in our laps when we had made the mistake of leaving the car window open.”

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M. A. Khan is the author of Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery. He is a liberal humanist and edits the islam-watch.org Website.
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