September 9, 2011

Saudi Women Rights [Denied]


Our frustrations as women emanate from decades of patriarchal ideology embedded in societies around the world. Perhaps this oppression goes back in historic times when women have been subjected to racism and brutal repression. Islam came to honour women and help them reclaim their God-given rights of freedom for life and for choice. Centuries later, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the ‘so called’ heart of Islam, women are still challenged by sexism. Witnessing women being unjustly treated by the society is heartbreaking, and living this unjust treatment is indeed exhausting as it is infuriating. 

In a nutshell, Saudi women are dependent on their male counterparts in just about everything. From travelling, to issuing/renewing official papers, to getting admitted to university/hospitals for education/treatment, to simply moving around. A male guardianship must accompany a Saudi woman throughout her life. Starting with her father, then husband, and if these two seize to exist, it is the closer male family member, be it a brother or a distant uncle. Even if a mother reaches the age of 50, she is still subjected to the same humiliation of waiting to be granted permission, sometimes from her 17 year old son, in the case of the death of her husband. Permission must be granted for pleasure or for business, for crisis or for daily routine. Female members of the society are strangled by laws and regulations. 

Yet, even as Saudi Arabia progresses and assumes political roles for citizens, [facade of] votes for municipal election, women are excluded completely. Decision-making and policymaking in the country is exclusive to male members of the society. Women constitute more than 50% of the population, and they are responsible for the other half, as mothers, as sisters, as teachers, as doctors and as daughters. They suffer from lack of proper policies and yet they are prohibited from participation. They suffer being part of a society that rejects their participation. They are named nationals and citizens, yet they lack the full rights of citizenship and nationality. 

This subject has been written and rewritten many times. I have probably read about Saudi women in international media written by westerners more so than I have read Saudi women speak out for themselves. I do admit that using international media has at times helped advance our cause but at many other times it has also caused much more local resistance to anything that is western, and therefore, it may has slowed down the progress of our cause if not stagnated it. 

Also, because such a subject for the West is attractive and exotic, there is a certain cliche that often develops around how international media tackles these issues written about Saudi women, which makes it unwelcomed locally, sometimes even by supporters of the cause.

The issue of Saudi women driving has perhaps gained unprecedented media outbreak in the aftermath of the Saudi Women2Drive campaigner Ms. Manal Al Sharif detention for over a week. Her release has instigated a resistance to the whole issue by religious hardliners and some by Saudi members. Equally, it has also given some Saudi women and other supporters of the cause a reason to follow suit and continue on the path that was paved by Ms. Najla Hariri, Ms. Manal Al Sharif and other Saudi women drivers, before and after the event. 

It is not just about driving a car, it is a denied choice, and a denied right for moving around. The [car] driving issue is a symbol for women's right to 'drive' change in Saudi Arabia. It is a first step from a series of rights that remain deprived and denied. Therefore, the driving issue is not to be belittled or ignored because it is the key for enabling women to fully and equally contribute to the development of our country.

The Women2Drive Campaign is gaining more social and media support and also campaign members, complemented by the establishment of Women2Drive Academy to facilitate teaching women amongst themselves how to drive across the Kingdom. These are some of many attempts to continue 'testing the water' of the general public, more specifically after every major interview or news headlines with regards to Saudi women driving with buoyant hopes for pushing further the women driving case. 

Decades of oppression has created a population that is accustomed to gender disparity and a lack of an institution or a legitimate infrastructure to protect or proclaim women rights. Such social inertia which prolongs this status quo could be seen in the adaptation to the system, so much that it becomes the norm and spreading this false claim that these rules (or lack of it, thereof) are for the protection and honouring of women. 

Our generation of Saudi women are born activists and are determined to change the fate of their fellow Saudi women and follow the pioneers that paved the way for Saudi women liberation and proclamation of God-given rights. Here’s to Saudi women to drive change across the kingdom and complement their fellow counterparts to rise as a progressive nation. 

August 22, 2011

The Clown is Down!


"Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar" the Dawn call for prayer breaks celebrations across a new Libya. As the dawn breaks over the Libyan lands and the golden sun rays touches the faces of the revolutionaries, the dawn of the Arab Spring promises to spread. "I am very happy. I am very happy.... because.. because.. because I am free! YES.. I AM FREE" rejoices an old Libyan man celebrating at the heart of Tripoli. 


Such a euphoric moment! The 41-year-old dictator regime has finally fallen by the brave people of Libya, after six months of martyr bloodshed covering the 'green' square and hearts of Libya. 
Since the beginning of the 'blessed' #Feb17 revolution, the Arabs have followed with buoyant hopes for victory. After witnessing the consecutive falls of Tunisian regime of Bin Ali and Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak, the other 'dominoes' of Qaddafi, Saleh and Assad were harder to befall. Yet, out of the ashes rises the victorious. Close to a dream we've seen revolutionary forces taking control of cities and capturing Qaddafi brigades. 

Each revolution of the Arab Spring that records a victory teaches a different lesson, but one common lesson is: commonality. Arabs feel the same rage because they have been exposed to the same injustice over the decades and have been brought up under the same 'socially-constructed' fear factor. Today, as each people triumph, they peel off a layer of that fear. Libya, in particular, widens the range of possibilities since it is a tribal country. Its societal fabric is very much like a number of countries in the region and it says a lot about the so-called [yet another socially-constructed] uniqueness. "The tribal infrastructure of the society should help with bringing societal solutions and unity, but should not be used as a political influence" an analyst on Al Jazeera. There is so much to be learnt from Libya. 

For four decades, Colonel Muammar Al Qaddafi 'the clown' has been laughed at and mimicked for his insane acts. Always acting in a weird manner, dressed in weird clothing and speaking nonsense. After every speech or meeting, people would pick at his phrases for some entertainment! "Zenga zenga," he says, he will search revolutionary heros - the irony, who is searching who now?

The irony of fate continues to manifest itself; the end of Muammar Al-Qaddafi's son, the ICC has captured Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi, who previously wrote (or has been written to on his behalf) in his PhD thesis: "[Without ICC] the international system wouldn't [be] equipped to bring to justice those responsible for...atrocities". Today, this very ICC has captured him!

On a softer note, his brother Mohammad, the eldest of Muammar's sons had a very different end. He claims that he had surrendered to the transitional council five days before its victory. On Al Jazeera channel, on a phone interview sudden several fire shots were overheard and his faith-testimony was recited "There is no God but Allah..." (more fire shots and louder) and a child's voice was briefly in the background before the call was terminated. I have to say, people watching and tweeting had sympathy for him. For, he had never taken any political positions in his Father's regime and he had housed his mother and had his wife and children all with him and did not flee like the rest of his family. The man discussing in Al Jazeera made a public plea to honour the transitional council for giving Mohammad protection.

Later, it was announced that Mohammad Muammar Al Qaddafi and his family were safe and the fire shot were in defence against some rebels approaching his house. The man on Al Jazeera said "we are a new Libya that must pursue justice and by that we should act, we are not after more bloodshed or revenge, only justice pursuit". These wise words give hope that the new free Libya will rise with values and true meanings of freedom and justice. Let's celebrate our heart that cried the martyrs blood and the Libyans sweats and tears.. Let's celebrate their victory - for today, we are all free Libyans!

May 18, 2011

On "Bibi and Barack"

The Following comment was submitted online for Thomas L. Friedman’s "Bibi and Barack" 

Just a reminder and to put things into perspective, Palestine was a full-fledged state up to 1948, shortly after the world wars, the Balfour declaration has instigated a UN-lead partition of Palestine to include Israel as a state, and since the UN emerged as an international institution that dictates the recognition (and therefore existence) of states, Palestine was not listed as a state. The dynamics of the Mideast at the time has orchestrated a Britain-led 'mapping' of the region to fit its colonial aspirations and to ensure the creation of the state of Israel and the advancement of its interests. Therefore, loss of Palestinian lands has boldly continued through 2005. Such forceful 'eating-up' of lands by Israeli forces has been backed (militarily, financially and perhaps ideologically) by its US ally, and British ally. During those six decades, the US-ally Mideast countries' leaders were forced through vested interest with the US (and sometimes Israel) to maintain a status quo, this however was not the Arab streets' view. 

Tom explains that things have changed since these streets of Arab states have finally sparked an Arab Spring, which he seems to suggest has costed Israel the loss of its ME allies: Egypt, Turkey and Iran. Today, Israel and the US no longer have a bargaining power to expand their interests solely, in stead, they must finally come to terms to recognize their opponents in the ME and consider vested interests. 

Mr. Obama will create another rhetorical speech like the one he inaugurated in Egypt a few months before it celebrated its "Tahrir" moment. With Mahmoud Abbas and Tom writing about it in NYT, he will most likely call on the UN to recognize a state of Palestine, to its 1967 borders. Although this will not be embraced by Israeli-Jewish hard-liners, it will equally not be embraced by Arab-Muslim hard-liners. This will not appease the general public of the Arab world who aspire to achieve at least UN partition borders or even before. 

The state Palestine of 1948 has completely been demolished, economically and socially. For six decades, Israeli forces have exercised apartheid, use of force and (silenced) genocide which breaches the universal declaration of human rights, to which the international community has given a blind eye. In real life, this means 2-3 generations of Palestine have suffered greatly and created a generation that is not well-enough to rise. The plea for international assistance together with the resistance of the Palestinians were met by further injustice and violence that has not been legitimate. Therefore, the trust in progressing the peace process has greatly been undermined, if not irreversibly damaged. 

The creation of the state of Palestine is a good step for both Palestine and Israel. However, this will not guarantee peace nor the alleviation of injustice done to Palestinian nor will it mean that stability will be stroked. It will eventually help economic development, civil engagement, and therefore empowerment of political parties and state-building--without which a peace process is bound to failure. That is the last thing the US and Israel want, especially with the Arab Spring continuing to spread across the region, and it will not stop until it reaches the streets of Palestine. For the first time, the US receives a good wake-up call and Israel is forced to take the peace process most seriously.

March 10, 2011

قصة شعب


جيل أبى
وجيل آسى
وجيل أتى


جيل أبيّ
شهد السبي
جيل والد أبي


وبعده جيلٌ
عيشٌ قليلٌ
وخوفٌ جليلٌ


وجيل اليوم
عزيز القوم
يجيد النوم


رأي يقمع
شعب يشبع
ظلم يقبع


اغتنى
فاستغنى
غنّ وتغنّى


بقلب مفتون
وعقل مرهون
وحق مدفون


تاه في الملكوت
أتقن فن السكوت
أترف حتى القُوت


عارنا
جداراً
له آذان تسمع


عارنا
آباراً
وحقوقاً تبلع


عارنا
احتكاراً
وفساد يد تقمع


عارنا
أحجاراً
من فلسطين تدمع


يغارنا
تاريخ عتيد
وتأريخ سيولد


يغارنا
محرِّر العبيد
من قبل أن يولد


يغارنا
رجل رشيد
يوشك أن يولد

February 11, 2011

On "Out of Touch, Out of Time"

The following comment was submitted online for Thomas L. Friedman's "Out of Touch, Out of Time":

What heart-warming and reviving stories from Tahrir Square! One could only imagine how proud these millions of Egyptians are these days, and as the world awaits to celebrate their victory, it is important to remind of the many martyrs and sacrifices that the Egyptian heros have given for the pursuit of freedom. Therefore, no one should seize that away from them! No intervention is acceptable in the name of support, peaceful transition, or stability -- Not from Israel, not from Saudi Arabia and certainly not from the US. 

Let us be straightforward, no one is 'out of touch or time' here, Mubarak is in fact very in-touch and he is merely standing his ground, illustrating how a Pharaoh legacy lives on. Not to mention the many parties with interest in him remaining in power and ensuring to pass it on to Suleiman, namely: the US and its allies: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, UAE, to name a few. 

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Obama has managed to refrain from taking sides meticulously since the inception of the Egyptian revolution. His language has been misty and mysterious --On the one hand, he cannot (boldly) support Mubarak and loose (more) credibility in the eyes of the world for not supporting democracy, a tool exploited in the last US intervention in the ME (Iraq). On the other hand, he could also not (boldly) support the Egyptian people and risk loosing the other dictator allies in the region, because the control of the region is too valuable to squander.

One cannot miss the perfect symmetry which characterizes both sets of speeches: always an hour apart and always in harmony, where Obama has mildly set the scene for Mubarak; for example: Mubarak not running in the next term in the second speech, and the importance of a 'peaceful transition' in the third speech. It is unclear as to what both Obama and Mubarak mean by a "peaceful transition" and how long such a transition would last, it seems that it may, after all, be five months. 

Obama's use of the word "support" for a peaceful transition signaled a possible inevitable intervention, and his misleading phrase of "witnessing history" does not necessarily signal any possible stepping-down. In fact, a revolution in-the-making is in reality a history in-the-making. 

By his vigorous statement that no Western intervention has ever been agreed to in the past, nor will it be acceptable today, Mubarak attempts to announce a 'rally around the flag,' which has clearly gone astray. In short, Mubarak has indeed 'rented' Egypt to the West over the past three decades, will he not do the same in this defining moment? 

February 10, 2011

What is the future of capitalism in the world economy?

Page 42: What do you think?
Youth Roundtable Discussion
Think magazine Q3 2010
A SAGIA Publication.



February 9, 2011

جدة.. من جديد


أمطار وسيول
أنهار ووحول
عروس كهول

يد طغت
فم صمت
سنة مضت

فساد وبطر
انهمر المطر
اندلع الخطر

سقف وقع
سيل هلع
شق بلع

طفل بكى
شاب شكى
طاعن حكى

ومن جديد
خسر العديد
وغاب الشهيد

غرقت جدة
هددوا بشدة
توعدوا بحدة

دمع يفيض
وخزي عريض
 فخائن بغيض

تقص الحقائق
تعيق العوائق
تمر الدقائق

حقوق دفينة
وتبقى المدينة
هلكة حزينة

On "Up With Egypt"

The following comment was submitted online for Thomas L. Friedman's "Up With Egypt":

Tom gets it right this time apart from the fact that he undermines Arab/Muslim solidarity. When BouAzizi set himself on fire in despair, his legacy eventually ignited the 'Jasmine Revolution' of Tunisia which has then toppled their President Ben Ali. Arabs everywhere followed the revolution (then, in the making) with much enthusiasm and aspiration to follow suit. After all, Arabs have been suffering for decades under quiet similar dictatorships and oppressive regimes and therefore demand, more or less, the same kind of freedom, dignity and liberty.

The 'dominoes effect' takes place and further spreads the 'Jasmine scent' to other Arab countries, we saw protests in Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Sudan, and even Saudi Arabia (50 protested in Jeddah angered by repeated catastrophe from rain and floods) - were quickly contained by governments. The Tunisian heros fueled bravery and abolished fear, Arabs became fearless for the first time and their governments became fearful. People demanded their long-lost rights with roaring voices that have always been suppressed. Egypt's uprising took us all by surprise, have quickly developed and was embraced wholeheartedly by all Arabs with the same kind of enthuse and thrill. "We were Tunisians last week, we are all Egyptians now" defined the revolutionary mode of Arabs. 

Arabs have a sense of belonging and a fiery passion for solidarity that has long been silenced and immobilized by the forceful nature of power dynamics in the Middle East: namely, the US vested interests to ensure stability and security for Israel and oil, and the Arab-ally "puppet leaders" backed by the US.

More specifically, Tom gets this bit wrong: "Egyptians are not asking for Palestine or for Allah. They are asking for the keys to their own future, which this regime took away from them." --Arabs/Muslims will always ask for Allah (albeit not as a tool for exploitation but for pursuing God-given rights of liberal democracy values and beyond), they will always fight for Palestine and they will always say "down down" to the US for as long as its unconditional support for brutal Israel is sustained.



January 2, 2011

Reflections, Resolutions, and Revolutions

This year has passed exceptionally fast and I wondered where has the time gone. I flipped with apprehension through my calender, my memory and to see any vivid achievements. The one constant thing dominating this year is 'change'. Change often requires effort for initiating, executing and settling through the process of change with a heart that knows no rest, guilt and/or regret. It takes a lot for a heart to remain strong and a mind to be focused. Constant moving and rushing with little time to absorb and think, it may seem aimless at times, frustrating at others, but demanding and rewarding for sure. I am thankful for all the good things that have happened to me in that year. These tough days and problems that I am most thankful for, often times these very challenges that weaken me, strengthen me.

Exactly how this universe operates, my resolutions build on from the past, filling gaps, stretching limits, pushing edges and trusting that the 'puzzle pieces will fit'. However, our weaknesses must be acknowledged in ordered to be assessed. My resolution for the coming year is Discipline, and this should enable me to create a revolution to abandon all that has disabled me from living freely.