Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Driving Miss Saudi

According to this group of highly educated Saudi women, gathered to hear a speech by US envoy Karen Hughes (who I never liked much), they are perfectly happy not being able to drive cars.
"When Ms. Hughes expressed the hope here that Saudi women would be able to drive and "fully participate in society" much as they do in her country, many challenged her.

"The general image of the Arab woman is that she isn't happy," one audience member said. Well, we're all pretty happy." The room, full of students, faculty members and some professionals, resounded with applause.

Oh really?? How true is this? Were these women being honest or just posturing in response to the patronizing tone of Ms. Hughes who is a senior Bush administration official charged with spreading the American message in the Muslim world?

Nobody likes being told what to do, least of all in a setting like the one described here.. But how long will these women keep burying their heads in the sand?

34 comments:

  1. A: For many many years to come.
    Ms. Hughes went all the way to KSA to meet women and announce that they would be able to drive cars soon!! I've been a pro-foreign intervention since I was born- I think-because nothing would change if left to "our people" but come on, get your priorities fixed Ms. Hughes.
    "Like some of her friends, Ms. Sabbagh said Westerners failed to appreciate the advantages of wearing the traditional black head-to-foot covering known as an abaya.

    "I love my abaya," she explained. "It's convenient and it can be very fashionable."

    Oh ya? Then way do most Saudi women take off their abayas AND hijabs when they are studying abroad ? Allah mawjod fe KSA only?

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  2. Not just when they study abroad, but the minute the plane takes off from Riyadh or Jeddah

    Or so I'm told

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  3. I know Zaydoun
    But I can only confirm what I saw with my own eyes. I'm sure there are other scenarios too.

    I've watched a documentary few months ago with the same theme: Saudi women saying to westerners "It's our business and we are happy" What amazes me is that they are young, in their 20s or even younger.

    بس انا مستعدة اراهن ان نتائج الزيارة و ردود الفعل من النساء السعوديات كانت ستكون مختلفة او على الاقل اقل حدة لو كان هذا الاجتماع قد عقد خارج المملكة

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  4. Dear Zaydoun:
    This is an aspect that is displayed by the complacent brainwashed culture that is prevalent in our societies, where change is looked at with paranoia. You remember a few years ago right after Sep. 11 and the US campaign against the Taliban, Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes visited Kuwait and part of his profile included a meeting with some (medical?) students. One of the young women expressed her opinion that politics should be left to men. Imagine if the majority of Kuwaiti women shared her opinion, suffrage for women would have remained a dream.

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  5. q8demon... Apparently we don't have to imagine it. A lot of women share her belief

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  6. Q80 demon

    "Imagine if the majority of Kuwaiti women shared her opinion, suffrage for women would have remained a dream."

    As Zaydoun said why imagine? It's the reality in Kuwiat

    اقول اخاف بس الي سبب اقرار الحقوق السياسية للمرأة في الكويت هو الكذبة الي نسميها " نضال المرأة الكويتية"؟ لا نكذب على انفسنا و نصدق الكذبة

    المرأة في الكويت ينقصها الوعي السياسي و هذه مشكلة يجب ان نجد لها حل سريع حتى نخفف من وطأتها قبل 2007

    لكن الناس مشغولين بمنع الحفلات و المناسبات و قص الاشرطة في افتتاح المعارض و تمويل برنامج داوود حسين لرمضان و الشد على يد اغاثا كرستي الكويت و مالهم خلق هالسوالف

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  7. منو اغاثا كريستي الكويت؟ لا يكون فجر السعيد؟؟؟

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  8. Nychick

    يا معود الوعي السياسي مو بس مفقود عند نساء الكويت، حتى رجالها. خليها على الله

    Zaydoun

    آنه ما أرضى على فجر السعيد

    على الأقل من باب الزمالة

    إي هين

    8-)

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  9. LOL
    of course
    ما يحتاج تسأل زيدون , و هل يخفى القمر؟

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  10. منو الاهم؟
    قيادة المرأة للسياره و لا الاعتراف بها ككائن حى أولا؟
    المسأله مساله النظر للمشاكل الحقيقيه فى المجتمع و مشاكل المرأه الحقيقيه..
    المشكله أكبر من أجازة سياره و منصب قيادى

    موضوع ذو صلة
    http://alsaha.fares.net/sahat?128@121.RwRfsJ7Nb1V.0@.1dd83803

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  11. OK, political rights for women virtually came without a major input from women activism, but at least the issue was under debate for decades. Maybe I should?ve said: if the women fought against their political rights as some groups are still attempting to, they wouldn?t have been granted? The issue of political awareness is part of the bigger picture of cultural awareness, which is lacking in the current generation for several reasons. As long as the population indulges itself in shallowness, it will remain shallow. But again if one does or says nothing, then nothing will happen.

    (All this gave me an idea for a post about womens activism in previous decades ? stay tuned!)

    As for the Agatha Christie quotation, I think Barabara Cartland would have been a better choice. After all she was the queen of trashy novels.

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  12. I would say Jackie Collins

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  13. Dear Zaydoun: Oh, OK I agree ? totally forgot about her!

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  14. Zaydoun, I heard, few months ago, that few Saudi women sent a letter to King Abudulla (before he was a king) protesting that they don?t want women to be recognized under the law as drivers.. does this make sense to you ? I mean if you don?t want to drive, simply don?t.. why would you go the extra mile to stop others that want to drive.. what?s the defense on that ??

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  15. sometimes , when you are lashed 20 times a day , and it contuine like that for 3-4 generation , everyone would think lashing is good , else why did the people before them not stop it

    also , its the bush factor , a lot of people hate bush what ever he do , hell i know some people who felt that bush was making lies about saddam and that saddam never did a thing ( just because it was bush who said it ) , i'm sure if bush tomorow said he converted into a muslim , some people would lose it and kill them self

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  16. I was just reading this article before i checked your blog...
    I think she was challenged because the message was coming from an american, an outsider...like many of us we accept criticism and complaints from within but when it comes from someone who is not kuwaiti we always tend to get defensive...
    The SAudi women knew what she was saying is true but they couldnt accept what she was saying because it was coming from an outsider.

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  17. I know a kuwaiti girl who married a saudi and moved to jedda. she is so appalled by the treatment of women in that society that she was willing to go alone to canada and have her baby girl there so she can have the luxary of not being just a saudi citizen. when i went there it saddend me to see oxford/ cambridge/harvard graduates sitting at home, sleeping all day and shopping and socialising at night (actually that doesn't sound too bad, but maybe in london or NY). I do understadn the need sometimes to defend ones culture in the face of partnozing westerners but lets call a spade a spade. that county is mideveil and looks like a black and while movie. the only place where they are allowed to mix with the opposite sex is the haram. hence all the imwa3ad that goes on there (this according to saudi friend of mine. and i found myslef sometimes defending the "liberated" women of kuwait. ma daraw!!!

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  18. oh and one more thing, a marriage certificate over there is called 3aqd nika7 rather than 3aqd zawaj!!!! how romantic.
    spelling correction: patronizing westerners, mid evil

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  19. it's their life.. who cares?

    if they want something, they should fight to get it?

    apparently they don't give a shit..

    thats weird..

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  20. sorry guys, just woke up, been shopping and socialising all night :) no i'm not suadi but i am in europe so i'm allowed. my spell check and my brain failed me again. i meant medieval

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  21. زيدون:
    والله ملينا من هالحكي
    وعادوا وزادوا فيه على غير سنع ترا

    انا كمراه سعوديه مو مشكلتي قياده سيارتي او لا
    ولا اهتم بهالموضوع لانه فيه سائق او اثنين او ثلاثه


    المراه ينقصها اشياء كثيره اهم بكثيير من قياده السياره
    وهالعجوز الشمطاء واثقه انه النساء السعوديات بيسوقون!!
    يعني طابخينها صح بس ناقصهم اعلان الموضوع

    وجود هالانسانه بالسعوديه كان المقصد منه تحسين صوره امريكا .. يعني مصالح شخصيه

    اذا مهتمين للمراه السعوديه لهدرجه .. اهتموا بتعليمها وتوظيفها قبل سياقه السياره
    اللي انا مو ضدها على فكره

    ليش المراه السعوديه مالها مجال غير التدريس بس
    اقترح على هالعجوز تفتح لنا شركات نسائيه اصرف من الحكي الفاضي

    ومشكور على هالموضوع اللي مدري من وين طلعته
    :)

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  22. I don't think its our business to discuss Saudis life style or anybody else for that matter. We might dislike the Saudis way of living and to most it seems too suffocating, but we cannot complain or ridicule just because its different than ours.



    We have more than enough bullshit here, it might smell little better but it is still bullshit

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  23. Bo jaij
    Why not? I could never understand this concept of not discussing the politics of others!!!! You write something good about a neighbor or a society and most people say: good job. You open your mouth and criticize something wrong or at least you think is wrong and every one jumps to give you a lecture! So lets just stick to our local news and take off the International news-pages from the papers too..shall we?

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  24. nychic

    When your passport says Land of Utopia on its cover then you can complain about others domestic problems

    What you see as being negative, others here in Kuwait like Islamists look at it as being perfect. Saudis life is controlled more by Bedouin traditions than ours , it has little to do with religion. And looking at our history We do NOT share the same traditions as Saudis. Just like we don't share traditions with India , thus we cant complain about Indian Women wearing Saris.

    As for reading about other countries news, we have to, just like watching CNN international, the anchorman would focus on problems or certain aspects in a society, but you will never hear him criticizing or calling the US a better country than the rest.

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  25. nychick

    I'm sure there are more Saudis who find our lifestyle as being "wrong" and would it be ok then for them to criticize us and provoke some here to change things?

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  26. باتكلم عن ديرتي البحرين.. صج ان وضع المرأة عندنا احسن من غيرها بس بعد للحين ما خذت كامل حقها يعني ما في اي امرأة عضوة في المجلس النيابي لأن بكل بساطة ما في لا وعي و لا تثقيف سياسي عند المرأة بس المجلس الأعلى للمراة قاعد يحاول ان يضع خطط و برامج تساعد المرأة على دخول المجلس في الانتخابات الياية و هاذي شي جيد بس للحين المرأة مظلومة في اشياء كثيرة منها قانون الاحوال الشخصية و البهدلة اللي لازم المرأة تمر فيها في قضايا الطلاق و غيرها من المشاكل .. و مسامحة على الاطالة :)
    خارج الموضوع.. شفايدة هالالحرف اللي لازم نكتبهم بعد ما نحط اسمنا و الباسورد ؟ :)

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  27. just a comment

    when Saudi women stop complaining about how suffocating their society is then we'll stop criticizing. when we critisize other societies it doesn't mean that ours is great and by all means the saudis are more than welcome to bitch about our way of living. but at the end of the day we can drive a car and get decent jobs and now vote. sort of basic human rights! everyone is allowed to have their own opinion of a society. that's what traveling and learning about other cultures is all about. we're not supposed to like everything we see and experience.I live in a part of the world that the UN deemed as the best region in the world in terms of standard of living, social justice etc...and everyone uses as a shining example of utopia. they see us as barbaric and backwards but I see them as cold, racist, weird, lonely and too reserved. give me machboos anytime. so really it's all relative. no offence guys but sometimes the comments are too politically correct ;-)

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  28. It makes me sick to my stomach that just because a few Saudi women don't want to drive they are trying to reuin it for everyone else saying that they are happy with the way things are and don't want anything to change. It's true that driving is at the bottom of the list of things that need to change concerning women's rights in Saudi, but still, how dare them! You don't want to drive then stay home and pay you TWO, THREE OR FOUR DRIVERS.. but there ARE families who don't have drivers because they can't offord ONE much less four! It's such a pain in the butt for men to have to do EVRYTHING for their families of seven.. this isn't just a "women's" issue... this affects the whole society, and I don't see how the negativities of letting women drive would out-weigh the positivities. Men wouldn't be forced to be their sisters/wife's gofor all the time, and we would cut down A LOT on foreign employment.

    I think one of the main reasons women reacted that way to Ms. Hughes is because she is a foreigner pointing out all the "defects" of Saudi society.. they are being defensive. Tell an abused wife that her husband is a f*!&ing prick and she'll turn around and slap you and tell you to butt out that she loves him.

    I think Abaya should be a choice. I think driving should be a choice. I think everything should be a choice. Because how can you actually be a voluntarily good person when everything is forced upon you? No control over your life at all. It makes me sick.

    I hope and believe that things will change for the better, but right now Saudi women and Saudi society in general feels vulnurable to the West (with everything that's happened with terrorists and whatnot) so naturally they are saying "NO, we are happy!" to the West, and everyone else for that matter. They are afraid of change.

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  29. Bo jaij
    My passport says Kuwait on it's cover but I can complain about what ever I want, so can you . As long as we are not offending others I see no harm in doing that.
    It's true that any respectable TV network or media outlet won't "direct" you to think in a certain way, but what about critical thinking? People don't just receive the information ypu know, they process it too. At least most people do.
    If this was about Indian women being pressured or forced to wear the saris, I would have complained about that too. I don't know about you but I am also a citizen of the world and not just a Kuwaiti.
    I see things wrong so I call them wrong, others are free to criticize us as we are free to "express" our opinion and criticize what we see as abnormal. And shutting up about what we see "There" won't stop "them" from "criticizing us and provoking some here to change things" as you said.

    I also think that we should live in the present, our history indicates that we "didn't" share the same traditions with Saudis? What about now?
    Things that happen in Afghanistan affect the American life, you think that repressing women in KSA won't have an effect on us in Kuwait?

    Zaydoun's blog is being read by different people from different nationalities, and I can see that couple of people from KSA have even commented and thanked him for shedding a light on the subject.

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  30. Funny story i?d like to share..
    Recently, I was attending a training in Europe, where one of the participants was a very nice Saudi gentleman. On one of the breaks, he was telling a fellow Kuwaiti participant a story about one of his previous trips to Europe, where ppl had asked him the ever reoccuring question: ?isn?t it hard being a woman in your country?? He said that his answer was so strong and convincing, that it made the present western women beg him to take them to Saudi. I loved that statement.
    Naturally, the fellow Kuwaiti participant asked ?wow, what was your answer?? so the man proudly replied ?I told them that all a Saudi woman has to do is say the word or point, and her husband or son gets her everything she needs and drives her wherever she wants to go. What more can a woman want?? My thoughts: ?what about the choice/freedom to do or not do something?? I chose ? for obvious reasons, not to chime into the conversation and instead mentally shook my head in disbelief. You see, this guy was nice and pleasant, and yet this is what he genuinly believed. It?s a vicious circle, and the story of these women saying they're happy with the way things are doesn?t surprise me. Denial !

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  31. Karen Hughes is a stupid idiot, and like I said above I'm not surprised they lashed out at her.. here's more

    The undersecretary's dangerous trip

    Karen Hughes takes her "Innocents Abroad" tour to the Middle East -- and plays into the hands of Osama bin Laden.

    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    By Sidney Blumenthal


    President Bush has no advisor more loyal and less self-serving than Karen Hughes. As governor of Texas he implicitly trusted the former Dallas television reporter turned press secretary with the tending of his image and words. She was mother hen of his persona. In the White House, Hughes devoted heart and soul to Bush as his communications director, until, suddenly, she returned home to Texas in 2002, citing her son's homesickness. There were reports that Karl Rove, jealous of power, had been sniping at her.

    From her exile, Hughes produced a memoir, "Ten Minutes From Normal," which is deeply uninteresting and unrevealing. Amid long stretches of uninformative banality lie unselfconscious expressions of religiosity, accounts of how she inserted Psalms 23 and 27 into Bush's speeches after Sept. 11, 2001, and an entire page of small type reproducing a sermon she delivered on Palm Sunday aboard Air Force One. She quotes then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice: "I think Karen missed her calling. She can preach."

    After two undersecretaries of state for public diplomacy resigned in frustration in the face of the precipitous loss of U.S. prestige around the globe, Bush found a new slot for Hughes this year. She may be the most parochial person ever to hold a senior State Department appointment, but the president has confidence she can rebrand the United States.

    This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is of course the most populous Arab country ... Saudi Arabia is our second stop. It's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, yet has the -- is proud of the saying that 'all are Turks.'"

    Hughes appeared to be one of the pilgrims satirized by Mark Twain in his 1869 book, "Innocents Abroad," about his trip on "The Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion." "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty to us ... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans -- Americans!"

    Hughes' simple, sincere and unadorned language is pellucid in revealing the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said in Egypt at the start of her trip, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." Somehow, magically, these evildoers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve. "Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why President Bush mentions God in his speeches, she asked him "whether he was aware that previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our Constitution cites 'one nation under God.' He said, 'Well, never mind.'"

    With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proof for what Osama bin Laden has claimed about American motives. "It is stunning ... the extent [to which] Hughes is helping bin Laden," Robert Pape told me. Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted the most extensive research into the backgrounds and motives of suicide terrorists, is the author of "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," and recently briefed the Pentagon and the National Counterterrorism Center. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he said, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."

    Pape's research debunks the view that suicide terrorism is the natural byproduct of Islamic fundamentalism or some "Islamo-fascist" ideological strain independent of certain highly specific circumstances. "Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there must be, first, the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and the local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals. If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the U.S. occupation of the Arabian Peninsula, driven by our religious goals, and that it is our religious purpose that must confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful not only to religious Muslims but secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

    The undersecretary's blundering grand tour of the Middle East may be the latest incarnation of "Innocents Abroad." "The people stared at us everywhere, and we stared at them," Twain wrote. "We generally made them feel rather small, too, before we got done with them, because we bore down on them with America's greatness until we crushed them."

    The stakes, however, are rather different than they were on "The Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion." Hughes' trip "would be a folly," Pape says, "were it not so dangerous."

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  32. there is going to be an al qaeda revolution is saudi arabia. the country is a ticking time bomb. i think women driving cars is the least we should worry about.

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Keep it clean, people!