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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 11 March 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Girls in Family Prisons!



By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

11 March 2014

For a long time, she couldn’t explain why a pretty, educated and smart girl like her, with a good family name, couldn’t marry. Finally, on the night of her twenty-eight birthday, she opened her heart.

It was a long call, four years, ago, but I still remember how her heart-broken story broke my heart.

She said: "I am a normal girl, who needs to love and be loved, care and be taken care of, have kids and her own home and family life.

"I know, what I always say, you don’t need to remind me, that I am the one who is making conditions and choices, and refuse good men because of their nationality, intellectuality or family bloodline. Or that it was luck, or misunderstanding, or disagreement between the families.

"All that, however, is not true. I had to fabricate stories to cover the unbelievable truth. It is all about my father and his strange thinking ways.

"In the beginning, he was telling us, his five daughters, that only a man of blue blood is worthy of us. A half sister, whose mother came from a better family than ours, managed to marry such a gentleman. Then her full brother married into an equally noble family.

"Now, the standards are set so high for the rest of us. Trouble is we are from non-Saudi mother, who came from a poor family of no tribal bloodline. Worse, we were brought up by our parents in metropolitan Jeddah, not in his conservative home base. So our attitudes, like not covering the face, working in mixed environment, traveling and studying abroad on our own … and talking to men as equals, brought us down the ladder of good future wives to our tribe and family young men. Our exotic beauty hasn’t helped much. So, here we are, unable to get husbands from either camps: the tribal and non-tribal.

"Finally, a sister, during her study abroad, decided to take matters into her own hands, and married a Saudi of a lesser tribal bloodline — secretly. Even-though he comes from a rich and well positioned family, highly educated and holds a good state position, my family would not have accepted his proposal.

"Somehow, my father agreed. He accepted the situation as is, but was afraid his tribe would react harshly against him and us. If they couldn’t get a divorce, then his interests would be hurt. Worse, all of his daughters would be blacklisted. Our ranking would go from down to zero. So, he decided to keep my sister’s marriage confidential —forever.

"As for me, I was deeply in love once. But my beloved was a hopeless case. As a non-Saudi, non-tribal, he couldn’t even propose. His mother finally intervened and gets him to marry a girl from his own country.

"After him, I only thought about marriage as a project. My head, not my heart, led me to accept more than one proposal from fine young men, with good families, fortune, and education.  But my father had always turned them away! He would always find some faults with them. And if he couldn’t, he invents. A couple of times, he didn’t even bother to see them. And when he saw how upsetting this was to me, he got sick. The last time, he was admitted to hospital in a serious condition.

"Finally, he talked to me. He didn’t pretend or lie, and simply said — 'I can’t live without you! I can’t imagine you in a place other than your home — my home. I won’t accept, as long as I live, that you go under the wing of another man — any man'. 

"It was insane, but I accepted, and promised him not to think of marriage, as long as he lives. He was over seventy then, with bad heart and many other serious medical problems. I couldn’t … I could not let him die on my watch and because of me. So … I just … waited!"

During her long call, she didn't’ cry. She didn’t sound in despair. The girl just accepted her fate, and resigned herself to it.

Two years later, her father died. But by then, it was too late for her. Her, and her sisters’ choices were very limited, as her brothers insisted on the same standards for husbands. Those who fit the bill were not interested in a working girl, over thirty, with a foreign mother and “liberal” attitudes. So … she fell in love again … with a foreigner! All her sisters did the same.

"What else could fill the hunger in our hearts and souls, but love! To hell with customs and traditions. Marriage or no marriage, we shall find a way to satisfy our needs!" she recently said.

See, dear readers, how wrong could lead to wrong?! That what really breaks my heart and leads me to despair about the future of too many of our daughters. What is your take on this? Let’s discuss it.