Is it Time to Speak Out About the Situation in Saudi Arabia?

Is It Time to Speak Out

About the Situation in Saudi Arabia?

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It’s a contentious subject, and has been for decades – especially since the liberation and recognition of women in the western world. But world’s focus on gender has become undeniably more prevalent in the last 2 or 3 years, and now all fingers are pointing to the country that blatantly disrespects the rules and roles of gender the rest of the world is now adopting.

I understand – who are we to stick our noses in where they don’t belong? Who are we to judge a nation’s laws; their gender roles; their driving habits – but that’s what we do. Once the global spectrum of human nature is changing and there are people left behind, the focus tends to zoom in on the forgotten ones, whether for better, or for worse.

Western influence has run its tole on Saudi Arabia, and many believe the only reason the country remains under strict Sharia law and ruled by a monarchy – is because of a drive from the western world to secure its oil – stemming all the way back to World War II when everyone was running out of crude.

And while it might be none of our business, and while we have no right to impugn any sovereign country with our opinion – the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia has been rubbing us the wrong way since the Suffragette era.

Were they the ones left behind?

A look from Dolce & Gabbana's 2016 Abaya Collection

I don’t profess to be an expert in religion, but I understand that Sharia Law is not a mandate of Islam. It is enforced by the governments in these singular countries at their own discretion, and to the extent they so wish. Stoning, flogging, punishment for the most minuscule offenses are prescribed with a severity not known on this side of the world through the public judicial system for centuries.

The release of this video perhaps marks a disruption in the constant negation of responsibility from westerners toward the gender problem in Saudi and other states that adhere to Sharia law. The women are quoted as saying the men in their lives give them ‘mental illness’, among other stabs at their situation within the country. Sequences display domineering men controlling the lives of women, while all the women want to do are normal activities – basketball, fairs, driving. It finally allows, even encourages the question – are the women of Saudi actually happy with male guardianship?

A still from the controversial Majedalesa video.

If this is anything to go by – the answer is a vehement no.

In spite of an almost repetitive denial and rebuke of any wrongdoing, this video serves to prove that not all women are happy or even satisfied with the state of their influence and position in Saudi society. And yet in spite of this and another incident this past year, where a woman posted a photo of herself without her hijab or abaya on social media and received death threats – the U.N elected Saudi Arabia to a three-year Human Rights Council term, which began on the first of this month. The election received an incredulous response because of the severity of the very gender laws that induced the making of this video.

The young woman who posted the picture back in September, declaring she would no longer be subject to the full-body dress was hailed by many, calling her an Arabic equivalent of Rosa Parks; a visionary; brave. Others, most likely her fellow countrymen, posted under the photo a slurry of death threats, inciting violence and repercussions for the denial of her role under Saudi law – for breaking the Sharia tradition.

The Silver Lining

A still from the controversial Majedalesa video

Thankfully it’s not all bad news coming from the middle-eastern country. A statement released by government officials last month dictated that job openings for women in government and public jobs would become available for the first time in the near future with the hope to further inclusion and breach that gender gap that puts Saudi as the worst country in the world in terms of gender equality according to the McKinsey Global Institute. These jobs however will only serve to highlight the inadequacy of this so-called push for equality as women cannot make their own way to work – forbidden as they are to drive.

The legitimacy of a country nevertheless, whether it’s Saudi, Jordan, India or Iran must now be questioned when women are treated in such deplorable, demeaning conditions. There is no right answer to this problem – there is no way to attack this social infringement in such an isolated part of the world. We on this side of the world have no veritable right to go in and meddle with the (albeit morally repugnant) manner in which this government runs the country. All there is to do is hope that from within, changes can be made – that soon there will be a break in the subjugation, that an uprising of sorts will occur.

Amy Corcoran

The Associate Editor of SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

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