Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Women in Black

Hala is a young Saudi woman, intelligent, progressive, and well-educated, who writes about women's issues in Saudi Arabia. She is optimistic about the future and strives for changes in the roles that Saudi women play in Saudi society. I was impressed by this poem she wrote and wanted to share it with you. You can find out more about Hala by reading this interview she did on American Bedu's blog a while back.

Hala's introduction to her poem, "The Women in Black" :

"When I was a little girl I was inspired by a stranger, an anonymous woman who showed up once in Gazzaz shop in Jeddah. My mother used to shop frequently there and to take us along, that young woman who had an air of confidence, and who was completely on her own enjoying herself without a fear of being watched or harrased was such an inspiration for me… Long before I can put the exact words of autonomy and self sufficiency to an independent woman, that strange woman embodied the meaning… I dedicate the following poem to all the great women of Saudi Arabia who never fail to show strength and perseverance no matter how much they face an unmet needs… This poem was recited at the Cyber activism women bloggers conference in Copenhagen" :

The Women in Black

Once upon a time, in a busy shop

In the land of tribes and ancient civilizations

A little girl sat watching…

in silent resignation

Grown-up women with shrouds of black

Hidden and silent… in isolation

With a “no-trespassing” look

They wandered around in simulation

When a single woman appeared, suddenly, in the shop

The little girl felt a sudden sensation

Yes, the woman wore the black alright…

Yet, she walked with determination

Not cautious, fearful, or covered-up

The woman moved as a distinct population

She seemed to own the world

She was … such an inspiration…

Why would she be on her own? The little girl wondered?

Wasn’t she afraid from reprimands or accusations?

Looking that pretty in embroidered black,

Defying the norms as if in a celebration

Who gave her the money that she’s spending

Without a second thought or a hesitation?

Was she really confident and strong as she seemed?

Or is it the little girl wishful imagination????

In that little girl’s life

Most women shared a specific combination

Emotions were not revealed, opinions were suppressed

With lots of reservations

They held on to their black tightly

Least someone recognize their identifications

Their world seemed full of judging men

Watching for proofs of condemnation

So the women in black kept their covers tight

Protecting their reputation

Yet a single woman in black dared to show her face

Visible without a mask, in obvious relaxation!!

The little girl knew that something/ someone

Must explain that awkward observation

Of that visible woman in black

Despite the isolation… despite the limitations

As time passes-by,

The little girl grows in fascination

More visible women are out there

Raising their voices in frustration

They no longer accept second-places

They no-longer sat in resignation

The reality doors are shut but the virtual ones are forcedly-opened

With fierce determination

The women in black want their rights

Demanding full participation

Campaigning for municipal elections, driving,

Minimum marital age or right of self- representation

Commenting on international treaties for women,

Gender-equality, or women-rights affiliation

They are loud and visible

No longer silent, passive, or fearing condemnation

They write, blog, tweet, and post

In a constant flow of information

They build networks and constituencies

Unlimited by gender-segregation,

No longer helpless or maintained

As prisoners of infinite duration…

Yes, we are in a constant fear of social backlash

But the power of words defeats organizations

The little girl recalls the single woman in black…

Whenever she feels a hesitation…

Beautiful and powerful in her own way…

A woman, who defeats stagnation…

We will not be deprived

We are a different generation….

And if countries can be flipped over and start anew

In search of liberation

We, too, the women in black

Can exceed our own expectations…


  1. Wonderful im going to pass this along. we went to saudi arabia a different generation, hoping and dreaming for all that hala talks of, the difference was we had NO voice, thankfully because of technology womens voice can be heard, no longer a whisper, no longer a murmer but a Yell, tellin the world, look at us, we are people, we want to be heard and enshallah I hope Halas generation will be the ones who WILL be heard.

  2. That was just amazing -- we take so much for granted in the U.S. -I am thrilled the women of that country are beginning to STAND UP for themselves. I will keep them all in my prayers.

  3. Such a beautiful poem. It is very telling in so many ways.

    How goes it Susie? Hope all is well.

  4. Nice. It is amazing to see that the women in black are fighting hard to make their voices heard. We will pray for you, sisters.

  5. Wowww! Stunning is what i thought on reading the poem. My heart goes out to every woman in black,may Almighty bless them with courage, grit and determination!

  6. Hi Susie,

    You have an awesome blog here. Two points:

    Firstly, from your experience living in Saudi Arabia (and being married to a Saudi national), do you think the majority of Saudi Arabian women are in support of fundamental reforms taking place, or is there also a strong conservative female movement not advocating for reforms?

    Secondly, I read you and your husband lived in the US for some 30 years, did your husband feel he was making a huge sacrifice being away from his family and country of origin? Or was he indifferent?

    Well done on the work you're producing.

  7. Thanks, David - Your first question is a tough one. It's really hard to estimate how many Saudi women want change and how many are happy with the status quo. I do think the number of those who do want more rights and freedoms is definitely growing.
    In answer to your 2nd question, my husband never really voiced that he felt he was making a big sacrifice by living in the states all those years. I never felt that he missed his country or his family that much. He did gradually become less and less enchanted with American politics and policies. During all that time, he traveled home to visit maybe only 5 times, while at the same time he traveled to other countries including Turkey without swinging by KSA. There is really no comparison at all to the "sacrifices" he made living in the US to those I have made to live in his country.

  8. Hello Susie,

    It's been ages since I have been checking out your website. I hope all is well with you. Thank you for your message a while back!

    The author of the poem you have posted sounds like an inspirational woman. With so many apparent barriers challenging her, she bravely does what she can to meaningfully participate in society and in debate. I wish her and all women in Saudi society all the best! I hope she can be successful in creating change and that such dissenters there stay safe!



  9. Blessings......
    the poem wonderfully expresses the desire for atonomy.

    thanks for sharing.