Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Message To All Collectors of Censored Music CDs

Since I first wrote about a censored Katy Perry music CD that I had purchased for my son in March 2009, I have received dozens of requests from total strangers around the world asking me to acquire Saudi censored CDs for them.  I had politely declined until Marco from Italy emailed me no less than 18 times over a period of a couple months, literally begging me to help him acquire a censored Britney Spears CD from here in Saudi Arabia.  Any Britney Spears CD would do, he said, as long as it was censored.  Against my better judgment, I finally told Marco that I would try since he was so persistent and had seemed so desperate and sincere.

I had told Marco that it wouldn't be easy for me to get down to a record shop in the first place, since women can't drive here in KSA and I don't have a driver.  The few record shops that I know of aren't exactly within walking distance either.  I also told him I wasn't going to make a special trip just to get him a CD and that I wasn't making any promises. 

Marco had told me that he was a "collector."  Several weeks after he initially asked me, I happened to be in the same mall as a record shop, so I decided to go in there and see if I could find what he wanted.  I found one Britney Spears CD that had been censored - it was censored with a red marker painted over her exposed skin.  The CD cost me 60 Saudi Riyals, which is about $16 US.  When I got home, I immediately emailed Marco with the good news and asked him for his address so I could figure out how much the shipping would cost.

He seemed excited and asked if I could send him a photo of the CD, so I did.  And then ... after weeks of bugging me in 18 different emails about getting him a Britney Spears CD ... there was nothing but silence from Marco.  So I emailed him again.  I was miffed that he had not answered me after a few days or sent me his address.  And now I had laid out my own money for a CD that I would have never bought in the first place (sorry, Britney!) and there was only a three day return policy at the store.  And if I needed to return it, I would have to arrange for transportation to make another trip back to the store.  I was not happy!  I was feeling duped and felt I had been taken advantage of.

Three days later, I heard back from Marco:  "I'm so sorry but the CD isn't official with write pen on it.  I have this CD.  I'm so sorry."

I was fuming!  What kind of a person imposes on a total stranger who lives in another country where women cannot drive and convinces her to make a purchase of an item she would never ever buy - and then says "I already have it?"  "Not Official?" Are you %@#*$^% kidding me?  I write a blog about living in Saudi Arabia.  I don't make any money off of it.  And I certainly don't operate a business in which I go on wild goose chases to fulfill stupid people's wishes. If Marco had even the slightest modicum of decency at all, knowing all the trouble I had gone through to get that stupid CD for him (sorry again, Britney!), he should have just kept his stupid mouth shut and graciously paid me for the merchandise he requested.

So, to all you "Collectors" out there who keep writing to ask me to get some certain artist's censored CD from Saudi Arabia, please stop.  The answer is NO!  And you have Marco the Inconsiderate Idiot A$$hole to thank for it.  And besides, according to Marco, the Saudi method of censorship with marking pens isn't "official" anyway!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My InterNations Interview

InterNations is a great tool and support system for expats around the world.  With communities in almost 400 cities worldwide, InterNations provides a way for people working in foreign countries to socialize and network.  It also provides information useful for living in and adapting to another country. 

I am the featured blogger on InterNations this month.  CLICK HERE to read my interview.  I hope you enjoy it!
Susie of Arabia (Photo Credit: Blue Abaya)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Art Rehab Therapy for Convicted Terrorists

I wanted to share this encouraging story with you that I read on NPR about a successful rehabilitation program for convicted terrorists in Saudi Arabia. 

Treating Saudi Arabian Jihadists With Art Therapy

by Deborah Amos / NPR

Dr. Awad Al-Yami, an art therapist trained at the University of
Pennsylvania, is a counselor at a Saudi Arabian center
that seeks to rehabilitate convicted terrorists.
The center claims a success rate of more than 80 percent,
but acknowledges that some return to extremist groups like al-Qaida.
Deborah Amos/NPR

There are golf carts and palm trees and an Olympic-sized pool at the Mohammed Bin Naif Counseling and Care Center, a sprawling complex on the outskirts of Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh.

Once a holiday resort, the walled compound still looks like one — and not a rehabilitation center for convicted terrorists.

In the past year, the country has expanded counter-terrorism laws that make it illegal for Saudis to fight in Syria and Iraq. The kingdom has also expanded the terrorism rehab centers.

More than 3,000 young Saudi men graduated from the program since it began in 2008, including 120 former prisoners from a U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay.

The centers only work with inmates not convicted for violent crimes. The Saudis claim a success rate of more than 80 percent of the detainees returning to their families as well-adjusted members of Saudi society.

On my visit, the inmates are kept out of sight, except for a handpicked star graduate, 29-year-old Badr al-Anzi. Two years ago, he was set to join the militants of the self-declared Islamic State. Now he's a model of rehabilitation.

"I wanted to go to jihad," explains al-Anzi, who has a wife and three daughters. His plan was to travel to Syria with his cousin and brother, but he was arrested when he tried to pick up his passport at a government office.

After a six-month jail sentence, al-Anzi was sent to the rehab center. His treatment was intense, with psychological counseling, religious re-education, vocational training, plus financial incentives. Al-Anzi now attends college on a scholarship. He had help finding a job.

Many inmates draw pictures of castles. Al-Yami, the art therapist,
interprets them to mean, "I'm not going to give you any information.
I'm behind the wall and you can't get through."
Deb Amos / NPR
He makes monthly visits to the center to counsel others.

"Now, I want to fight ISIS," he says, which he does on Twitter, challenging Saudi recruits to quit and come home.

Al-Anzi's was an easy case. He never made it to the battlefield. But what about the hardened cases, the al-Qaida extremists?

"They're not so tough," says Dr. Awad Al-Yami, a counselor here. "These are our kids, and anyway, they are members of our society, and they are hurting us. We feel obligated to help them."

Al-Yami trained as an art therapist at the University of Pennsylvania. He pioneered an innovative program that's unusual in Saudi's ultra-conservative culture, where some clerics say that drawing is forbidden.

"I had a hard time convincing my people with art, let alone art therapy for jihadists," he says.

But the program has delivered results.

"Actually, art creates balance for your psyche," he says.

It is also a window on the psyche, he says. Drawing is a way for inmates to express emotions, anger and depression, when they first arrive at the center.

He keeps a gallery of paintings, which he analyzes like a detective. The black and white landscapes, which depict scenes from Afghanistan, mean an inmate is still living in the past.

After a few months of counseling, the paintings show more promise. Inmates use color and depict scenes from family life in Riyadh. Al-Yami says this is a sign that the inmate is coming to terms with coming home.

There is a striking number of inmates who draw pictures of castles with high walls. Those send a distinct message, according to Al-Yami.

"I'm not going to give you any information," he says. "I'm behind the wall and you can't get through. If I give you information, I am weak."

He takes the failures hard. Some 20 percent of the inmates here go back to the fight. One spectacular failure went on to become an al-Qaida leader in Yemen.

Now, Al-Yami is preparing for a new wave of inmates: the ISIS generation. He knows they are more extreme than al-Qaida.

"We've got some in prison, waiting for their sentences to be over and they will be here," he says.
Can he reach them, too? He pauses before he answers.

"What the hell am I going to do with ISIS?" he says, a man who knows his toughest challenge is ahead.

 See the original story on NPR and listen to the story on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday by CLICKING HERE.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saudi Arabia's first female detective trained in U.S.

As a former police officer myself, I was quite excited when I saw this news video of Nadeen Alsayat, the first Saudi female trained for police work.  Nadeen recently graduated from Colorado University with a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice paid for by the Saudi government and will become Saudi Arabia's first female detective.  She spent six months interning with the Commerce City Police Department in Colorado.

In addition to Nadeen's accomplishment in the USA, Saudi Arabia will be graduating its first ever class of female police officers as well this year.  Congratulations to Nadeen on achieving her childhood dream of becoming a police officer - and congratulations to the graduating class in KSA for leading the way for other females to break into careers that were previously taboo for Saudi women.

To read more about Nadeen Alsayat's training experience, CLICK HERE.