Wednesday, October 28, 2009


You may have read on the news recently about the loose-lipped Saudi man in his 30s who is in deep doodoo for dishing about his illustrious sex life on a Lebanese satellite television channel. Mazen Abdul-Jawad appeared on an LBC program called "Bold Red Line" that was first broadcast in mid-July of 2009 and was aired in Saudi Arabia. But what you may not have heard or read about is how Saudi Arabia has again managed to point the finger of blame for this incident at women. "Crimes" pertaining to sex (like rape) in Saudi Arabia often equally fault the woman, even though women are unidentifiable and completely obscured in black wash-and-wear tents when out in public, yet they are still widely perceived as seductive temptresses by Saudi men. Islam forbids dating and pre-marital sex, and speaking about sexual escapades publicly is considered promoting sinful behavior and moral corruption. Yes, talking about your sex life in public in Saudi Arabia is a horrible crime.

Bragging on the show about his first sexual encounter at age fourteen with a young Saudi neighbor girl, the foolish Abdul-Jawad also described his ability to pick up other Saudi women using Bluetooth technology and even showcased his tacky love nest of a bedroom - complete with a bordeaux red colored bedspread accesorized with condoms and sex toys - to the cameras, explaining that it was the place where "everything happens." As a result of his interview, hundreds of offended puritanical Saudis filed complaints against him, one even going so far as to call for his execution. Ironically enough, LBC (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation), the satellite television channel that broadcast this offensive program, is owned by a member of the Saudi royal family, billionaire Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz.

Unlike the judicial system in the USA which can literally drag on for years and years, justice is swift and harsh in Saudi Arabia. In just a mere three months from the time Abdul-Jawad committed his immoral offenses, this unfortunate and unwise man has already been tried and convicted for his crimes. He has now been sentenced to a jaw-dropping five years in prison and 1000 lashes, plus after his release from prison, he will also be restricted from leaving the country for another five years as well as forbidden from discussing his saga.

Abdul-Jawad did not go down alone for these crimes. Recently sentenced to two years in prison and 300 lashes each were three of his friends who also appeared on the same program with Abdul-Jawad.

But the blame did not stop there. Most recently, a young Saudi female journalist received a flogging sentence of 60 lashes for her part in the production end of the broadcast. Twenty-two year old Rozanna Al-Yami maintains that she had no direct involvement at all in Abdul-Jawad's show. Her crime was simply working for LBC and the fact that the company did not have the proper licensing and documentation to operate within Saudi Arabia. Ms. Al-Yami claims she was not even aware that LBC was unlicensed. Apparently another female employee of LBC has also been arrested, but details of her case are sketchy at this point.

So far, it appears as though no other LBC employees have been arrested or charged with any crimes. So why are these two female employees being singled out? What about the actual reporter/interviewer, the producer, and the camera crew? Certainly there were many other LBC employees who were actually more directly involved in the production of this program than Ms. Al-Yami.

I also read that in a popular local Arabic newspaper, many commenters named Al-Yami responded to the story, defending their family name and denying and rejecting the female journalist by the same name as a member of their tribe. Others criticized and shamed her for not covering her hair and face properly. These commenters were more concerned with their family name being tarnished than the fact that a young working Saudi woman has been railroaded by the male chauvinistic system which consistently places blame and punishment unfairly on women. Funny how Saudi men manage to keep their testerone in check when they travel outside their country, but when in Saudi the men are not expected to be able to control themselves around women. Consequently Saudi women are shielded and protected from other men (like wearing black cloaks and veils, forced segregation of the sexes, requiring permission from male guardians to go to school, travel, work, etc) but still are usually partially blamed if they are raped, having that "she had it coming/she was asking for it" mentality.

What I find crazy is that in Saudi Arabia we can view shows like "Sex and the City" and "Nip/Tuck" on satellite TV. I guess these shows are okay because they portray the decadent West as nasty purveyors of sex and indulgence, but a show like the LBC one which has caused such an uproar just shows how deeply in denial the Saudis are about the existence of consensual sex happening in their own country between unmarried individuals. As long as people keep quiet about it, it must not exist, but don't dare talk about it in the open - they just don't want to hear it. Obviously Abdul-Jawad is not the only man in Saudi Arabia to have experienced sex outside of marriage.

I would seriously advise Jerry Springer's show guests not to set foot in Saudi Arabia if they value their life and freedom, not that they would be allowed in anyway ...

UPDATE: Journalist Rozanna Al-Yami has received a royal pardon and her case has sparked demands for the reviewing of cases involving journalists detained in media-related offences. For more information, please read this Arab News article.


  1. The society you live in is all "hush-hush" about everything. You say the word sex and you'd proably get flogged. Personally, I think sex is a beautiful thing with-in the bounds of marriage. I've read books about Arab men using prositutes...but I'm sure there are Arab women who have sex outside of marriage as well.

    And if this happened to a woman, her family would maybe kill her. I think it is culturally wrong to do this...but I won't get started on my soup box.

  2. "Yes, talking about your sex life in public in Saudi Arabia is a horrible crime"

    This made me chuckle and think this is SO to benefit the male gender. Your husband is lousy in bed? Cannot keep it up? Lasts only seconds? Does not believe in forplay? All good as no one will hear about it! ;)

  3. Well, this does not surprise me, from what I've read (thru you and elsewhere) about Saudi attitudes toward sex, women, etc. But wow...

    I am planning a short stay in Qatar this January with some American friends. I am very curious to see what life is like there....

  4. This is just incredible - once again!
    I always enjoy reading your posts for their unbiased insight into Arabic culture. Sadly, many things I hoped were mere prejudice on my side prove to be true...
    Ma'asalama from Germany!

  5. I am an enthusiastic reader from Finland and simply love the way you describe your living in Saudi Arabia.
    But I do believe that the female journalist has been acquitted, I think the prince or someone in the royal family did it. This has been published in Finland, too, and hence the follow-up. This better be the case!

  6. Oh...yes I read that here in an American newspaper. The female journalist will not be flogged. It was the the King who denouced the flogging I read my dearie dear Eava.

  7. The mentality of Saudi Arabia sounds like the one here in UAE.

    But you didn't hear it from me :-P

  8. OoPs but I forgot to add -- I would rather live in UAE than in Saudi Arabia!!

  9. While sexism is a real issue in Saudi it doesn't play a big part in this case. The two female journalists are not the only ones from LBC prosecuted.The male Saudi cameraman was also arrested. The main drivers are a) a turf battle between the courts and the media complaints board, and b)a shot against the bows of the media in general.

  10. Apart from the hypocrisy part of such gender-biased cultures, if the ruling was to flog the woman because her company didn't have proper permission, then first the State machinery involved in letting the company function should be prosecuted and the concerned officials should be flogged if flogging is the normal punishment there (though I don't support this punishment). Mere "pardoning" by the King is not enough - since she never committed a crime and the State officials that allowed the company to function illegally were the guilty ones. There needs to be serious rethinking of what constitutes a crime and why a woman should be punished because her involvement in a company revealed the hidden facts about this culture. "Pardoning" one isolated is not going to solve the problem, though it does show the King in a more congenial light than the court.

  11. Susie, hello again. I don't have an email contact for you, but I will be stopping in Doha on my way back from INdia this January (have two American friends working in Doha.)

    Since you are more into photography than they, what is the attitude toward taking photos? I know you shouldn't take photos of women or others without their consent, but I see you seem to photograph just about everything else! I am also aware it's not the same country, but I'd appreciate a brief run-down through my email link on my profile.

  12. I agree!
    Your post hits a hot button issue that we all have to open our eyes to and accept that it is happening!
    About the tribes, they would have her head just because her name was plastered all over the newspaper headlines. Even If it wasn't her fault. Simply disgusting

    Amazing post, Susie!

  13. Susie,

    It's posts like this one that make me even more disgusted with the misogyny of KSA. I honestly don't know how you can stand living there.

  14. Gosh... I don't know... Are you sure you want to keep living there?

  15. A reader from Holland,
    after ran into you blogs accidentally, i've spend a few weeks reading through all of your blogs, and surely will continue to follow the updates.
    Bearing a Chinese origin I thought gender discrimination is already quite troublesome in China, but compare to KSA, today's China is almost women's heaven.
    It is fascinating to learn about different cultures, hopefully changes will come sooner in KSA than it has been the case so far.

  16. If you keep a guy long stay in the dark and by a sudden you let him open his eyes to the light ..He gets hurt..That guy jumped too far.

  17. I watched that video on youtube and what a bunch of idiots. The problem with that society is that they think these things wouldn't *exist* if they don't talk to their children. I know of many incidences where women are being harrassed by men when going out. It's such a shame that they consider themselves to be *holier than thou* while one is not safe venturing out alone. sf