Friday, December 13, 2013

Queens? I Think Not, says young Saudi Woman

Saudi women have never had much of a voice in this country.  I've actually been told many times that I should keep my mouth closed in the presence of other men because they shouldn't hear my voice.  Some Islamic scholars actually include a woman's voice as part of a woman's awrah, the parts of a woman that should be covered from others, which is usually considered to be everything but her hands and face. 

But as more and more Saudi women attain their education and travel the world, they have found their voice.  Fatima Al-Mohsin is a 19-year-old university student in the Eastern Province of KSA who wrote the following article that was recently published in the SaudiGazette.  I think she speaks for a growing number of Saudi women who are dissatisfied and want more for themselves, their sisters, and their daughters.

Disadvantaged Saudi women, yet they call us “queens”

They tell us we are too delicate to drive cars, too precious to travel alone, too pretty to play rough sports. We are “queens” who have been deprived of the right to make our own decisions. Have you ever heard of a “queen” without authority?  Well, they exist in Saudi Arabia.

Research has found Saudi Arabia to have one of the highest levels of gender discrimination in the world. Women are not granted mobility; they cannot drive cars and cannot travel without a male guardian’s permission. There are also very few women in powerful positions in Saudi Arabia.

The gender gap in Saudi Arabia is uncomfortably large. Men not only have the freedom to travel and move without being questioned, but essentially everything in our society encourages men to succeed, yet puts the success of every woman in the hands of a man.  This gender discrimination is unfair. We can see that women are just as capable of being successful as men if they are given a fair chance. All human beings should have the right to live up to their own potential, and gender should not be a determining factor for this right.  

Photo by Areej Albagshy

One of the most basic and obvious differences between the rights of men and women in Saudi Arabia is mobility. Women are required to get the permission of their male guardian to study abroad and to travel, and women are banned from driving their own cars. Such rules and restrictions have caused women a lot of problems. These restrictions force them to - like a child - depend on others in order to accomplish what they want to do.

Furthermore, women were absolutely nonexistent in the political organization of Saudi Arabia until 2012 when women were appointed to the Shoura Council. The Shoura Council is the official advisory body of Saudi Arabia. Its members cannot pass or apply laws as they are there to advise the King in making laws for the nation. The Council consists of 150 members appointed by the King. As of last year, women now make up 30 percent of the Council, a move that was applauded around the world.

However, this is not something to be celebrated, but rather something that must be improved. The Shoura Council should more accurately represent the women in Saudi society. According to the World Factbook, Saudi citizens are 54 percent male and 46 percent female. As women make up almost half of society, they should be more accurately represented on the Shoura Council. Considering that women’s rights are in a dire state in the country, it is especially important that their voices are represented in the political realm.

Although it is a well-known fact that women can accomplish great things when given the opportunity, there are still some in Saudi Arabia who believe that women cannot handle powerful positions. One cleric recently stated that women were permitted to work, but not to hold power in a company. If a woman is capable of doing a good job, then it is wrong to refuse her a position simply because of her gender.

These sorts of restrictions on women are absolutely exhausting. We are forced to feel inferior, even though we know we are not.  We do not live the lives of “queens”. There is no need for this oppression to go on. We will not be silenced. I hope the government will address the status of women immediately. 

Fatima Al-Mohsin

— The author is a student at Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd University studying Human Resources. 

The photo used in this post is by a young female Saudi photographer, Areej Albagshy.  You can see more of her work by clicking HERE.


  1. I'm glad to see women speaking out and you for sharing.

  2. I think us westerners don't fully understand what our sisters are going through. But thanks to your blog we are getting the message. I look forward to reading more.

  3. Saudi culture was born in a poor and backward country. The culture is a straight-jacket the keeps the society from evolving.

  4. Thank you for being such good advocate for the Saudi woman