Two subjects here on the blog tend to get me into trouble: religion and anything about Saudi Arabia, but since I do live in Saudi Arabia and (as we all know by now) religion is totally entwined with daily life here, the subjects will both continue to come up here. Sorry, guys.
Today I want to share a few of the latest Saudi headlines since last month’s post. And like last month, they are largely ridiculous. Sorry about that too. I’m not inventing these stories, and I’m not pulling them off of obscure websites; they’re coming from major Saudi and international news organizations. So here we go.
Recently it was announced in Arab News that, according to the Ministry of Education, 90% of teachers are inefficient. This comes as no great shock to anyone who has children in the school system here, of course, but it still makes me wonder what the substantial tuition we pay for private schooling is going towards. I’m at a loss as a parent on the best solution for this problem. Unless you (or your company if you’re an expat) can afford to pay the obscene fees at the American or British schools, it seems you’re SOL when it comes to education in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking of school…did you know that Physical Education for girls is not allowed in Saudi Arabia? Boys campuses will boast swimming pools, martial arts, soccer fields, and even equestrian activities, but the physical education of girls is seen as taboo by many. Some private schools do have permission to offer PE classes for girls until a certain age, but speaking from experience as a mother and witness to these “classes”, it’s a joke. Anyhow, the ban on PE for girls may soon be a thing of the past as the Saudi Shoura Council has has announced their approval for the introduction of physical education, noting that “classes will be conducted according to Islamic principles and traditions,” whatever that means.
Of course, since this is Saudi Arabia, and almost nothing can change without someone protesting it (it’s interesting to note that the types of public protests in the name of uber conservative religion are overlooked while the opposite can land you in jail forever), a group of winners stood outside the Shoura Council building in protest.
According to the Wall Street Journal, one Abdullah Al Dawud, the same guy who called for the harassment of female cashiers (which he eventually claimed to have been a misunderstanding after the media shit storm), tweeted that “If we keep silent about the step of adding PE classes to girls’ schools then we are giving the Shoura Council a green light to continue the steps of Westernization and these steps will end in infidelity and prostitution.”
Punkd. This place is like an ongoing episode of Punkd sometimes.
If your daughter eventually makes it through the physical education that is ALMOST CERTAINLY going to lead her to a life of prostitution and graduates high school, it’s time to celebrate! But wait, not so fast! Graduation events are now evidently banned in Dammam, located in KSA’s Eastern Provence. The reason? Perhaps these parties are un-Islamic. Because everyone knows that fun is not allowed for Muslims unless the King has surgery or something and wants to give everyone time off from work or school. And National Day…you’re allowed to celebrate that (a little). But celebrating your ability to successfully memorize your way through the archaic Saudi school system is unacceptable.
So you’re an adult now and your ovaries have made it through school (and you’re fortunate enough not to live in Riyadh where shisha is not only banned for women, but also men, inside the city limits) and your preferred way of relaxing after a long week of working, studying, or taking care of your children is to join your girlfriends at a shisha cafe for a little hubbly bubbly. Hold up! Don’t forget to bring your dad/husband/son with you!! He will need to let the guy working at the cafe know that you have his permission before you’re allowed to smoke. Apparently only men are allowed to decide how and when they want to pollute their lungs.
Let’s say you’re Saudi woman who is still living with the label of an orphan. Yes, fully grown women are still considered orphans and will have to rely on the government for mahram purposes unless and until they get married. Let’s say you’re an orphan woman who has decided that studying abroad is the best step toward a brighter future, and you have dreams of taking advantage of the King Abdullah scholarship program to help you pay for your education. Sorry. You can’t. Don’t hate me. (If you got the reference, I love you.. Let’s be friends.) The government will not be your mahram for this case, because as a woman your mahram not only has to give you permission to study abroad, he has to accompany you during your time spent studying.
I’m exhausted, but let’s move on.
It gets better, orphan women. There’s always marriage. And don’t worry if you can’t find a decent man to marry, because the government has TWO SOLUTIONS for you.
Solution number one is misyar marriage! For those of you who do not know what misyar is, allow me to explain. It’s an “marriage” where the woman gives up certain rights, such as housing and money, and the man can make arrangements to “see” her whenever they both see fit. Basically, it’s a friends with benefits arrangement. Some liken it to legal prostitution, but I think that’s rude.
I personally see how misyar “marriage” could be useful to a woman who is divorced and would lose her children if she were to get remarried the traditional way, or for those couples who are really not interested in the idea of a fully committed marriage. Truthfully, the idea of misyar is attractive to me after all I’ve been through with the traditional marriage route. But this situation involving orphans screams exploitation.
If solution number one doesn’t suit your needs, don’t worry. Here’s number two! It’s no secret that Saudi women have a much harder time getting government approval to marry foreign men than Saudi men have for marrying foreign women. But not if you’re an orphan! Since, according to a specialist, most orphans are dark skinned, and no one wants to marry women who are dark skinned, proposals for orphans apparently come from the elderly, disabled, or mentally ill. But don’t marry that old ass lunatic just yet, because now thankfully foreign men can apply for orphans. Win!(?) I feel sick to my stomach.
Last but not least, and having nothing at all to do with the above discussed issues, is witchcraft. That is not a typo. Apparently it’s on the rise, you guys. And look, I acknowledge the possibility of the supernatural, but this article is taking it a little far. Can you imagine something like this being printed in a non-tabloid in the West? Again, KSA is so crime and corruption free that the government has time to answer to reports of people practicing sorcery. Sorcery. If the convicted didn’t face the possibility of death, I’d lol.
Welcome to our world.