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8/28/15

Middle East: Saudi Arabia: From the Eyes of an Insider - by Mona Eltahawy

Nothing prepared me for Saudi Arabia. I was born in Egypt, but my family left for London when I was seven years old. After almost eight years in the United Kingdom, we moved to Saudi Arabia in 1982.

Both my parents, Egyptians who had earned PhDs in medicine in London, had found jobs in Jeddah, teaching medical students and technicians clinical microbiology.

The campuses were segregated. My mother taught the women on the female campus and my father taught the men on the male campus.

When an instructor of the same gender wasn’t available, the classes were taught via closed-circuit television, and the students would have to ask questions using telephone sets.

My mother, who had been the breadwinner of the family for our last year in the United Kingdom, when we lived in Glasgow, now found that she could not legally drive. We became dependent on my father to take us everywhere.

As we waited for our new car to be delivered, we relied on gypsy cabs and public buses.

On the buses, we would buy our ticket from the driver, and then my mother and I would make our way to the back two rows (four if we were lucky) designated for women.

The back of the bus. What does that remind you of? Segregation is the only way to describe it.

The campuses were segregated. My mother taught the women on the female campus and my father taught the men on the male campus.

When an instructor of the same gender wasn’t available, the classes were taught via closed-circuit television, and the students would have to ask questions using telephone sets.

My mother, who had been the breadwinner of the family for our last year in the United Kingdom, when we lived in Glasgow, now found that she could not legally drive. We became dependent on my father to take us everywhere.

It felt as though we’d moved to another planet whose inhabitants fervently wished women did not exist. I lived in this surreal atmosphere for six years.

In this world, women, no matter how young or how old, are required to have a male guardian – a father, a brother, or even a son – and can do nothing without this guardian’s permission.

Yes, this is Saudi Arabia, the country where a gang rape survivor was sentenced to jail for agreeing to get into a car with an unrelated male and needed a royal pardon; Saudi Arabia, where a woman who broke the ban on driving was sentenced to ten lashes and, again, needed a royal pardon.

Note EU-Digest: Democracy and women's rights - still a major stumbling block in country which considers itself the cradle of Islam. 
 
Read moreSaudi Arabia: From the Eyes of an Insider - The Globali

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