Issue of women driving in Saudi Arabia and the Western Media

Issue of women driving in Saudi Arabia and the Western Media

A few days ago I wrote an article in support of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and it touched specifically the issue of women driving cars.

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As a result of the article, I received much attention from the Western press. They wrote about my article, some wanted to interview me on radio and TV so I would elaborate on the issue I wrote about. I got messages of interest in me through Twitter and e-mail.

To write an article and have it receive such attention is very flattering and I’m grateful to all those who contacted me as a result of the article. Also I’m glad that Saudi women receive such attention in the Western media.

Then after the “ego” moment passed, I found myself saddened and disappointed by such attention to this particular subject I wrote about above all else. Now, let me explain, even though I believe that Saudi women must drive as well as achieve all of their God-given rights. Even though I will stand by every oppressed woman in my country by whatever means I posses, still I found the Western media’s interest in me or the Saudi women because of this particular article somewhat ironic.

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Again let me elaborate. I have written over the last decade and a half many articles on various topics. In fact, my very first article was about the siege of Sarajevo and the arms embargo which was imposed on the Bosnians denying them the right of self-defense and all the horrific genocide which ensued as a result of such embargo. Then I wrote articles about the Palestinians’ struggle to regain their land and live a life of dignity free from occupation as the rest of humanity. I wrote condemning the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the bombing of Somalia and Yemen and Pakistan with brutal impunity and all the other horrors which resulted from such savage campaigns as torture in Abu Ghraib and the Gulag of Guantanamo and all those secret detention centers under the policy of rendition or whatever new name under which such things take place.

I also wrote condemning the brutal wars of Israel on south Lebanon and Gaza and the criminal complacency of Arab and Western governments. Finally, I wrote in praise of the Arab revolutions hoping we could finally achieve freedom from oppression — both internal and external.

Yet with all those issues over all those years I get noticed by the Western media only when I express views or opinions on women’s issues in Saudi Arabia and this is the reason for this article. It seems to me that we in the Arab world are constantly being put in boxes filled by clichés. We are heard or noticed in the West only when we conform to or appear in those convenient images the West has made of us in its collective mind. Millions may die in our region, thousands may end up maimed, imprisoned or refugees and none of those really attracts the West’s attention. Many Arab countries have been under brutal regimes for many years but the Western media condemn or praise a regime not on the basis of what it is doing to its own people but according to what suits Western interests — economic or strategic. And mostly you can never find anything wrong with Israel’s brutality and oppression.

So, you must excuse me if I find your fashionable concern for the rights of women in the Arab world reeking of hypocrisy while you keep silent on the abuses of your favorite regimes in our region.

Let me make things clear. I’m not a feminist though I do believe that Saudi women should be equal in the eyes of the law just as I believe in the right of the Arab people to dignity and justice. But mostly I believe that we the Arabs should achieve these rights by our own and without external intervention — Western or otherwise. And since we are talking of intervention, I find it shameful that the Arab League has left the people of Libya to be massacred by their brutal regime and forced them to accept the help of NATO, an outside party, as it is again failing the Syrians and leaving them to the tender mercies of strangers. – Courtesy Arab News.

Reem Al Faisal is a Saudi photographer. She is based in Jeddah.

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