The New York Times plaatste vorige week een oproep waarin de redactie Saoedi-Arabische vrouwen vroeg om een beeld te schetsen van hun dagelijks leven. In tien dagen tijd ontving de Amerikaanse krant meer dan zesduizend reacties van vrouwen uit Saoedi-Arabië. Reacties vol verdriet, soms hoopvol, soms geruststellend.
De oproep werd in eerste instantie geplaatst vanwege een publicatie met de naam Ladies First, een documentaire van The New York Times over de eerste verkiezingen in Saudi Arabië waar vrouwen mogen stemmen en zich verkiesbaar mogen stellen. Geïnteresseerd in de angsten, ambities en frustraties van de Saoedi-Arabische vrouwen plaatste de regisseur van de documentaire de oproep op Twitter en op de website om hun ervaringen te delen.
De reacties waren overweldigend. Een selectie:
“The male guardianship makes my life like a hell!! We want to hang out with our friends, go and have lunch outside. I feel hopeless.” — JUJU19, 21 jaar
“I got into an accident once in a taxi, and the ambulance refused to take me to the hospital until my male guardian arrived. I had lost a lot of blood. If he didn’t arrive that minute, I would’ve been dead by now.” — RULAA, 19 jaar
“Every time I want to travel, I have to tell my teenage son to allow me.” — SARAH, 42 jaar
“The door of the school where I work is closed from early morning till noon. There is a man guarding the door. Even if a teacher is done with her classes, she cannot leave. Metal gates keep us as prisoners.” — MALAK, 44 jaar
“[My guardian] forbids visits to my female friends or going to shopping malls by myself. It is a complete and total isolation from all the joys in life.” — MALAK, 28 jaar
“He won’t allow me to work, even though I need the money. He also doesn’t provide all my needs. I can’t recall the last time he cared about what I needed or wanted. He is married to four women and completely preoccupied with them, and he doesn’t allow me to travel with my mother. I suffer a lot, even in my social life. He controls it completely and doesn’t allow me to have friends over or go to them. He forces me to live according to his beliefs and his religion. I can’t show my true self. I live in a lie just so that I wouldn’t end up getting killed.” — DINA, 21 jaar
“I’m currently struggling with my father and trying to make him approve that I go to medical school. It’s my last year of high school, and I have no idea if he’s going to approve that or not. I have no idea what my future holds. My future is in this ignorant/sexist man’s hands, and I can’t do anything about it.” — ANONYMOUS, 18 jaar
Naast deze verhalen met negatieve lading verschenen er ook een aantal optimistische verhalen, over hoop, kracht en acceptatie van tradities en regels.
“I need my father’s or my husband’s permission to travel outside the kingdom, and this is O.K. for me, as I need them to know where I am, especially with the current status of events in the world.” — DUJANAH MOUSA, 56 jaar
“I have lived for a while in the West, and I found that the life of a woman is very difficult, for she has to bear heavy burdens that only a man can undertake. Whereas in our country, the man provides all forms of comfort for the woman.” — AFNAN, 30 jaar
“The guardianship thing hasn’t affected my life because I’m not facing any problems with it due to my dad is a very cooperative man and he’s open-minded.” — LATIFAH, 22
“I have the best father in the whole world. He understands what Islamic rules are, and he applies them correctly. For example, I have a goal of building my own early-intervention center for children with disabilities. My dad encouraged me to follow that dream and sent me to study here in the U.S. I know how much hard it’s been on him and my family to let me go, but he came with me first and helped me find an apartment and all the stuff I needed. Then, when everything was going smoothly, he returned to Saudi. Therefore, I need a guardianship in my life.” — D. A., 26
“I have never felt in any way that there was something I wasn’t allowed to do. When you grow up in a society like Saudi Arabia, you get used to the rules and you work around them.
“Well, years ago, I had to take my father downtown with me to get my national ID issued. In the past few years, I have had to have that renewed, and I did not need to take my father with me this time.
“Things are changing. It’s subtle, but it’s there and it’s tangible.” — REEM SERAJ, 42