I want to tell you my story.
I am 23 and have Run away from my family. I have been on the run for 3 months in Saudi. (the criminal reference is well founded)
My challenges started when I was around 17. I was under challenged and bored of the Saudi Bedouin culture I was born into, I found religious life boring (my mother is strict whabi motuwa and my father is a player, with 4 wives and 11 children) my father is currently flirting with one of my cousins who is 19 and is seeking marriage to her; this is my culture.
I learned English quickly and read lots about the west on the Internet and on TV. I realised when I became a women, I was too attractive and that my face was a problem. The mixing with my friends and cousins stopped at age 9, playing sport stopped. I had to wear full veil and body covered clothing, I spent my days inside. I became depressed. I would escape with my brothers when I became a teenager and rob men, exposed to drugs and around guns. I was a very angry girl and did not know why. My family are a very poor, uneducated and typical of the new residence of the outskirts of Jeddah. The family tree is of utmost importance to my culture. My sister and I were beaten at 15 for going to the mall. We realised freedom and expression of individualism was not possible. After seeing my sisters so unhappy in marriage and so poor, I decided; I wanted something else.
I didn’t always hate Islam. My Arabic and knowledge of the Quarn is much better than my contemporaries, as I went to Islamic school for years, I spent time doing friends essays in Arabic for money. I had to fight my family to go to university seeing the English teachers and the different types of people there and on social media, I knew that I could make it on my own, that my family were making me fat (literally) fatting me up for an arranged marriage and holding me back from being what I wanted. The culture is afraid of the world and I am a whore to them for what I have done.
My parents and cultural pressure made it impossible for me to study at the university. I was not prepared. I knew nothing about maths and science or about law. My general knowledge and underlying education was religious, not pragmatic or reasonable. I do not know how to reason. I have just been taught how to live an absolutist life, extreme. My brother also, he was radicalised on the Internet and died in Iraq as a part of Daesh 6 months ago. I was in crisis during the time of my brothers conversion, but I went another way.
I have learned to use manipulation, and play games to get what I want. I cannot be fair or reasonable as all my experience points to extreme reactions for minor offences. For this reason I carry a knife. I cannot trust people, I live by paranoia and fear of being caught.
I really didn’t know how to escape but I knew I wanted to. I started to meet tolerant westerners who mixed genders and played sports and travelled. I wanted this freedom.
In 2013 I spent lots of my time with these people, I was still strictly controlled and would use the gym or university to gain free time. I convinced my family to work as I was poor and needed money and since the time started working my father felt that he shouldn’t give me the freedom to earn money and gain independence. He wanted me to stop me working he would text me religious sentiments persuading me to be under his control.
He thought that I was selling my life and my name for working. I was told I should resign after the winter break. I went back to university.
Eventually, one influence had to win, I could not continue living a secret life. In late 2014 I was gaining more confidence with my family and one day stupidly challenged them. I was beaten and locked in my room for days. I was 18 years old, and I have pictures to prove my injuries. Documenting the realities of these events has been quite cathartic. I have movies, voice nots and photos and writings about all these things. Praise Allah for the smart phone.
I decided during this time; I had to leave.
I needed a passport and the only way to get one was to marry my cousin.
I was under huge pressure to marry him by my father. My mother told me that the university and my freedoms would be taken away if I did not marry soon. I had been resisting this pressure since I was 17. My uncle would sleep in the same bed as me and thought he would marry me, the culture used my sensuality and hormones to control me. The beating refocused the pressure from my family, I was not welcome anymore in the home. But I knew I couldn’t marry and be responsible for these big decisions.
The Passport. This is where I stupidly broke the law, I took the mahar and signed the marriage papers, with no intention to honour the agreement. I meet my husband in secret and flirted with him to gain trust, I felt bad for him, he was a pawn in this game. I received the passport after approval from my husband and I planned a trip, because the authorities send a text message to your husband as soon as a women leaves the country, he would not let me travel on my own. I persuaded my family to take me to Bahrain to buy clothes for the wedding, but secretly I would fly from there. I escaped from the hotel in Bahrain and went to the airport. I was 1 hour from the flight when the police came to the departure lounge and arrested me, my family had woken for prayer at 5am and I was missing, my father called the Bahrain police and claimed I was a member of Daesh ” crazy” , My parents took me back to Saudi and they were in shock. They said they knew I had help, they suspected this and my father asked who was helping me, I had shamed them. I had no passport anymore. I was frightened and felt half dead. I left the family house as soon as I could 4 weeks later. I knew if stayed I would be a prisoner in a small room in my family house, I would become depressed again, I couldn’t stay.
That was couple months ago. I just wanted freedom and independence, I was tired of being controlled.
The next parts of the story are equally crazy.
My cousin works for the mabahith (secret police), so he tracked my friends in Saudi. The house I was staying was raided and my friend arrested. Luckily I hid in an agreed place and the secret police didn’t find me. I went from friend to friend, found a job and have been using fake ID to live since Dec 2015. My believe is that the shame I have caused my family is so great that I will be killed if I am ever found using my old name.
Having no ID here in SAUDI is hard. I must leave. I have tried the UAE land boarder and the Jordanian mountains. Both attempts ended in arrests , and I Acting as if you don’t know the rules gets you a long way with half educated Saudis, they are immature and naive which works in my favour.
I feel safer outside of my home town. But I have to keep taking risks to leave as I am young and want a full life of my choosing.
Can you give me some advise?
The Secret Police
There are different fighting cultures within the society and military. One is the semi-educated SAUDI, with the ability to reason and to understand logic, intent and motives. But they’re bound by the religious patriarchal and the kingsman governance which rules. The other is the intolerant, religious, strict uneducated part desperately trying to protect the culture the whabi tradition. They are keen to know what you think of the culture. There are constant cases of cognitive dissidents and wearing blinkers to the realities of Saudi.
It’s a matter of time before the authorities discover my identity, I don’t feel safe now and I’m so sick of this place. I’m starting to lose hope in the ability to survive here or getting out of here alive. ”
I have a rapidly growing number of ex-Muslim and secular Muslim followers in Saudi Arabia and other strict Islamic countries. Many have started to send me letters describing what it is like to be a free thinker in countries like Saudi Arabia. I cannot describe the depths of my sadness and frustration in being helpless to help these people in any real and tangible way. This is just one of the heartbreaking letters that have begun to pour into my inbox. I have a reliable network of atheists and freethinkers on the rise in Saudi Arabia and I am presently working with Faisal Saeed AlMutar to help this woman leave Saudi Arabia. If you are in the same position as this strong young Saudi woman, please contact me.
If you are in a similar predicament, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Special thanks to Faisal Saeed AlMutar.