Sunday, May 31, 2009

'The land that time forgot' - Saudi Arabia - bans innocent US Expat Blogger

I've always liked that joke about the pilot landing a commercial flight in Saudi who says "Welcome to Saudi Arabia folks, please set your watches back 500 years"...

Last week the Saudis blocked the blog of an expat American lady married to a Saudi, Susie, who has been writing about her observations, thoughts and experiences, and her take on daily life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Of course, as this is the same country who still behead and crucify people, ban women from driving or going to a gym to "protect their morality", and sentence victims of rape to lashings, etc etc... its not like this is a real shocker.

Ripped this image from Susie's site, I really like it...

That she recently changed her slant, and started writing a little more truthfully about some of the issues facing women in the 'Kingdom of the Dark Ages' is probably why she was blocked.

For example why the islamonutters think women must be protected from driving [of course, Susie doesn't use a phrase like islamonutter. She is quite respectful and polite, unlike me!], or
how the Saudi economy is deprived of a significant resource
: i.e. women, by making it very hard for them to work or be a business women.

Yeah, Saudi politics.

So, please tell all your friends, and hopefully we can show the authorities that by blocking Susie, they have only served to highlight to the world how afraid of facts and opinions the KSA are. Susie's posts can be mirrored elsewhere, and presto, block circumvented. I've ripped her post on the driving at the end. (hope that's OK Susie)

What the censorship report also indirectly points out is the impact of this East Berlin/North Korean approach to the public by the KSA authorities are phrases in the article about Susie below, eg:

"...Susie, like most of the expatriates blogging from Saudi Arabia, tries hard to avoid religion and politics -- though she admits that is difficult when writing about women...."

Of course, there are other countries that also block such things as innocent websites... well, ... like the UAE. Tolerance of criticism seems in short supply in the GCC, (which doesn't seem to stop them handing it out in large quantities to the USA and Europe I notice...)

That's the thing. This is about politics and a culture that has still to learn how to balance respect, responsibility, rights and critique.

USA, you are close to the House of Saud - how about boosting your demonstrable commitment to freedom of speech in the region, and the right to freedom of association for ideas at least? Get everyone to loosen up on the net thing. Its better for security too, by lowering the need to hack/buy a VPN. I know GW lost you a huge amount of moral high ground. But start climbing back up.

U.S. expat's blog on Saudi life blocked
May 27, 2009 at 08:17

By Paul Handley
Susie's Big Adventure in Saudi Arabia has turned a little dark: the U.S. expat's chirpy blog on life in the kingdom with a Saudi husband has been blocked by the country's censors.

The 57 year-old grandmother, who prefers not to give her full name, said on Wednesday she has no idea why the Saudi authorities have put a block on her blog (, which recounts her experiences of moving to Saudi Arabia two years ago with her Saudi husband of 30 years.

"One night I went to bed and I could see it, and when I woke up I could not access my blog," she told news agency AFP from her home in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

Since Monday, trying to read her blog from inside Saudi Arabia brings up an announcement from the Communications and Internet Technology Commission reading "Sorry, the requested page is unavailable".

CITC, which could not be reached for comment, mostly uses the block for pornographic and stridently anti-government political sites.

But Susie's Big Adventure is mostly about life as an expat woman in a new culture -- new foods to eat, places to visit and places to shop, and odd cultural experiences.

When the Arizona native strays to more current issues - like a recent post she headlined "Saudi Arabia Wastes Biggest Untapped Natural Resource: Women" - she says nothing that is not in the local newspapers.

"I don't know why," she replied when asked why the blog was censored. "Everybody discusses things that I discuss."

Her story suggests the difficulties for bloggers in a country split between a deep Islamic conservatism which does not allow women to drive cars, and a large number in the population who are pushing for sweeping change.

In December 2007 Fouad al-Farhan was jailed for four and a half months for the pro-reform postings on his popular Arabic-language political blog.

Susie, like most of the expatriates blogging from Saudi Arabia, tries hard to avoid religion and politics -- though she admits that is difficult when writing about women.

"Too many people around the world just don't know what this mysterious place is really like and I have tried my best to give an accurate glimpse into real life here. Is this wrong?" she asked on her website.

Her most popular post was about buying Katy Perry's hit CD "One of the Boys" in Jeddah and finding that the cover art, a picture of Perry in shorts, was overdrawn to show her in long pants.

Noted by a U.S. Hollywood gossip website, the post drove up her website hits from 250 a week to 9,000 a day, for a few days in April.

Susie said she was surprised to receive emails of support from other bloggers, including al-Farhan.

"Other bloggers said I didn't overstep the boundaries," she said.

Susie's great post! Free speech, objective data and an intelligent observer. Love it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The Case Against Women Driving in KSA

For anyone who has ever lived in or visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you can attest to the fact that the drivers here - all men, of course - are more often than not, crazy, reckless, and not at all courteous, with few exceptions. Many drivers here seem to think that they are more important and in more of a hurry than everyone else. Traffic is always a nightmare. I can't help but think that if women were allowed to drive here, driving conditions would drastically improve and naturally become more civilized and the streets would become safer for everyone.

The arguments for why women should not and are not allowed to drive here in Saudi Arabia are weak, at best. I've talked at length with my husband about this subject and his basic vague reason is that women aren't allowed to drive here "for their own protection." This can have many different connotations, but I really believe that the main thinking behind this type of logic is expressed in a video of a Saudi cleric filmed in 2005, called "Why Women Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Drive (in Saudi Arabia)." You can view it for yourself by clicking HERE, or just read the complete translation below for this holy man of Islam's own words.

From the Memri TV Project – Saudi Cleric Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan: Al-Majd TV - KSA/UAE - June 17, 2005.
“In conservative countries like Saudi Arabia, this blessed kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which, Allah be praised, is the most conservative in the Muslim world, in which a woman maintains her honor, decency, and modesty, and she does not reveal anything – not her hands, her face, or anything – how can she drive a car? Those who call to allow women to drive – according to what has been written – can be divided into two groups. The first group includes Westernized people, who want to westernize the society, to tell the truth. They want to destroy society, corrupt it, and drag it down into the depths of decay and permissiveness, like in Western societies. These people have been blinded by what they saw there when they studied or visited there, and they want our society to be like other societies. They want it to be devoid of all values, morals, and modesty. They want women to go out on the streets all made up, like a harlot, with her face uncovered, like they see in the West. They think that the shortest and best way to reach this goal is to allow women to drive, because if a woman drives, she will reveal her face, drive without a male chaperone, will have an easy opportunity to meet all kinds of young men and women, and she will get all made up, will mix with men, and so on. I don’t think that any woman throughout human history has been as oppressed as the Western woman today – and they still claim they have given her freedom. They took her out of the home in order to exploit her - to exploit her honor and dignity. Furthermore, in many countries, her salary is lower than the man’s, but she works more than him. She does not get what she wants unless she sacrifices her honor, to her bosses or her co-workers. How strange! Even though they have permissiveness there, and any man can satisfy his desires outside of marriage, he’s not satisfied with ten or twenty. Any girl he sees, who has certain features, he wants. If she consents, fine. If not, he rapes her. “

This is the kind of twisted reasoning that the people here are fed by their highly respected religious leaders. This guy is actually insinuating that every Western man, when confronted with a woman he finds desirable, will either have sex with her willingly or unwillingly. Puhh-leeeazzze! And he makes it sound like there are no people in the West with morals or modesty or honor, that every single person in the West is corrupt, that all women are exploited and have to sleep around to get anywhere in the workplace. Not only are his remarks extremely exaggerated and inaccurate, but they are also highly offensive and insulting.

I was truly appalled when I viewed this video, because it made me realize that the big problem is that people here listen to and believe inaccuracies like this. I know that Muslims don't like or appreciate other people making ridiculous generalizations about them like - all Muslims are terrorists, that they all beat their wives, and that the women are oppressed. But then they should also understand that making their own ridiculous generalizations about Westerners like - all Western men are rapists, all Western women are harlots, all Westerners have no morals - are just as wrong and hurtful. These types of broad, derrogatory, and highly exaggerated portrayals of one another must stop if there is ever to be any real peace and understanding between the Middle East and the West.

Posted by Susie of Arabia at 2:40 AM 68 Messages in a Bottle Links to this post
Labels: culture, muslim, religion, Saudi Arabia, women's issues


  1. Is it not also a means of keeping the poor, poor. The rich can afford a car and driver for the female members of a household so the rich woman can be driven to work (sitting with that unrelated male in a confined space) and earn money / pass her time . The poor person cant afford either so cant even do the few job that are available to them .
    Is it not also a means of keeping the woman under the man’s control . She cant do anything without that driver and car – who provides those – that man.
    During the 1990/91 the Saudi authorities relied on an army with many female drivers – yes the USA – of course that was not a problem . Let the women of a foreign country fight for the Saudi men who are spending all their time controlling their women – some of whom are their mothers, who brought them up only to be treated as ?!

  2. As long as there are people in the Arab-Muslim world who think like Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Al-Fawzan (and I'm afraid there are many) and there are others who listen to them and actually take them serious (I'm afraid there are even more), the Arab world will have to accept that others do indeed consider this region and culture to be retarded and pre-historic. I have seen and heard many of these 'theories' by clerics and other 'authorities' in the Arab world but, to be honest, I still have great difficulties believing that these guys are 'real'. Are they? Utter stupidity.

  3. What a great post. I added the link to my blog.



  4. Mate, Susie's been unblocked. All's regular again.

    I think that has something to do with Bowbama being in the Sandbox nowadays.

    Anyway, that's one update pending!

    kthxbye! =)

    -Fark Knight

  5. UD anything more on arrest of the woman who created bomb scare in oman air chennai flight?

  6. I was really blown away by this post that you did on me. Thanks so much for your support. I am truly humbled.


If you wish to post anonymously, please pick a nickname by selecting the Name/URL option, or at least sign off your comment with one! I will delete comments I find objectionable or needlessly inflammatory. Sorry for the word verification.... OMG the spam has gotten BAD these past 12 months... trying to avoid making one log in...