Rights: Home and Abroad

Summer is here, and thousands of Saudis are getting ready to depart the country to spend their vacations away from the insane heat. Swine flu has certainly affected tourism around the world, but some people insist that they won’t let infectious diseases and global pandemics ruin their holidays. “I’d rather die of Swine flu somewhere nice than die of this hot weather in Riyadh,” a friend of mine half-jokingly said a couple of weeks ago.

With the large numbers of Saudi nationals traveling, the Ministry of Foreign affairs issued information guidelines of the varying nature of legal procedures abroad and how best to protect their rights when traveling or studying outside the Kingdom. The guidelines advise Saudis involved in legal cases to only speak in the presence of a lawyer and ensure attendance at court hearings to avoid in absentia rulings.

Sound advice, no doubt, and it is a commendable effort by the foreign ministry. But this piece of advice should also apply equally to citizens inside the country, and it is important that people here know their rights before the law. Unfortunately, little has been done to promote these rights among citizens. I believe that the government is responsible for protecting their citizens abroad and home alike.

Worth mentioning here is the Know Your Rights series published by the National Society of Human Rights. I personally don’t leave the house without a copy of this Rights of the Suspect (PDF) booklet. An English version of the booklet is available here (RTF).

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Saudi Art comes to Venice

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Remember Edge of Arabia? The Saudi contemporary arts pioneering exhibition that took place in London last year is going to Italy, where Saudi artists will present their work during the 53rd Venice Biennale, the most prestigious art event in the world. It is the first time that Saudi Arabia will have a presence there, and I’m really proud of the young team behind this. The exhibition started yesterday and will be open until August 2nd. So if you are in Europe or will be there this summer, I highly encourage you to check it out. For more info, read the press release.

On Saudi Marriages

Summertime is the preferred season for marriages in Saudi Arabia. I don’t like going to weddings but I always find myself socially obliged to attend quite a few of those between June and August every year, and this year more than before, many people who see me there ask me if I’m getting married soon. No, I say, not anytime soon. But as more and more of my peers tie the knot, the pressure from family and society as a whole increases and keeps mounting.

When friends ask what is keeping me off marriage, I give these answers:

  • I’m not ready to make that kind of commitment yet; I want to learn more about life, I want to travel and meet new people
  • I don’t like the traditional way in which people get married here; it’s blind and random and I don’t think it will work for me

The next question on people’s minds is usually this: so if you don’t like the old fashioned way of getting married, how do you intend to get married? Well, I say, I have a plan:

I would go on with my life, somewhere down the road I would meet someone, I we would get to know her each other, fall in love and marry her get married.

The reaction to my seemingly simple plan is usually: “then you will never get married.” This could be true in a sense because the extreme segregation of sexes in our society makes the chances of meeting a potential spouse pretty slim, if nonexistent. But as with many other things in the magic kingdom, I try to remain optimistic and not lose hope.

My mother, who was first shocked when I told her my plan, has recently made her peace with it. She said to me: “I’m done arguing with you about this marriage thing, so I will let you enjoy your little funky plan for now, but I’m pretty sure that in two years time you will come around begging me to find you a good girl.” I smiled and murmured: we will see…