Found on the Yahoo news site ...
Year after year, the 42-year-old Saudi surgeon remains single, against her will. Her father keeps turning down marriage proposals, and her hefty salary keeps going directly to his bank account.
The surgeon in the holy city of Medina knows her father, also her male guardian, is violating Islamic law by forcibly keeping her single, a practice known as "adhl." So she has sued him in court, with questionable success.
Adhl cases reflect the many challenges facing single women in Saudi Arabia. But what has changed is that more women are now coming forward with their cases to the media and the law. Dozens of women have challenged their guardians in court over adhl, and one has even set up a Facebook group for victims of the practice.
The backlash comes as Saudi Arabia has just secured a seat on the governing board of the new United Nations Women's Rights Council — a move many activists have decried because of the desert kingdom's poor record on treatment of women. Saudi feminist Wajeha al-Hawaidar describes male guardianship as "a form of slavery."
"A Saudi woman can't even buy a phone without the guardian's permission," said al-Hawaidar, who has been banned from writing or appearing on Saudi television networks because of her vocal support of women's rights. "This law deals with women as juveniles who can't be in charge of themselves at the same time it gives all powers to men."
In a recent report by the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, the National Society for Human Rights received 30 cases of adhl this year — almost certainly an undercount. A Facebook group called "enough adhl," set up by a university professor and adhl victim, estimates the number at closer to 800,000 cases. The group, with 421 members, aims at rallying support for harsher penalties against men who misuse their guardianship.
An estimated 4 million women over the age of 20 are unmarried in the country of 24.6 million. After 20, women are rapidly seen in Saudi society as getting too old to marry, said Sohila Zein el-Abdydeen, a prominent female member of the governmental National Society for Human Rights.
Fathers cite adhl for a variety of reasons — sometimes because a suitor doesn't belong to the same tribe, or a prominent enough tribe. In other cases, the father wants to keep the allowance that the government gives to single women in poorer families, or cannot afford a dowry.
Islam's holy book, the Quran, warns Muslim men not to prevent their daughters, sisters or female relatives from getting married, or else they will encourage sexual relations outside marriage. But under Saudi judges' interpretation of Islamic Shariah law, the crime can be punished by lifting the male guardianship, nothing more. Hard-line judges refuse to go even that far. The founder of the Facebook group, who introduced herself only as Amal Saleh in an interview with Saudi daily Al-Watan, said she set up the group after courts let down adhl victims. She said her family threatened her with "death and torture" when she pressed for her right to get married while she was under 30. She is now 37 and still single.
Some judges even punish the women themselves for rebelling against their fathers. In one high-profile adhl case, a young single mother, Samar Badawi, sued her father and demanded he be stripped of his guardianship. She fled her house in March 2008 and spent around two years in a women's protection house in Jeddah, waiting for the court ruling.
In April, she got it — she was sentenced to six months in prison for disobedience.
She was released in late October, under heavy pressure from local rights activists. The judge transferred guardianship to her uncle, and it is not yet clear if her uncle will let her get married. Badawi has refused to speak to the media after her release, but her lawyer, Waleed Abu Khair, said hard-line judges hate the protection shelters because they say the shelters corrupt women.
In Saudi Arabia, no woman can travel, gain admittance to a public hospital or live independently without a "mahram," or guardian. Men can beat women who don't obey, with special instructions not to pop the eye, break an arm or leave a mark on their bodies. In the Saudi public school curriculum, boys are taught how to use their guardianship rights. "Be jealous, beat her hands, protect her and achieve superiority over her," reads page 212 of the Prophet Sayings textbook for 11th grade.
The concept of guardianship is interpreted in conservative Islam as meaning that men are superior to women. Moderate Islamic schools of thought, however, see the practice as an order for men to protect women, financially, emotionally and physically.
Radwa Youssef, an activist, said the answer is not to abolish guardianship but to redefine it. Since 2009, she has collected 5,400 signatures for a campaign called "Our Guardians Know Best." She said many women who go against their male guardians' will marry the wrong men and bring shame on their families. "I see guardians as bodyguards who are serving women and protecting them; it is a responsibility, not a source of power," Youssef said. "If there is a male misusing his powers, he should be introduced to rehabilitation sessions to advise and guide him."
The Medina Surgeon, as the Saudi media tagged her, has been waiting for justice since 2006. The surgeon, who has Canadian, British and Saudi certification, filed a lawsuit to drop her father's mandate. But despite a paper trail carrying testimonies from suitors turned away by her father, bank documents that show her father taking over her salary, medical reports showing physical abuse, and the fact that her four other single sisters over 30 face the same destiny, no ruling has yet been issued. The only answer she gets from the judge is to go back to her father and seek reconciliation.
"He wants me to go to death," she told The Associated Press over the phone from Medina, speaking on condition of anonymity because she feared family retaliation. "Until when I am going to wait? ... The Prophet Muhammad himself wouldn't have allowed adhl to take place."
The surgeon lives in a "protection house," one of dozens scattered around the kingdom for victims of adhl and domestic violence. Under a fake name, she gets escorted to courts accompanied by guards, fearing retaliation from her father. She recalled her last encounter with her father inside the court: "I kissed his feet. I begged him to set me free, for the sake of God."
She turns 43 next month.
... and in The Independent, Yasmin Alibhi-Brown highlights a problem a little nearer home ...
I've been goaded into writing this column by the barbs and taunts, by the blame and racist toxins filling my inbox this week. At least they can no longer accuse me of "HIDING THE TRUTH!!!" Yes guys, you won. Have another large lager.
Most commentators intermittently get caught up in sudden and fierce squalls, usually when they've said something that upsets large sections of the public. In the age of the internet, these blowbacks have got nastier and more frequent. Sometimes you have to respond just to get your life back. It wasn't what I wrote or said this time, but what I am – or what they think I stand for, the outraged out there whose blood pressure rose perilously high last week.
Horrific sexual crimes against young girls were committed by a paedophile gang in Derby, a place I hardly know. Several gang members were convicted and sent down. These urban predators stalked and "chose" their victims, took them for ice creams and nice meals (treats some of the lasses had never had), drove them around in flash cars, handed out drink and cigarettes, drugged their trusting prey, then raped them over and over again, threatening them with hammers, and worse, if they told.
Such rings have been exposed before, and many others carry on without detection. It is the nightmare of every parent, and for the children who are brutalised it is the end of their innocence and a total desecration of their human rights. Men who destroy children for their own gratification roam streets in every land.
The Derby gang was all Asian except for one seasoned white abuser. Most of the Asians were Muslim Pakistanis and – apart from a few Asian and mixed-race girls who fell into their nets – their victims were almost all white. Because I am Asian and "a fucking Muslim" and the rapists were my people committing a "Paki" crime against white females, I am guilty too, apparently, part of the evil posse.
The English Defence League and British National Party have draped bunting and bright lights around the story, the nation's virtue penetrated and torn by rapacious migrants and their sons. Two days after the Derby case, another such network was exposed – of white men in Cornwall who plucked white girls to groom, violate and control. Was theirs a lesser crime? No. It's naked racism to believe that sex assaults on white women by black or Asian men are more depraved and animalistic than those carried out by white men, who presumably remember to say "please" and "thank you" before and after.
But when I ask myself was a greater crime committed by the Asian molesters, the honest answer has to be yes. Conscientious Asian community activists in Derby have said that these criminal acts were nothing to do with race or religion. The perpetrators were bad men who did terrible things. That is surely self-delusion or a cover-up.
The official inquiry into the case concluded that the care agencies were ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the abuse being perpetrated by the gang. But it also concluded that there needs to be an honest national conversation about how exploitation in some places intersects with "culture, ethnicity and identity".
Let's begin then. Because without such an open conversation, prejudices fester and millions of Britons come to believe that serious offenders from certain ethnic and religious groups have protected status within our country.
The Cornwall and Derby villains who used girls as sex toys believed that their victims had "asked for it", which in our permissive age is an easy excuse. Very young girls are sexualised in the social environment, so paedophiles must feel they are only helping themselves to the goodies that are on offer. But in the case of the Asian men, disgusting cultural beliefs further validate their acts and their uncontrollable lechery is, in part, a symptom of repressed sexuality and sick attitudes.
Most Asian men do not go around raping young white girls and women; many have happy and equal relationships with white partners. However, an alarming number of Asian individuals, families and communities do believe that white females have no morals, are free and available, deserving of no respect or protection.
Up in Bradford a few years back, I met Muslim pimps, some wearing mini Koran pendants on heavy, gold chains. "Not our girls," they reassured me, "just them white girls from the estates, cheap girls. They love it man, all the money they make! What else will they do with their lives? We're helping them make a career."
Much laughter, until I asked them what they would do if a white pimp groomed their daughters. They would kill the pimp and the girls too, they said. They would too.
Then there was an 18-year-old white boy from Manchester who said he was lured and raped at the age of 10 by an Asian scoutmaster and his Muslim mates, who would, in public, hysterically denounce homosexuality. The double standards enable the Asian rapists to feel good, and that makes it doubly bad. Convenient myths of uprightness help hide the rape within their families too – which is why barely anyone ever reports it. The final insult is the veil of religious hypocrisy, already evident in the pimps above. Muslims and Sikhs make much public noise about the importance of religion and its intrinsic goodness. Islam and Sikhism do give women some important rights, but these are devalued in real life on a daily basis.
When deeds destroy professed religious principles, when nefarious abusers claim to be true worshippers, people rightly feel more animus and deeper repugnance. That is why paedophile Catholic priests arouse such fury. What abominable secrets and lies nestle beneath the sheets of godly and "ethnic" self-righteousness!
The injuries suffered by child victims are not determined by race or religion, but their sense of injustice is understandably much greater when their fiendish attackers believe themselves to be morally superior and therefore entitled to corrupt young flesh.
Listen to Miranda, now in her twenties, who was repeatedly raped by a British Asian pimp in Rotherham. She was also abused by her own dad when she was 11 : "Ahmed told me I was making him do it because I was sinful, not a true believer. That he would never do it if I was a Muslim. My dad would cry afterwards. I hate them both, but Ahmed was worse".
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