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Saudi Women Use Media to Make a Change

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In Saudi Arabia, women are being trapped into a system of guardianship that states that a male relative – a father, husband, brother or son – has the legal right to control a woman’s movements, even decide if she is allowed to go outside of her own home, which requires a male companion in company.

Because of the legally enforced patriarchal society, many women are speaking out and trying to promote change through the internet.

A campaign has been started among Saudi women who have begun broadcasting videos from their cell phones and posting them to Facebook and Twitter to gain awareness and organize protests. These tech-savvy women have captured serious events in their own lives and posted them for the world to see in order to gain exposure for their message.

Just last week, Dina Ali Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman, posted a video of her situation. She had tried to flee from her home in Saudi Arabia to get to Australia against the wishes of her father. The Saudi Arabian authorities stepped in to ask the Philippine officials to detain her while her uncles flew to take her back. During her detainment, Lasloom borrowed a phone from a Canadian woman and recorded her cry for help.

She told the viewers, “If my family comes, they will kill me. If I go back to Saudi Arabia, I will be dead.” Shortly after she was seen with her mouth taped shut and her arms and legs bound as she was dragged towards a flight that would take her back to Saudi Arabia.

Ahmed Benchemsi, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, recently commented on the situation, “Cases like Dina’s case are the direct result of a system that keeps women in a perpetual state of being a minor.”

Benchemsi’s statement accurately likens women of all ages in Saudi Arabia to minors, who are legally regarded as the responsibility of their parents. These women stay in this state, bound to the men in their lives to tell them where they can go and when.  

Moudi al-Johani was surprised at the overwhelming response from women in Saudi Arabia sharing their own stories. “I’m very impressed; a few years ago I thought I was the only one who thought this way.”

Because the legal system in Saudi Arabia enforces the mistreatment of women, it could be easy to feel isolated and strange to hope for anything different. With the use of the Internet and social media, however, women are able to stand in solidarity and express their discontent on a worldwide stage.

Ms. Johani was held at her home against her will for months after returning from Florida on break from university. Her father was apparently angered by her independence in her time away from home, and sought to keep her there under his thumb.

Luckily, Johani was able to make it to the United States last year where she has applied for asylum. She then became one of the first to post for the online campaign #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen, which has been trending since.

The courage of these women is astounding, as their legal system literally works against them in sometimes ruthless ways, so it is important that we show our solidarity by supporting their cause in any way we can.

 

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