Inside the Saudi kingdom, there are 13 provinces. Hail is one of the more conservative provinces, and represents the agricultural centre of the nation. Women are not encouraged to speak on camera, according to the local culture. Other provinces include Jouf, Tabuk, Qasim, Madinah (the sacred site where the Prophet Muhammad received his revelation which became the Quran), Mecca, the other sacred area in Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh, the capital city, in a nation that is about the size of Europe.
In the town hall, or amara, men and women can both petition the province’s governor, who is a member of the Royal Family, but they do so in separate buildings because of the Islamic rule against mixing of men and women in public.
A husband can divorce a woman through the courts at his own instigation; however, a woman cannot. Women, instead of going directly to the courts, go to a council of twelve women, who then in turn go to the courts with the woman’s desire for a divorce, for example.
Democracy is effectively served by this ability that citizens of Saudi Arabia have to talk directly with the governors. Although the mechanism is different for men and women, the system is there to help both genders.
Executions take place fairly regularly in Saudi Arabia, depending on one’s perspective. There were 156 in Saudi Arabia in 2007, two of which were in Hail. Most of the public supports the principle of executions in accordance with sharia law. Executions occur after three thefts, and the thefts must be witnessed. 18 judges examine each case on its individual merits. In the case of a sin like adultery, it is almost impossible to prove. There need to be 4 witnesses in order for an execution to take place.
The Shoura, a political advisory council, now includes people who are not members of the Royal Family. King Abdullah began his reign in 2002, and is progressive in his approach to Saudi affairs. For more details on King Abdullah’s reforms, please read my blog at https://jaclynhollandstrauss.com/2013/01/12/saudi-arabias-king-abdullah-what-is-he-doing-with-regard-to-womens-rights/.
One of the advances for women that they now enjoy in Saudi Arabia is the possession of their own identity card, rather than merely being listed on their male guardian’s family document. They can now prove their own identity as an individual. This has to be done with the guardian’s permission, however, and, of course, the guardian is male. Because of the identity card, Saudi women are now able to open their own personal bank accounts, etc.
Women are becoming allowed, more and more, to work alongside men in professional work, even in religious families. News anchors are permitted to be unveiled in some cases. The advantage to this for Saudi Arabia is it enhances their domestic labour force, and reduces Saudi influence on foreign workers.
Saudi leaders are focusing more and more attention on education, because through developing a professional generation of future workers, the hope is that there will be less of a reliance on wealth from oil.
The subject of marriage is very interesting in Saudi Arabia. Young men prefer not to meet the women they are going to marry before the ceremony because they figure that if the woman is willing to meet them, she will meet with a lot of different men, and the potential groom will lose interest. Another issue of concern for young men is the dowry that they must pay to their bride’s father. One young man who was interviewed for this video lamented the fact that it takes six years to pay off the dowry, which is very expensive.
A balance is being sought by Saudis interested in reform between young women and older, more conservative men. Change is slow and gradual. Saudis want to be more like Westerners in some ways, but not all ways. They want to cooperate, to be partners, but not fall prey to the same evils that are in the West.
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