Saturday, October 25, 2008

2008 : Women’s Year in Saudi Arabia?

Saqi, the UK’s largest publisher on Middle Eastern and Arabic titles made another success with one more “scandalous Saudi writer”. Although her short book (77 pages) has not being received as a masterpiece, Samar al-Muqrin’s Nisâ’ al-munkar (something like "Reprobate Women": the title alludes in Arabic to the famous local moral police) has become a best-seller in the Arab world.

Another success story which is obviously linked to the fact that the novel, like Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh before (see previous post), tackles important issues for many Arab women (and men).

Various decisions have been taken during the last months in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in support of the women’s rights like the opening in Riyadh of a hotel reserved to women, something which makes travelling easier for them. Going alone to an academic library has also become easier for female Saudi students.

In Western eyes, those little “victories” could even be misunderstood. For instance, the right for Saudi women to give finger prints instead of photography for their ID could be interpreted as another step back in order to comply with outdated traditions. But in fact the new regulation aims at helping women’s right especially in courts.

It is the same thing with the highly discussed legislation which asks every owner of a shop specialised in lingerie to hire female employees, a step toward larger job opportunities for women which is backed by local women associations which has raised the idea of boycotting the shops not compelling with the new regulation.

Recently, new professions have been opened to Saudi women in various professional fields. In fact, such a move from the authorities has become almost a necessity since the young Saudis women are more and more educated. In fact, many of them are already turning to neighbouring countries, like Kuwait and Bahrein, in order to find jobs in line with their professional skills.

Following the path opened by the first pioneers who have already taken high positions in some Gulf governments and administration, the Saudi women seem to be ready to “leave the man’s abayya” (the traditional masculine coat).

As usual, the link to the more developed post in French. Illustration from, a very interesting site dedicated to literature (in arabic).

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