The Oppression of Saudi Arabian Women

I have a student — a young woman — from Saudi Arabia.  The first day she showed up in class wearing traditional headdress.  Then I never noticed her again, because she changed her style of dress.

She showed up in my office after missing the first midterm, telling me a horrible story.  I had trouble understanding everything, so I probably have some of the facts mixed up.

She had been missing class because some of the young Saudi men had been harassing her.  She explained that she had won a scholarship.  Apparently, she committed a grave crime.  She was not allowed to come to this country without a male guardian.  Her father gave him permission, but the government told him that that was not his choice.  Her brothers did not want to accompany her, but she came anyway.

She did not come from a wealthy family and felt like she had earned her scholarship.

On the campus, from what I understand, many of the young Saudi men like to party, but uphold strict moral standards for women.  Because my student did something unthinkable, they harassed her, threatened to cause trouble for her family, and reported her to the Saudi government — which demanded that she return to her homeland.

We have a wonderful new Pakistani professor to whom I introduced my student, suggesting that the professor would be more understanding of her situation and knowing that she could open up more easily to a woman.  Afterwards, the professor asked me if I knew what was happening to the student.  I replied that I was aware of the harassment.  She shook her head and said, “Oh, no.”  Even before as anything, she explained that she could not tell me the specifics but they were more troubling than what I had known.

Toward the end of the semester, she told me that her father was coming to retrieve her before the end of classes.  She explained that she was going to be put into some sort of institution to reform her unreligious behavior.

I put her in touch with her congressman, Wally Herger, a nice guy, but ultraconservative.  Surprisingly, his office seem to have registered a complaint that made it to the Saudi government, leading to a letter telling a student should not have to return right away.

Again, I repeat that I may not have all the facts correct.

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