The 8 Best Books on Women’s Rights in Saudi ArabiaMarch 18 , 2018
Women are fighting for equality all over the world, and are up against many different forms of oppression. But some of the most extreme examples of this can be found in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has been particularly slow to grant basic rights to women, dragging their collective feet as societies around them move forward. Here are eight books that discuss the many causes and effects of the legal policies and societal pressures that hold women back in the country.
The 8 Best Books About Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia
|1.||A Most Masculine State||Madawi Al-Rasheed||Gender, politics, and religion in Saudi Arabia|
|2.||Princess||Jean Sasson||The life of a royal Saudi Arabian woman|
|3.||Daring to Drive||Manal al-Sharif||How the author stood up to an unjust law|
|4.||Price of Honor||Jan Goodwin||Interviews with women from 10 Islamic countries|
|5.||Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom||Ensaf Haidar & Andrea Claudia Hoffmann||A political refugee tells the story of her husband's imprisonment|
|6.||Girls of Riyadh||Rajaa Alsanea & Marilyn Booth||A fictionalized account of four Saudi women's quest for freedom and fulfillment|
|7.||Running for All the Right Reasons||Ferial Masry||The biography of an Saudi-born American politician|
|8.||Veiled Atrocities||Sami Alrabaa||True stories of oppression in Saudi Arabia|
How Women Are Fighting Back
Some female Saudi Arabians flee their country in order to seek freedom elsewhere. Others are determined to make life better for themselves and their fellow citizens by changing the policies in their homeland. Many activists engage in political protests, raising their voices against a government that treats them as second-class citizens. Others choose to speak through the abstract lens of art, from drawings and paintings to poetry and prose. Still others take to social media, spreading hashtags to raise awareness of their cause not only in their home country, but around the world.
Timeline of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been known for being rigid when it comes to women. Stern policies and male tutelage over them continue to restrict so many aspects of their existence. The following books can give us a thorough look into the lives of the country's female population.
The first is entitled "A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics and Religion in Saudi Arabia." It was written by Madawi Al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the LSE Middle East Centre. She specializes in the history, politics, and society of Saudi Arabia.
The book is an expository writing about the real factors that result in the women in the nation being treated as inferior to men. It also debunks false ideas that gender discrimination is purely associated with religion.
In her work, Al-Rasheed was able to thoroughly analyze the status of Muslim ladies and break the relationship between religious devotion and political modernization. She stressed the essential role of the state at a time when Islamic extremism was accused of undermining the gains of the females' emancipation.
The second is called "Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia," a literary work by Jean P. Sasson. It is the first of her "Princess Trilogy." Jean is an American writer whose masterpieces mainly talk about Middle Eastern women.
The novel describes the extent of oppression of ladies in the Kingdom - from physical maltreatment to emotional abuse. In addition, it reveals that being part of the upper-class does not make much of a difference.
Although fictitious names were used, the circumstances surrounding the characters are based on the real-life account of a female Saudi royalty, whom Sasson named as "Sultana" throughout her series. The book became a New York Times Best Seller for thirteen weeks.
The third is Manal Al-Sharif's "Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening." Al-Sharif is a known activist in the Middle East.
It is an account of personal experiences which the author went through in her campaign for ladies' access to mobility. Manal discussed in details how she started and triumphed with her cause on social media using #Women2Drive. With the help of Wajeha Al-Huwaider, a fellow militant, she was able to film her act of driving a car. The video was then posted on Facebook and YouTube, and gained thousands of views. For this reason, Al-Sharif was detained several times.
However, many people supported her efforts and made petitions addressed to King Abdullah. In September 2017, the new monarch Salman issued a statement acknowledging the right of Saudi females to drive.
The fourth is called "Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World." It is a non-fiction prose was written by Jan Goodwin, an American investigative journalist, and author. Her works usually concentrate on conflict, war, and women's issues.
The book is a graphic compilation of the writer's interviews of different Muslim ladies regarding the effects of extremism in their lives. She decided to conduct an investigation among female followers of the religion when she learned about the disturbing abuse of her nine-year-old friend living in Peshawar. However, Jan did not focus on Saudi Arabia alone. She traveled to many Islamic countries to survey hundreds of women from all aspects of life.
Goodwin's work was named as a New York Times notable book and is required reading in colleges across the United States.
The sixth book is entitled "Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story." It was penned by Ensaf Haidar, in collaboration with political editor Andrea Claudia Hoffmann. Haidar is an Arab human rights advocate living in Quebec.
Published in 2015, it is a first-person account of Ensaf's romance with her online activist husband, Raif Badawi, and how their love survived in spite of the odds. She also talks about the biggest challenge in their relationship - Badawi's imprisonment in 2012 due to several charges, including apostasy. As a result, the author was forced to migrate to Canada together with their son and two daughters.
In 2013, the Canadian government granted them political asylum. Since then, Ensaf has been fighting for her spouse's freedom from the 1000 lashes designated to him. She aims to spread awareness of her partner's story as well.
The sixth is called "Girls of Riyadh," a work of fiction written by Rajaa Alsanea, a dental graduate student turned writer. It is portrayed as an email correspondence among best friends Sadeem, Michelle, Lamees, and Gamrah. They are four female university students who are born into wealthy families. They have the opportunity to travel and explore the Western culture. But despite their financial condition, the quartet sees the misogynistic reality of Muslim traditions and how it has greatly affected their relationships with their respective lovers.
The book became a bestseller across the Middle East, even though it was banned by the Arab government because of its explicit and seditious content. Its English version is widely available in American and European stores.
The seventh is entitled "Running for all the Right Reasons: A Saudi Born Woman's Pursuit of Democracy." It is an autobiography of Ferial Masry, the first Arab-American to run for political office in the United States.
It records the author's life in chronological order, from her younger years in Mecca to her travels in other countries, then her decision to move to America, her progress as an educator and her fearless debut into the government.
In her narrative, Ferial exposes the Westerners' false perception that Muslim women are weak and subjugated. She also expounds her deep understanding of both Western and Middle Eastern culture and how a female leader like her can heal the rift between the US and the Arab world.
The last book is called "Veiled Atrocities: True Stories of Oppression in Saudi Arabia." This was written by former Muslim believer Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an Islam-Arab culture expert and sociology professor.
This prose elaborates 18 different types of human rights violations experienced by various individuals. It also depicts how the Arab monarchs create and execute laws based solely on Shariah, thus immediately condemning accused people without proper legal proceedings.
Literature and activism have become vital instruments in improving the status of female rights in the Arab nation. The changes in policies may not be immediate, but a brighter future can be seen ahead for Saudi women.
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