Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What IF there was a fire?

I saw this Haunted House headline in yesterday’s Arab News, and glanced at the first sentence or two,
“People living in a residential suburb of Jeddah had no doubt that the empty house in the area was haunted.”
“Strange sounds could be heard coming from the house…”
and I turned the page.

Last night I received an e-mail from a young lady telling me that she had read a story about domestic abuse that neighbors knew of but had done nothing about… I thought, “another maid has been abused,” as if so common it elicits less of a response than a yawn… Ho-hum… Not this time.

Apparently there is a woman in Jeddah who lives in a house, alone, where she has been locked in by her three brothers, because, for whatever reason, “she [can’t] live with them.” After the death of her father, five years ago, the rest of the family – these brothers – moved away. Not before, however, putting a chain on the door and bars on the windows – where this unnamed woman has since remained, as a prisoner. Umm Samar, a neighbor says that when the brothers were still living there she could hear “them beating her almost every day.”

Pardon me? Did you say you could hear this happening almost every day? And it didn't occur to you ever - not even once - to call the police or some other authority to report this?

A few generous souls, the aforementioned Umm Samar, among them, have tried to help her and “slip food to her.” Umm Samar says that last Ramadan she “received a telephone call from the woman asking if she could have some food. The poor girl told me that she was starving and that there was no food in the house, no money and worst of all she had been locked inside deliberately.”

When was Ramadan last year? Didn’t it start in October? It is now going on the end of June! Eight months have passed, and still no one has called an authority to investigate the situation of a woman who you know is locked in a house, with bars on the windows, with no way to escape and no way to communicate with the outside world?

[The phone call the young woman made to Umm Samar was done on the borrowed phone of a passer-by.]

The article says,

“The young woman, who is in her early 30s and has more gray hair than a 60-year-old, refused to talk to Arab News fearing that her brothers might harm her. It seems that she has accepted her life the way it is and is unwilling to share it with the world.”

Certainly there must be some law against imprisoning someone! Does this young woman any idea how fortunate she has been for the past five years that she has been safe and sound and that there has been no fire, or equally tragic emergency, from which she would be unable to escape? And now, now that the world does know about this – can – or will – this situation just continue on, status quo, as reported? Shouldn’t one – if not all three – of the brothers be called upon to respond to the authorities in some way? Brothers!?! What kind of “brother” would let his own sister live like this…

Umm Samar says,
“She is a good girl, we all know her but it seems she has been unlucky.”
Unlucky?!? Yeah. I'd say so...


  1. what i find unbelievable is the fact that they mention how much grey hair the woman has! who the hell gives a damn how much grey hair she has! stories like this really are something.... you just have to laugh.

    i'd think if she wasn't eating, she'd be dead. it's been several months since ramadhan and you can't go that long w/out food.

    i'd bet there's more behind this story.

  2. There is nothing funny about this story.

    This woman has been imprisoned, both by a culture that accepts this and by her family.

    The bottom line is that a woman's position in this culture is a matter of luck -- if she is "lucky" enough to be born into a good family, she can live pretty much as she chooses (see this story on Manal Quota) yet if she is "unlucky" she is well, out of luck. No one will stick up for her.

    The bottom line is that according to Sharia, she may do nothing without the permission of her mahrams, in this case, her depraved brothers.

    I hope this story gets some traction in the press, becuase the truth is that the sort of situation is much more common than anyone in KSA would like to admit.

  3. Links to Manal Quota:



  4. I agree with you tooners, more than meets the eye here! As it has been pointed out many times to us, westerners, in the R.P.'s posts etc.., the Saudis prefer to view mental illnesses, or disorders such as chronic depression, as cases of evil possession...While it is possibly a true story, it must have a strong component of family shame inbuilt, to account for the emprisonement of the woman. However, and like you, I am quite sure that she was not left wanting for basic necessities of life: food, water etc... I have read somewhere (I could be wrong but think it was in 'Princess Sultana's book) of a young woman who created a scandal on her wedding day to an old man she had seen only once: she made a huge unpleasant scene, thereby humiliating all parties involved. Her punishment was to be taken to an isolated house the family owned but never visited, and immured in a room with an opening just large enough to pass food and other necessities to her; she lost her mind over time.
    And apparently, according to the same source, this is not so unusual a manner to deal with a 'difficult' relative...
    Whatever the truth behind the walls, we know only too well the depths of misogyny into which Saudi males can sink.

  5. One thing that springs to mind is "some bloody neighbours",surley they could of aided this poor soul.
    Something tells me there is more to this if true,horrid incident.
    But as we have all said before this is the magic kingdom where anything is possible.

  6. what i find laughable is that ppl believe whatever is written. i really find it unbelievable that the go on about the color of her hair! like that matters!!

    like northern shewolf says, and as i believe, there is prob a lot more to this story. i do not believe this woman has been living w/out food and the basic necessities. maybe there's a reason she's kept this way... it needs more investigating.

    i am married to an arab man, i am in this culture, i see things that i don't agree with and i see how men are. i hear stories about abuse, i've been to talks where women talk about abuse to females in this culture and here in bahrain, and how they're not allowed to leave, get divorced and such... and i disagree w/ it. no one should be locked up or not allowed their God given rights.

    and as far as the neighbors helping, they prob can't. how can you get to someone if there is a wall around their house, the doors are locked and the windows can't be opened. the authorities should get involved, but because of certain islamic laws, the family has the final word.

    i just think there's more to this story... i know if she were being starved, she'd be dead by now. AND... ppl have been known to LIE. there's always two sides to every story.

  7. tooners, it did say that she received enough money to barely get by, and people can talk to her through the window. It also says that lights come off and on- so the electricity is being payed for. The artical is in the Arab news. But it appears that she is barely being fed, her most basic of needs are being met, and she has been locked in a house for years. And it did not say she has not ate since Ramadan, it says that is when this particular neighbor brought her food. So you are correct, it is different than you are perceiving it- the real point is, she shouldn't be there, someone should get her out- and the neighbors feeling sorry for her isn't helping her at all

  8. tooners,

    you really read the whole story at the arab news site, the entirething is pretty much spelled out.

    The neighbors have been helping her - eg, she can only make calls when a neighbor slips a cell phone through the window bars.

    Bottom line is that this is a fire in the girls school in makkaah waiting to happen. "Basic necessities" like food and water don't cut it. Even an animal needs company and comfort.


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