Thursday, July 31, 2008

Letters to the Editors

Some voices from this side of the world... Letters which I should have pointed out, and didn't...

From Arab News this past Sunday several writers in response to crimes against housemaids, specifically this:

D.D. in Jeddah, "Kathmandu should train maids before sending them to the Kingdom." Train them for what? How to behave during a gang rape? Please, take some serious action to put an end to such crimes. Implement Shariah law and punish the guilty. All these problems will vanish."

Khaled Abdullah in Jeddah, "The crimes are occurring on a "more frequent basis" now simply because the guilty are not being caught and punished. Why would not they be encouraged to commit crimes if they knew that they had nothing to fear from the authorities?

Has the lack of action by the authorities got anything to do with what seems to be the generally accepted view in the country that maidservants, foreigners in particular, are fair game for Saudi males - that they are there to be used at will, to be worked to death, assaulted and tortured? The action taken by the authorities and even by the courts when cases of abuse are brought to light lend credence to this view. In too many cases which Arab News has reported in detail, it was the victim who was punished. By the time the case ended, the aggrieved party turned out to be the rapist and torturer whose reputation was alleged to have been "tarnished." Evidently, the flaw is not just in the authorities. It is in this society.

Any society that believes that what is violated in a case of rape is not the victim's honor, but the rapist's reputation, is sick. There can be no values in such societies."

Sandy Mitchell of Jeddah, "Why is that rape of Asian housemaids has become so endemic in the Kingdom, and yet prosecutions for these barbaric crimes are so rare? When rapists of housemaids have their identity protected, so that their families are not embarrassed, it is as good as encouraging them to keep committing the crime. The reason for the widespread incidence of the crime is simple: There is no protection for maids either in the Saudi legal system or in Saudi society because there is no accountability for men who consider maids to be no better than slaves. Even though slavery was abolished in the Kingdom some time ago, one has only to investigate the cases of runaway maids lodged in female prisons or in the sanctuaries for abused maids to know that the crime of slavery still goes on, and that the rapists who should pay with their lives are going unpunished."

On traveling through airports, here:

S. Gupta of Ras Tanura, "The letter "Unpleasant experience" by "A Bangladeshi" (July 20) expressed the feelings of most expatriates who have passed through Saudi airports. I myself experience the same rough treatment by the airport staff at the check-in counters of Dammam airport when I travel. They get irritated whenever anybody approaches them for any help. As a person who has traveled widely, I know that it is not so in other parts of the world. For instance, take Dubai airport. Officials there, all of them, are so well-behaved and courteous that they make you feel that you are home, among your own people.

If Dubai can, why not Dammam? There is no difference between them. They have the same language, culture, religion, climate etc., etc. I care about Dammam's reputation because, as a long-time resident of the area, I consider the place my second home, and it hurts me to hear its facilities criticized."

I won't travel in and out of Dammam airport. I would much rather be inconvenienced in time and expense and travel out of Bahrain. The few times I have had to fly in through Dammam having my luggage examined and emptied out while Customs determines that there really is nothing more than dirty laundry and shoes packed in my suitcases just makes me feel violated. [Exactly why do you think you have those x-ray machines - when you are going to search my luggage by hand, anyway?] And getting through the lines - what lines??? NO ONE HERE KNOWS HOW TO PROPERLY WAIT IN A LINE!!! in Dammam is a nightmare. Airport officials stand around and do nothing whatsoever to prevent the chaos. Nope. I will continue flying out of Bahrain unless is it absolutely impossible to do so.

In response to this, Sameer Bijlana of Riyadh, "I am ashamed to say that, for the most part, we Muslims don't follow the basic rules of Islam such as honesty, hard work, keeping promises etc., while non-Muslims do. And yet, we look down upon non-Muslims and Westerners because they are not Muslims despite the fact that many of them are much more "Muslim" than we are - far more committed to moral values and with stronger work ethics.

In most Muslim countries, those with power and influence can easily flout the law and brag about it without suffering consequences while, in most non-Muslim countries, such things do not happen as often. The reason is that they follow the rule of law. Their actions are judged by the law, not by connections."

From yesterday's paper, Fatima of Jeddah, "May I ask, “Why can we not have fitting rooms in dress shops? What harm can be done by having them?” Women are using public toilets to try on clothing in order to avoid endless trips to the same shop to exchange them. Last week it took me three trips to finally get the clothes I wanted. And, as you know, I could not just hop on the bus or drive myself there. I had to persuade my husband to take me. The solution seems so simple, yet so hard."

Boy is she spot on, there! I've wondered for the last five-plus years why there are no fitting rooms - oh, sure, there is the odd fitting room here and there - or a broom closet - but there are no fitting rooms as a general rule.


  1. I've never had a bag searched in Dammam. I've used the airport locally and for a few international flights. I don't like it cause it is so far out and just seems to dead all the time. They don't even have a good place to wait and eat. They need that airport in Jeddah which is a disaster zone

    And I will NEVER NEVER NEVER use a changing room here if they had them. The perverts are out in the malls daily, imagine if they knew women were naked in a store changing. They wouldn't have black market wedding tapes, they would have black market changing room tapes. NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!

  2. You are lucky then, Nz. Every bag I've ever brought through Dammam has been emptied!

    As for changing rooms - well that is a point I certainly hadn't considered! Note to self: DO NOT USE changing rooms, here, ever!

  3. A bit of logic (if there is such a thing here)... cut off a hand if caught stealing, cut off a head if caught murdering, cut off a penis is caught raping.
    That would put an end to it I would think.

  4. They do the first two - cutting off hands and heads, AIO - think you're right on the money with cutting off a man's penis if he rapes someone. That WOULD be a deterrent!


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