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« News from London Village, Englandshire: Taking Liberties, Talking Libraries | Main | Saudi update: I'm goin' »

November 18, 2008


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Just one more perspective..

If you decide to go, could you write about the experience? I don't just mean for a blog, could you get your story published? Your description (via collegue) of the conference is fascinating, and I'm sure it would be enlightening, of general interest, and allow you to show more people another aspect of Saudi Arabia.

You might even find, if you discuss it with them beforehand, that you could get a piece in the Guardian or another newspaper..

I'm sure you could make points about the society and how it treats women in such a piece.

Phil Barker

"Try Googling "Saudi Arabian feminist" to try to find individual feminists or feminist groups. Marvel at the total of six hits returned"

Seven hits now. :-)

This is fascinating reading. I've no advice for you whatsoever (text3 seemed to sum it up for me) but am looking forward to finding out what you decide. See you next week, Phil.

Morag Eyrie

@Calum Thanks for that Calum, it's a good thought. I will at the very least blog on my experiences if I go.

However, having recently read quite a few feminist blogs by women of colour, particularly Arab and Muslim women's blogs (I will look them out again tonight and link to them), I think the last thing Saudi women need or want is another western woman getting paid to give great insights into their world. I think if there was some way I could support some women there in getting their views published over here (perhaps anonymously if they preferred) that might be the way to go.

But it may all be a moot point as I am leaning toward not going. I was viscerally remembering last night how it felt to be in Egypt- and Saudi Arabia would be so much worse, because if anything did happen, the Saudis are beholden to noone- they would not listen to the British government, or to the American government (I am a US citizen), or to the New Zealand government (citizen there too). I didn't post a link in the above article to a blog I read recently because I couldn't find it again (why didn't I bookmark it? damn..), but the general gist was: businesswoman travels to Saudi Arabia on business (I think from the US), the male business partner who was to meet her at the airport was late, she was arrested for being a woman-without-male-owner-in-tow, had no way of contacting her business partner, was strip-searched and put in jail.

Of course, some of my friends have risked a lot more to do what they think is right; but I am not yet clear that what I am doing is definitely of enough benefit to be worth the risk.

Morag Eyrie

@ Phil Barker I am enjoying the fact that you agree with text3 - another way I have privately categorised responses is by star sign and you've picked the comment by my one Cancerian friend (which was echoed last night on the phone by another Cancer friend who hasn't been privy to any of this). Am chuckling because I *know* you will hate me saying this, but since I ditched the "Astrology: Metadata for the Soul" blog idea, I will have occasional such outbursts on this one. Cancers err toward safety, and toward being protective of their friends as well.

Anyway, I'm shooting myself in the foot here, because I'm so thrilled you stopped by and commented and I shouldn't be doing stuff that will prevent future occurrences. It's my Pisces with Leo rising again- blurting out what I shouldn't.

Lorna M. Campbell

Hi Sarah,

Haven't had a chance to read right through your post but here's my tuppence... I worked in Jordan as an archaeologist many years ago and loved it. The people were amazingly hospitable and I came away with a real love for that part of the world. I never felt threatened even when there were guns around. Having said that, Saudi is a completely different kettle of fish. My gut reaction would be to refuse as the Saudi regime is truly insidious. However it's also true that every opportunity for female voices to be heard should help to advance the cause equality. Can you make a stronger statement by going or by staying??


A. Moon

As a bit of a diversion to the main question, my pondering has led me to an observation that, it seems the last conference did push the issue of integrating men and women, and in requesting a female representative to speak to the women separately, it reinforces that divide again. To have separate events for both, in some ways, it does seem like a step backwards.
This leads me to wonder why this has been requested this time around. Is the teaching for the women to be 'censored' or different in some way?. I think it would be an interesting question to know what, exactly, is expected of you, and how heavily what you plan to speak about will be monitored or edited, and if the same attention is paid to your male counterpart. I cannot help but have a large dose of concern, considering the extreme measure that are taken against anyone who crosses cultural lines, especially in this case with regard to the rights of women.
Ultimately, I would worry that what you are going to do could be so heavily controlled and policed, that you may potentially be putting yourself in danger purely for the purpose of a political box ticking exercise. Conversely, if the event is a genuine opportunity to speak freely to women and offer them real steps towards learning and opportunity, then, putting my personal fears for your safety (I know you are a sensible and capable woman) aside, I cannot think of a better woman to inspire, and deliver that!

Morag Eyrie

@Lorna I think by not going I would indeed be "making a statement"- one that noone would really hear or care about (as it's not part of an international boycott or other action). At the moment I would probably be doing my employers a disservice if I made a big hoohah about it (which is a whole other issue to do with being caught up in the middle of the capitalist workforce here). By going the statement could be read as "Look, some western women don't have a problem with Saudi, they come here and work with us". So my basic premise would be going purely for the opportunity to meet some Saudi women working in my field, and make personal connections with them that could be continued into the future, and swallowing the rest of it.

Thanks for coming by and posting! :-)

Morag Eyrie

@A. Moon Hi there! Thanks for posting, really pleased I've got actual comments from actual people!

Re the conferences- both the last one and this one are the same- they have men and women at the conference, but completely segregated within the conference. Didn't explain very well methinks.

It's an excellent point however re whether I would be censored and restricted in any way. I don't know, but I don't think so in terms of my workshop presentation- it would be a pretty value-neutral thing on repositories and learning objects. I could throw in some cheeky examples of things of course ;-) . What I do wonder is if I would be able to chat freely in the social events with any woman who is there or if I would be "shepherded" if you like.

I've also heard that the reason the Saudi government is pouring a lot of money into new universities and e-learning within Saudi is that they want an educated population (the elites anyway, not the poor) but they want to educate them within their religious restrictions- so segregated classes, etc. Not clear how much of what I would be doing would be supporting that- and am also in two minds about it, because on the surface it looks wrong, wrong, wrong, but I also think it may give more opportunities in Saudi for people to get together, learn, talk, think- and, try as any government likes to suppress that, and the results of that, you just can't in the end.

Anyway, more excellent food for thought there folks- keep em coming! :-)

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