The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.
In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Sometimes I receive emails from expatriates telling me of their experiences in Saudi. I've published one from"David" below, unedited apart from the occasional explanation. It's not particularly unusual. I've seen better, I've seen worse.
My story is just one slightly sad story out of hundreds of sad stories, as you know a hell of a lot sadder than mine.
I worked for one of the minor princes, as it turns out he was an absolute gentleman, a genuine Muslim and I had the greatest respect for him and his family. I made him a promise when I first arrived that I would never compromise his or his families safety. Ultimately one of the Sheiks who looked after his business put me in a position where I could no longer keep that promise, so I resigned and went to work for Aramco (the Saudi Oil company).
My wife, whom I met in Saudi, is a Filipino, and worked for twenty years at a Government hospital. We had to be very careful as you are aware, because we could not legally marry, as she was married in the Philippines and there is no divorce there, we even thought of converting to Islam just to make us legal and safe. One of her friends, also a Filipino, a doctor who was employed as a nurse on a nurse's salary, then used as a consultant specialist on a fraction of the salary she should have been paid, made a stupid mistake. She accepted a ride back to her hospital from another where she was consulting, got busted by the muttawa in company with an Air force general. You know the penaltyfor that. My wife got her sprung from Al Malaz (the Riyadh prison) into the custody of the hospital but still facing jail time and flogging. In desperation I passed her details to Amnesty. Wrong move. General got all upset even though I never used his name, and we had to do a runner with the muttawa snapping at our heels. I've heard since that the doctor had to marry the General to avoid the punishment, he now enjoys her salary, her family in the Philippines is starving and she shows up to work looking like a punching bag.
I lived in a closeted Westerner world in Saudi until I met my wife, I had no idea of the dark side. A few visits to safe houses for runaway maids and hearing their pitiful stories absolutely shocked me, I had no idea. My friend I hope and pray that your courageous stand, using humor and satire will jog your countrymen out of their 14th century mindset and learn to treat their fellow human beings with the respect they demand for themselves. Incidently, after twenty years of faithful service, the Government refused to pay my wife her entitlements according to the labour law, over thirty thousand dollars, to a prince not even tip money, but to her retirement money. From what I have learned, standard practice with Filipino staff. If you can't trust the Government to abide by their own laws who can you trust?
I have no means of validating David's story, but I know from personal knowledge that it's not out of the ordinary, there is nothing surprising about it. Often people have bad experiences when going to work in a strange country, but Saudi Arabia seems to give "bad experience" a whole special meaning, especially to those from the Third World. And of course, without a free press, these experiences are usually just the stuff of rumor, not public record.