Interview, American Woman in Saudi Arabia

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1.    Please state your name, country, and profession. If your country of origin is different from the country that you currently reside in, please elaborate.

My name is (anonymous). I am an American and I currently reside in the United States. I am a substitute teacher.

2.    Now I understand that you lived in Saudi Arabia for many years. How long were you there? What brought you to live in that country?

I lived there for 3 years between the years of 1994 and 1997. I moved there because of my husband’s job.

3.    From what you remember, how were you treated while you were there? Was it intimidating to be an American living in a Middle Eastern country?

I lived in Jeddah. It was very “throw back”. I almost felt like I was living in the 1950s. I wasn’t allowed to drive and I was forced to cover up. It was extremely frustrating.  And I could never express my frustrations; God no. Well, maybe to my husband but that would be it. Even though we lived on an American compound in the city it was a completely different way of life. I felt second rate as a woman.

4.    How were you treated as a female? What were your day to day responsibilities and what were you expected to wear?

I had to be completely covered up. I bought an abaya which covered my entire body except for my head and face. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt underneath but they didn’t need to know that. But the weather was nasty; 100 degrees in the shade. It was miserable.

5.    Can you shed light on the Guardianship Laws?

Women would never speak; no way over there. They were covered from head to toe; you could only see the eyes. It was ridiculous.

6.    How do you feel about the fact that it is illegal for a woman in Saudi Arabia to participate in physical education?

I think that it is absolutely discriminatory and it makes them feel like second rate citizens.

7.    The International Olympic Committee states that “the practice of sport is a human right”, yet the IOC has not enacted any bans on Saudi Arabia due to their violation of this policy. What are your thoughts on this issue? South Africa was banned from the games in 1964 due to their racial apartheid; would you consider the current Saudi issue to be gender apartheid?

Yes, absolutely, boot them out! Boot their boney behinds out!

8.    Is there anything else that you’d like to tell me about your experience living in Saudi Arabia?

It was just so restrictive! I couldn’t drive; my husband worked across the street and I couldn’t get in a car and go out anywhere. I was like a prisoner. We take so much for granted here all the time. I couldn’t even find simple foods I am accustomed to here in the states. If I did find the items I wanted I would pay two or three times as much over there. It’s unbelievable. Hence we only stayed 3 years; we couldn’t take it anymore! We knew people who had lived there for 20 years! Better them then me.

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