Accounts of women’s cicumstances in Saudi Arabia are often conveyed via a third party; whether it is an NGO or news network, the voices of the women at the heart of the subjugation are stifled.
That is, in essence, the very objective – and result – of a patriarchal-based society.
Until now that is, as a remarkable woman has seized what is fast emerging as woman’s best tool in the fight for rights and used it to transform her plight into a pressing cause and an indictment on the system that is oppressing untold numbers of women.
Originally from Egypt, Heba Najeeb (27) relocated with her family to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The move was to prove disastrous: as her father became increasingly absorbed by Wahhabism, so too did the liberties formerly accorded to Heba and her mother decline:
I started to lose my freedom day after day too. I’m followed and watched by my own father around the clock. I’m no longer his daughter, I’m his prisoner. I have been fighting him hard but no use in a country gives all the power to a man to control women under the name of religion.
When my father felt that I might try to escape and go back to Egypt, he took my passport away from me. He deprived me from my right to leave. My struggle to survive became even harder and I started to hate my father after that incident.
I’m stuck in this horrible country which destroyed my love that I used to have for my father. I have been held in Saudi Arabia against my well for three years now. My father applied the Saudi male guardianship system on me and the Saudi authorities backed him up.
Despite petitioning the Egyptian Embassy, a Saudi Arabian human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, the UNHCR and even the police, no action has been taken to assist Heba in her right to return home to Egypt:
Every person I called told me that I can’t leave Saudi Arabia without male guardian permission and the visa document, that’s the Saudi law. But my guardian is my jailer, how can I get permission from him? I keep saying to them I’m not a Saudi woman why do I have to go by the Saudi law.
I’m still looking for a way out. I have not lost hope. But I’m worn out. I grow sadder and sadder every day when I see my youth and my life are going to be wasted in Saudi Arabia.
Heba’s case is an utter travesty: as she states, she is a prisoner; but not only a prisoner of her father, but of a tyrannical state that fails to equate women as human beings.
In effect, Heba is being held as though she is chattel.
She is not giving up, however, and we can only hope that her tenacity results in her freedom and not, as our frequent posts suggest, in another fatality.