Opinion | Aljazeera : What it means to be a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia

Eman Alnafjan with her child.. months before her arrest

Read My first Oped on Aljazeera,

” The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in early October was meant to send a chilling message to all Saudi activists, who had managed to flee abroad. Fear has struck our community but many of us decided to remain vocal and continue campaigning against the barbaric practices of the Saudi government.

We will continue campaigning for the release of Eman despite US President Donald Trump clearly giving Saudi Arabia a pass on human rights violations. The international community must not do the same; it should take urgent action and form an independent committee under the umbrella of the United Nations that is allowed to visit political prisoners and ensure they are not mistreated. The Saudi authorities cannot be trusted with giving political prisoners a fair trial or respecting the rights of detainees.”

Here is why Saudi Arabia is arresting women’s rights activists.. updated list 7-8-2018


The headline ‘’ Women in Saudi now can drive ‘’ was all over the newspapers worldwide few months ago. It was a big news here in Italy, where I currently live as a refugee. I remember that morning very well, I was on my way to work when I met a woman who used to work for the refugee center and said ‘’ Did you read the news? Women can drive in Saudi now? Are you going back to Saudi Arabia?? ‘’. Unfortunately, the majority of people abroad are not aware of the depth of the problems Saudi women face and how shallow this ‘’ Royal decree’’ / decision to left the driving ban.

Women in Saudi not only can not drive, but they can not travel, marry or divorce, pursue education, work or get surgery done in a hospital without a consent of a male guardian. This male guardian law is more of an ownership/slavery system that gives men full power over women. Sadly, this also permits violence against women. Violence against women and girls is a major issue in Saudi Arabia. It is so common that its becoming more of a ‘’ cultural thing’’.

The ‘’ institutional discrimination ‘’against women also bans women from the right to have a safe-house or protection when escaping violence. Instead, a woman is jailed in a center until the male guardian whom also ‘’ the abuser’’ comes and pick her up. If a woman refuses to leave with him, she is to be jailed for life.   Hence, women’s right activists in Saudi Arabia  never stopped campaigning and demanding for more rights  like the right to be fully free first-class citizen like their male counterparts and for the male guardianship to be abolished.

For Saudi women the Royal decree was not enough. Women’s rights activists wanted full reforms that will grant women their full rights. Some of the activists continued to blog, others continued campaigning on social media like twitter and some created anti violence center for women escaping violence. Unfortunately, creating civil institutions to protect women escaping violence and campaigning against male guardianship laws are considered punishable crimes in Saudi Arabia.

Those women who were arrested are being accused of serious crimes such as ‘’ contact with foreign units with the purpose of undermining the country’s stability and social fabric’’ They are also being called agents and traitors to the country. In other words, spies.  Their pictures were posted on the first page of many local new sites with a big word of traitor written with red color on top.  This was done to send a message to other women’s rights activists who are part of the network.  The arrests are still ongoing. I personally have a short list of some of the women who were arrested but I am afraid the list is a lot longer.

This series of arrests targeting activists is not new in Saudi Arabia.  In 2011 many human rights activists were jailed and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences and were charged with crimes  like terrorism and apostasy. Some even received a death sentence  and executed  in a mass execution in 2016 

This regrouping and campaigning continuously to demand for women’s rights have frightened the new young Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. He is well-known for his zero tolerance toward opposition movements and social activism. Just not long ago he fearlessly arrested 500 members of the Saudi royal family including Waleed bin Talal and Mutaib bin Abdullah, the son of the late king of Saudi Arabia. For this reason, arresting women’s right activists who were bringing international attention to Saudi Arabia’s  violation of human rights against women was not that difficult for the new crown prince.

At last, I hope that Saudi women those who are still in Saudi Arabia  and those who escaped and became refugees like myself to continue blogging spreading the word until those women are released from prison.

Share this post and pass it over  so those women will not be forgotten behind bars..


Here is the list of Saudi  Women who were jailed

Some Saudi activists whom also supporters of women rights were arrested

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Modaimeegh

Abdulaziz Al-Mesha’al

Mohammad Al-Rabea

Ibrahim Fahad Al-Nafjan


Unnamed man that the state refused to release his name to the press.


It is Official! I am Now a Political Refugee In Italy

It was back in 2013 when I decided to seek asylum in Mainland China. Yes, I know mainland China is not exactly a ” pro human rights ” country but I had no other choice. I was studying and living in China at that time. I heard the news by friends who are still in Saudi that the Saudi Arabian intelligence police are starting a campaign against activists and bloggers accusing them of apostasy and terrorism to justify long prison or death sentences .  Many have been arrested with no charges or trials too! some were banned from traveling outside Saudi Arabia.. and some tried to escape and failed like Hamaza Khasghari and some made it and escaped just like me!

This Anti-activists campaign  comes as no surprise to everyone after the Arab spring, As  Saudi Arabia knew that this political chaos is sooner or later going to hit Saudi. At first, it started with high profile activists like Raif Badawi and Waleed Abukhair and Shia rebels who were protesting  in Eastern province where majority of Shiite minority lives. Then this campaign extended further more to include some other activists and  Sunni religious figures who are anti Al Saud regime.

It is difficult to tell how many have been arrested or killed since this campaign started!  many who were imprisoned did not want to make their arrest go public, as they fear that publicity will negatively affect their trial like it did with other activists before them.

One of them is a friend of mine, A.H.S whom I asked him to join me in China before its too late. Unfortunately, it was too late for him.  He was arrested and charged with apostasy. He was released not so long ago after he appealed but he is still banned from traveling out of Saudi Arabia.

Seeing the news of continuous arbitrary detention of  Saudi activists was upsetting, but what is even more upsetting was this international ” silence” that is bought by the  Saudi black gold.

All this made me reckon that staying in Saudi as an activist wouldn’t be a good idea. Thats when I decided seek asylum in China.

Not knowing how things work, I first went to the Norwegian embassy which advised me to go to UNHCR– Beijing.   I was given an appointment in 2014.  Then it took another year of intensive investigation  and extremely long very tiring and emotional interviews   before the committee of UNHCR come to their final decision which was in May 2015.

I will never forget the phone call when the a member of the UNHCR told me that my request of international protection has been approved by the committee. I was in shock, I remember I  cried and smiled at the same time upon receiving the news through the phone.

Maybe it was a combination of sadness and happiness.. knowing that this is it, a one way ticket to freedom and the no return point. I will be gaining freedom but losing family, friends and a lot more.  I must admit,  It is a very difficult compromise . I still recall Manal Al Sharif warning me saying ”Omaima, don’t burn the bridges behind you, you might want to go back”.

There were difficult times in which I had feelings of regret, self-pity and nostalgia.  For instance, the time I had a car accident in China in  April 2016 and I was  alone with an injured spinal cord. Another time when I had legal issues in Norway when I was trying to transfer my UNHCR refugee status to Norway and it didn’t work. Then when I was brought by police force to Italy and sent to a former prison that was transformed into a illegal refugee reception center! yes, Ironically My UNHCR refugee status was meaningless and useless that is  what I found out later.  Maybe I will write about those horrible experiences that I had to go through in another post.

I had to  go through the suffering again  and repeat the process in Italy, I had to go through everything from zero as if I have not done it before.  I came to Italy in the summer of 2016. and  received the news on the 10th of Nov 2017. It  took  about 15 very  long months.

As you might all know, Europe is going through refugee crisis. However, Italy along with Greece deal with the crisis the most because of the high influx of migrants coming by the sea from the Libyan shores. Italy is one of the worst countries to be refugee in. I must say being a refugee here is not a walk in the park. It takes a high threshold of patience to be able to endure all this suffering I have been through.  So Saudi activists out there be warned, the price of freedom is high. Sadly, pain, loneliness and hardship is part of it. I will be writing a post about My journey  as asylum seeker sometime in the future.

I writing this post to just happily announce that finally this very long and bitter struggle is over and My journey  has came to an end. Now with this political refugee status I can obtain a refugee travel document and legal papers that allow me to stay in Italy, travel abroad and have a normal life.


The Long Journey to Freedom

Dear Readers,

I know I have not been blogging for a while now, that is because I have been on the road looking for a country to settle in.

I obtained a refugee status (international protection) from The United Nation Office in China and went to Norway. Unfortunately and I must say unexpectedly, Norway has rejected to take my case and deported me out!

Yes, shocking isn’t?

 Hence, I am now on the road again looking for place to settle.

I am hoping that soon I will be blogging again to write about my never ending journey to freedom.




Free Loujain and Maysaa

free lujain and maysaa

It has been 2 weeks since the arrest of the Saudi activists Lojain Al Hathloul and Maysaa Al Amoudi.
Loujain was crossing the boarders of UAE/Saudi Arabia driving her own car attempting to break the driving ban in Saudi Arabia when she was arrested earlier this month.
Loujain was stopped on the boarders for over 24 hours, While Saudi Arabian officers at the boarders making phone calls trying to reach the ministry of interior affairs to report Loujain Al Hathloul.
Saudi Officers refused to let Loujain enter the country because she was driving her car. Even though, Loujain holds a valid driving license.
A Saudi officer suggested to Loujain to either go to Saudi Arabia by bus or by plane as she is not allowed to drive a car in Saudi Arabia since she is a ”woman”. Loujain who is holding a valid GCC driving license argued ” I am a Saudi citizen with a Saudi passport, and as per the law a holder of GCC driving license can drive anywhere within gulf countries ” including Saudi Arabia” as there is no exception in the law against Saudi women.
Yet, she was kept in custody in the boarders for over 24 hours and when Maysaa Al Amoudi, another Saudi activists resides in UAE came to help loujain, the police arrested her as well. Maysaa’s sister Wafa Al Amoudi posted a video asking the Saudi autorities to release both her sister and Loujain Al hathlol saying that her sister had no intention to cross the baorders, she was only bringing something to loujain when she was arrested.
The two Saudi activists have been in prison in Saudi Arabia since the 1st of Dec 2014.
Human rights Activists have started an online campaign demanding Saudi authorities to free Loujain al Hathloul and Maysaa Al Amoudi.
join the campaign on facebook or show your support to Loujain and maysaa by posting a video on youtube demanding Saudi authorities to release Loujain and Maysaa.
You had previously supported Manal Alsharif back in 2011 and your support brought the media attention to the matter and that played an important role in releasing Manal Alsharif.

So please join the ”free loujain and maysaa campaign” here!

A female student died after college authorities refused to allow male medics into the female-only campus


According to the strict Sharia law in Saudi Arabia , Men and women should not  mingle together. If unrelated woman and man found together in public or private places they would face legal punishments that can be up to  6 months in prison.

Women and men in Saudi Arabia study in gender segregated schools and universities. Yet women are still acquired to wear long dress/ long sleeve school uniforms, and over the school uniform school girls at the age or above the age of 9 ( who are in the 4th grade) must wear black Abaya, black scarf and cover their face when leaving the school.

Female schools and Universities are guarded by a guard men / security officers to make sure that women are not seeing unrelated men and are wearing the proper Islamic dress.

Last Wednesday,  a female college student in King Saud University in Riyadh died of a heart attack when the university officials barred the male paramedics from entering the girls-only college.  Amana bawzeer,  a master’s  student  at the college of social studies passed away because she did not get the proper intervention in time, Outraged students who witnessed incident tweeted.  Some have tweeted in a hashtage , ”we are blaming the college officials of Amna’s death”.

However, the Saudi local news papers are denying that Amna’s death was resulted of late intervention and said that the paramedics tried to save her life and they were not banned from entering the school.

This is not the first time that this happens in Saudi Arabia,   A tragic unforgettable incident happened 12 years ago,  when 15 girls were burnt alive in school fire in mecca , Saudi Arabia in 2002.   The young girls age between 12 to 14 were banned from leaving the school that was in fire because they were trying to escape the fire without wearing their Abayas . They were left screaming and burnt alive behind the school’s gate. The religious police and the guard men refused to open the door to let the girls escape or the fire fighters to go in because the girls were unveiled and not properly dressed, witnesses said. The religious police were also beating pushing back girls  who tried to escape the fire without their Abayas.

 The Saudi local news papers stated that deaths didn’t happen as a result of the religious police banning girls from escaping the fire, but rather the lack of fire extinguishers and alarms in the building.

A Dish of Cockroaches and Toilet Flies

Reader discretion advised, this post contain disgusting materials.

hala chinese food

It was casual school day when my brother and I were taking a walk downtown and noticed this small local restaurant that serves Uyghur food in the corner of a busy commercial street. The restaurant had a rusty small unnoticeable blue signs says ”halal food”. My brother and I decided to go in. As we stepped into the restaurant through a barely fitting small door, a handsome Uyghur man with beautiful piercing green eyes welcomed us and showed us a table for 2. Restaurant had simple cheap wooden tables and chairs that weren’t that comfortable. We put down our heavy school backbags and waved Hi to our Colombian friend who was sitting in the next table.
Even though the restaurant did not look very classy yet the food was astonishingly delicious. There was something about the taste that makes it unique. Unlike any other Uyghur restaurants we went to, this restaurant’s food was exceptional. Was it their perfectly cooked silky noodles? Or the fresh earthy vegetables they use?
We became regular customers of that Uyghur restaurant till day we found out about their dirty little secret.

That day my brother and I were having lunch there, we both ordered a tudou mian; which is basically noodles topped with potatoes, green pepper and carrots.
As I was about to eat I looked down at my plate and noticed part of a transparent wing showing from underneath the thinly sliced carrots. I picked up the carrots with my chopsticks to look what’s underneath and saw toilet flies!!!!
I went to the restaurant manger/owner and I showed him my plate. He took it from my hands and loudly said to the chief ”Make another tudou mian”.
I went back and sat in my chair.” What’s the matter?” my brother asked. I replied ” nothing. It was just a mosquito”.
I did not want to say I found hairy short legged toilet flies laying dead in my plate. That would have been sounded a little too graphic for my brother who was still eating at that time.
Few minutes later, the waiter came with unusual amount of vegetables and noodles. It was twice the normal portion. I thought to myself maybe he is trying to apologize about the toilet flies and wanted to make it up by doubling the portion of the food.
He handed me the chopsticks and just before I even start eating a poor cockroach was trying to escape from the hot noodles! And was trying to climb up my chopsticks!!
I panicked and I jumped out of my chair. The waiter took my chopsticks immediately flipped them upside down, picked up the cockroach by MY CHOPSITCKS, killed that poor creature and gave me back my chopsticks and said to me problem solved.
My brother saw who was eating at that time could not swallow down the food that was already in his mouth. He was about to throw up. He was putting one hand over his mouth and I can tell from his body language that he was trying to tell us to stop talking about the toilet flies and cockroaches because he was about to throw up.
Instead of apologizing about what happened, the manger tried to convince me to eat that meal since they killed the cockroach and that the cockroach was not a big deal!
I was not shocked how the manger dealt with this matter. After all, many Chinese people eat insects. We left without paying for the 2 meals of toilet flies and cockroaches that they served me. But we paid for my brother’s meal because unfortunately he ate most of it.
I cannot go back to school. I am not feeling well, I want to go back home I said to my brother. I had a severe unbearable stomach ache, I could hardly stand straight. I got into the bus and I unbuttoned my shirt because I could not breathe easily, I was nauseated and I felt like I was going to throw up at anytime!

I was sick for 3 days and I stopped eating noodles for a while after that horrible incident. I never went to the hospital because it was all psychological. I knew there was no way I could get a food posing because I did not eat a single bite. I saw the toilet flies and the cockroach before I started eating. But just seeing those insects in my plate made me really ill for couple of days!
Later that day my brother told me I knew you were lying when you said it was just a mosquito. I could tell from your facial expressions that you have seen a more disgusting and filthier insect.

Saudi Arabian court sentenced a Saudi woman to 80 lashes for insulting her husband’s second wife.

Saudi Arabian court sentenced a Saudi woman to 80 lashes for insulting her husband’s second wife.

The Saudi  woman sitting in the lobby about to receive the 80 lashes.

The Saudi woman sitting in the lobby about to receive the 80 lashes.

The Woman heard that her husband has just got himself a new wife, who is a faculty member   in Rafha  girls  University in Northern Saudi. She went to Rafha University looking for her husband’s second wife. When she met her she could not help it, she started insulting her husband’s second wife, yelled at her and called her bad names  in the college lobby in front of the staff and the students.
The second wife sued her husband’s first wife and won the case. The judge’s verdict was to send the woman to 80 lashes as per islam/ Sharia law.  The 80 lashes punishment in Islam is used to punish a person who calls another a w**re or a s*ut.  The second wife wanted to take revange and so she demanded the punishment to be carried out in the college lobby where the incident happened.The students from Rafah University witnessed the incidence and tweeted the story in twitter. Apparently someone has managed to take a photo of the woman who was sitting in the lobby and  about to receive the 80 lashes.
According to Sharia law, Muslim Men are allowed to have up to 4 wives and countless number  of sex slaves. Despite the fact that sex slavery has slowly disappeared from the Muslim modern society, polygamy is still widely accepted and common.

My Attempt to Break the Driving Ban in Saudi Arabia


After I was inspired by Manal Al Shirf campaign I asked my brother to teach me how to drive. Back then I was living in Riyadh city. Our teaching sessions have always started on Friday or Thursday mornings that’s when the streets are less busy. After making a good progress my brother started letting me drive to my hometown, the Eastern province, which is about 450 kms away. After we pass the check points we would swap the seats and I would sit behind the wheels and drive. I traveled to China but I came back to Saudi to visit my family 5 weeks ago and I wanted to continue learning.

Every time I drive my brother would sit next to me to give me instructions. I have been driving in the streets of Al Khobar for the last 5 weeks and I never had a problem. I even once went to a drive through coffee shop next to crowded oil station on half moon beach and ordered some coffee and then went to the beach. Some people would give me the V sign and others would just start taking pictures and videos of me while I’m driving!

2 days ago I went out for another training session but this time I wasn’t very lucky, As I was driving in the streets of Al Khobar city  I lost my way and went to the wrong direction, I ended up driving next to the police station! There were few police cars outside driving on the same highway, So I kept slowing down and driving on the right side of the road but my heart was racing. 3 police cars passed and none of them noticed me; there was even one of the police cars on the opposite direction, taking a U turn, the police car was less than 2 meters away but luckily didn’t notice me too.  Suddenly, a speedy police car was driving on the left side of the highway started to slow down dramatically. Apparently, someone has just told the police that there is a woman in the back driving a grand marquis 2007.  The police officer took the right track, slowed down, opened his car window and started looking at us, that’s when I decided to turn on the headlights of the car so the officer won’t see me, and then I started driving on the left track of the highway where most speedy cars go. Obviously, it wasn’t a good idea; they became more suspicious and started chasing after me! They kept asking me to pull over..

I pulled over safely like a pro driver, 2 police officers came to me and one of them said, Mashallah , you clearly can drive! But women are not allowed to drive here, it’s against the law, there is a law from the ministry of interior affairs to punish women who drive ”. I can tell from their accent, one of the police officers is from Najad and the other is southern Saudi. The Najedi officer started asking me questions like what’s your name? where are you from?  Where do you live? Are you Shiite or Sunni? So I answered all his questions but I never said I’m Shiite.

In the beginning the two officers were very cooperative ,they  Said” don’t worry, we will let you go this time,  but since the department of traffic police has been informed  that there is a woman driving on the highway and  they know we stopped you too, so we cannot let you go or lie to them  but when our boss comes we will tell him that you were caught driving inside the nearby neighborhood, we don’t want him to know you were caught driving on the highway, because if we tell him you were caught driving on the highway you will be facing serious punishments, such as confiscation of your vehicle, 10 days behind bars and 5000 SR fee. So my brother and I swapped the seats, he followed the police to a nearby neighborhood and stopped the car there, we made the  scene perfect before the arrival of their boss.

As we are waiting for the other police cars to come, the Najdi police officer took my ID card to see my full name. Al Najjar is either a western Saudi name or eastern Saudi name and I had an eastern accent.  Knowing that the majority of people who are from eastern province are Shiite, the police became suspicious, so he asked me again ”are you Shiite?” But I refused to answer him, so he took my brother outside the car and asked him if he was Shiite and my brother said yes. We just knew the Najedi officer was up to no good.

An Hour later, another 2 police car and 4 police officers came. One of the police officer looked older than the others with a higher rank, he was clearly the boss, he came to me and asked me if I I was driving on the highway and I sticked to the plan and said’ No, I was driving inside the neighborhood’. However, The Najadi Officer started shouting at us calling us liars and that I was caught driving on the highway. His mate kept silent, I can tell he was shocked too.

Now saying I was driving in the neighborhood was not my plan at all, it was actually the police officers plan. but, The Najadi officer turned against us after he knew we were Shiite.

He drove the police car behind us inside a nearby neighborhood to make the scene perfect before the arrival of his boss. He also made us lie to his boss and then he started shouting at us calling us liars!! What’s even worse is that the Najdi officer told his boss that his mate was trying to help us and let us get away with it.

After about 2 hours of questioning, the 2 police cars left, They told us wait with the police. We kept waiting for another 30 minutes inside the car, they 2 police officers who stopped us kept waiting for us too. But then after a while the southern police officer gave me back my ID card he said it’s okay you can go now.

My brother and I went home, this time my brother was driving. The southern police officer later called me on the phone telling me was punished because his mate who turned against us told his boss that his mate was trying to help up!

I am not afraid of breaking the driving ban again; I will get a driving license first and will drive again.

Islamic preacher gets away with murder

The killer Fayhan Al Ghamdi

The Famous Saudi preacher Fayhan Al Ghamdi who appears on various preaching TV channels tortured his 5 years old daughter to death because he was suspicious of her virginity.

According to the medical report, Fayhan Al ghamdi has tortured his daughter Lama with whips, electrical shocks, removed her nails,  and burnt her with an iron. Lama died in the after spending almost a year in the hospital suffering from broken arms, skull fracture,  and head bruises.

The well known preacher grew up with his grandmother after the divorce of his parents.. He quit school at the age of 9 and has been suffering from a drug and alcohol addiction.

Al Ghamdi’s ex-wife said on an interview ” before we get married the neighbors described him as very religious and god-fearing person, one week after our marriage he changed, he was doing drugs, drinking alcohol and flirting with other women, he was beating me up for no reason. I became pregnant with our daughter Lama. He was nice, he never abused her, I remember he took her away for 3 months and when they came back she was okay, there was nothing wrong with her. Until the last time, I don’t know what happened with him! But after our divorce he stopped paying child support. I remember I called him once and I asked him how would you  lecture people on religion while your acting this way, and not even paying a child support, don’t you fear god? He s use to chuckle and said my word is superior and yours is inferior

Al Ghamdi’s ex-wife recalls a phone call from the police persecutor asking her to come to the hospital. She said ” I went to the hospital to see my daughter, but when I saw her laying there I couldn’t even recognize her face she was brutally beaten and disfigured, she has broken bones almost everywhere in her right side of the body, broken arms and skull fracture  the doctors said she couldn’t defecate because he was beating her in the anus area and he use to close the open wounds (cuts) by burning her anus, every visit to the hospital doctors will give me more reports about injures that have been found, . She was unconscious, doctors said she will not survive but I was crying and praying for god every day”

According to the Inpatient death report from Shemiasi Hospital in Riyadh city Lama was admitted in the hospital on the 26th of December 2011 and died on October 22 2012 in the ICU.

Fayhan Al Ghamdi was held for few months in jail waiting for his trail. Al Ghamdi then was released from prison few days ago.  The court ordered him to pay ( Diyah) which is blood money paid for the family of the victim. Ironically, according to the law the Murderer will share the money he is paying since he is the father; he is part of the family.

According to the discriminatory sharia law the Diyah ( the blood money ) must be 400.000 SR if the victim is a male and half of the money which equals 200.000 SR if the victim is a female.

This unfair outrageous verdict was not a surprise. Unfortunately, Saudi Sharia law gives the man full authority over women, a husband for instance has a full authority over his wives and the father has full authority over his daughters. They also have the right to discipline their wives, or children, beat them if they have to.


Please check related links

The interview of Lama’s mother in arabic


A pervious post on woman rights in saudi arabia


The fatwa of Binbaz about the Diay –in Arabic