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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Love!

Omaima

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

 Image,

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.

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSlbgV5aAjk

A pervious post on woman rights in saudi arabia

https://omaimanajjar.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/whats-like-to-be-a-saudi-woman-2/

The fatwa of Binbaz about the Diay –in Arabic

http://www.binbaz.org.sa/mat/11939

Banning Hijab will discourage Saudi women from participating in the Olympics

Saudi Arabia has been under pressure from the International Olympic Committee and human-rights groups to include women athletes. It took months of negotiations with the Saudi Gov to finally approve the participation of women, under certain conditions, one is they have to obey the dress code of Islamic law. Later on, the International Judo Federation ruled that Shaherkani “will fight according to the principle and spirit of judo, so without a hijab.” This cultural and religious clash might pressure Saudi Arabia to pull out Wojdan Shaherkani, who is to compete in the +78kg judo category from the Olympics and this eventually will also discourage Saudi women from participating in the Olympics in the future. Shaherkani is due to compete in the women’s heavyweight tournament next Friday, but her participation could now be in doubt. The contraversiary is not only over wearing Hijab but also the fact the Wojdan is not a certified black belt, a stature required by Olympic regulations. The Saudi ladies have been called prostitutes of the Olympics / whores of the Olympics in a hashtag on twitter and most Islamic clerics and Shaikhs has stated that they are against Saudi women participation in the Olympics. I can tell that Saudi men are apparently not ready yet to welcome women in Sports as the two women marched behind the men, instead of walking side by side. Nevertheless, the two Saudi athletes appeared happy, smiling and waving to the crowd. a

Saudi Woman Converts to Christianity

A 28 year-old Saudi woman has decided to become Christian after she was convinced by Lebanese coworker to join the Christian religion. Saudi woman who is named Mariam left Saudi Arabia. The Lebanese Coworker along with Saudi man Helped Mariam to go to Bahrain then to Lebanon. The family of the girl is now suing the 2 guys in Saudi Arabia accusing them of misleading and deceiving their daughter.

Mariam appeared in video on youtube religious channel called   talking about how god showed her that Christianity is the right religion in her dreams. She says” I have asked god to show me the truth in my dreams and within a week  god showed me that Jesus is his son , if you are uncertain about your religion, if you feel lost, ask god to guide you and he will”

The above video shows Mariam talking to guy who was also Muslim and converted to Christianity. The video is in Arabic with no English subtitles.

Saudi twitter users have created 2 hashtags to talk about it  ‎#لبناني_ينصر_فتاة_سعودية‏ ‎#مريم_السعودية

Saudi people seems to be very angry and blaming that mix working environment, meaning both men and women working at the same place was the reason why she became christian and some has blamed it on her parents for not rising her well. Other people have accused her of being Shiite.  Some Saudis wrote in twitter that they want the Saudi gov to drag her back to Saudi Arabia and charge her with crime of apostasy. Yes, choosing a different religion that is not Islam is considered a crime in Saudi Arabia, and if a person proven that  she or he has left Islam, she/ or he will be facing death plenty after giving three chances to return back to Islam.

If Mariam brought back by the Saudi government, she will be charged for apostasy, and she will be given 3 chances to return to Islam, if she didn’t she will face death plenty,  in other term ” beheading”.

Mariam is not the first Saudi woman who converted to Christianity, Fatima Al Mutairi is believed to be murdered by her religious Muslim brother. It is believed that her brother has burnt her alive. I personally has read some of what she wrote back in 2008 in religious christian website, Fatima has never left Saudi Arabia. She was murdered by her brother. The Lebanese christian channels and website are the only one who reacted when they found out she was murdered. Very few Saudis know about Fatima Al Mutairi.  The website where Fatimah use to write is blocked. Unfortunately I lost the link but you can google the story of Fatimah.

Saudi online newspaper http://www.news-sa.com/snews/4780-2012-07-25-07-21-40.html

I am very sure now after I publish this post Saudis will accuse me of encouraging people to convert to Christianity or would say I’m not a muslim. Just so you know I’m Muslim, but I don’t hate other people just because they read from different book.

”My choice is what i chose to do;
and if I’m causin no harm,
it shouldn’t bother you.
Your choice is who you chose to be;
and if your causin to harm, then your alright with me.”

Ben Harper

Saudi Activist Samar Badawi Wins Woman of Courage Award

Samar Badawi standing with her husband Waleed Abu Al Khair

Samar Badawi is a Saudi woman who won a lawsuit against her abusive father who has been abusing her for over 15 years. She fought against the male guardianship system which implies that women should respect their male guardian no matter what he does even if he was abusive. Unfortunately, Samar was charged of disobeying her father and was sentenced to jail, even though she had all the evidences needed to prove that her father is abusing her. Despite the injustice she went through she kept on fighting along with Waleed Abulkhair who was her lawyer at that time and now they are happily married couple. After spending about 6 months in jail Samar was released. She finally won the case against her abusive father  in 2010 but  unfortunatily, not against the male guardian system. Her uncle on her father side became her male guardian as per the court order. Samar became an activist and has been participating in activities to promote women rights in Saudi Arabia. You can read more about the story here.

So what control freak sick Saudi men think about Samar winning the prize?

When I read the comments on Samarprize twitter account I found a lot of hateful, sick comments accusing Samar Badawi of disobedience and for not following Islam laws. It’s No surprise that a lot of Saudi men are pissed off and feel threatened by Samar Badwai because she became an inspiration to Saudi women who are going through what she’ve been through with her father. Samar represents a huge number of Saudi women who are being abused by their male guardians.  Women in Saudi Arabia don’t usually speak about it because male guardians are legally protected by the government using fake human-made Islamic laws, made to control women using religion. You can read more about the guardianship system in Saudi Arabia here.

I Believe Samar is a worrier, courageous and bold for taking such a step. I take my hat-off to her, Wajiha Al Huwaider, Manal Al Sharif , Eman Al Nafjan and Many others who contributed in women to drive campaign through driving, blogging and twitting.

Saudi Women are being arrested by The Religous Police

I am writing you now while many Saudi women are being arrested by the Saudi Intelligence Police with the help of the religious Police. They broke into Alrajhi Mosque (where Saudis gathered to protest earlier this year) It is happening now. Riyadh Exit 15. Women who are being arrested are peacefully asking to free their husband’s and son’s who were imprisoned with no criminal charges. It is believed that Saudi government have imprisoned a lot of people who express their opinion about the corruption in Saudi Arabia.  We all remember the famous case of Khalid Al Johani, who was protesting this year and right after the release of his statement on the media he was taken by the intelligence police. His family has not heard from him till this moment.

Please share this to the world to help to free both the women who are being arrested now and the uncharged Criminals in Saudi Arabia.

There is a long list of many Saudis who spent decades in prison with no charges. Its time to set them free.

If you know the names of girls who were  arrested please write it down here – we don’t want them to be forgten behind bars.  Free (Sarah Al Zamil  and Taghrid Al Aqid  ) – ساره الزامل و تغريد العقيد..

Traveling to China tips

 

Planning to go to China to study, work or do a business? If yes then you must read traveling to china tips.I have tried to write about essential  and most important things you need to know before coming to China to stay for a year or more.   So here are my tips…

 

1-Learn Chinese for basic communication before coming to China.

If your Chinese is nil, I suggest you learn basic Chinese, words enough to get you to and to ask people in the airport about gates and terminals and get to the hotel etc. Most Chinese people don’t speak English, and when you ask a person if he/she speaks English they will say a little, but in fact its a lot less than ” a little”. Younger generations though has just started learning English as a second language, they often can help more than the information personals who works at the airport.

If you are using iphone you will find many applications that can help you learn Chinese, download them.

 

2-Bring some of your favorite food from your home country.

I meant your favorite tea bags, coffee, creamy cheese, rice  or even your favorite cereals. Although there are many international supermarkets in China yet some products are very difficult to find here. If you prefer a certain type of cereal, rice or pasta then bring it along with you, because you might not find here. The availability of famous international supermarket depends on where you’re staying, if you are staying in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou it’s going to be a lot easier.

 

3-Open Bank account in Chinese Bank.

In China, if you are holding Bank of China card and you used bank of Communication ATM  to take out some money, you will be charged small fee for every single transaction. Therefore, I suggest you  open at least two different bank accounts. Let’s say Bank of Communication ATM is closest ATM to your place then open an account in Bank of Communication, so when you do any transaction you will not be charged. Fore major transactions I suggest using Bank of China.

 

4-Be careful when making a deal with a Chinese person.

If you are buying a car or renting a house from a Chinese man or doing any deal, be careful. Chinese can be very wicked, liar and greedy specially when dealing with foreigners. They know you don’t speak their language and that makes them happy because they can steal your money easily.  I suggest you get help from someone who speaks Chinese, write everything in contract and make sure that you have deadlines and punishments in case one of the parties has done what he/she suppose to do within the time frame.

In case you are buying a products examine each and every single thing you buy carefully and ask for warranty.

This is what I did with the help of friends who speaks Chinese and also a Chinese man who read and understand Chinese characters.

 

 

5-Renew your visa and do the accommodation registration as soon as possible.

Once you move in to your new apartment you must go to the nearest police station to do the accommodation registration. Accommodation registration form will be given to you upon your arrival in china by the university or the company your working at.

You will need many 4*6 photos and you must use black pen when filling the form.

You must renew your visa as soon as possible as well, because if you don’t you will be charged with 500 Yuan every single day.  So lets say you are 5 days week, that means you will pay 2500 Yuan.

 

 

 

6-Remember the golden rule; if it barks don’t eat it.

In China dog’s meat is legal and it’s socially acceptable because Chinese believe that dog’s meat and liver has special pharmaceutical properties. Be careful when eating outdoors specially when eating in fancy restaurants. Dog meat is quite expensive. Therefore, it is uncommon to be served in small cheap restaurant but mainly its served in big and more expensive ones.

 

Note for Muslims: Muslim Halal food is easy to find in almost anywhere in china. But be careful, Muslim restaurants are not so halal. Some restaurants might hang pictures of Quran verses or Arabic welcome phrases on their wall but they still sell pork and alcoholic drinks. I suggest you go to restaurants that are famous, popular among Muslims who are living in your area. It’s much safer.

 

             7-Always bargain.

 Chinese people believe that foreigners are rich and for that reason they will always  charge you a lot more than the actual price of almost everything. Therefore, I recommend bargaining before buying anything, and trust me you will be able to decrease up to 50%.

Oh and by the way, just because you see that everything has a price tag in the shop it does not mean its fixed price unless you are shopping in a supermarket.

 

8-Find out about buses near your home, workplace and shopping areas.

There is a lot of buses with different numbers, find which one goes to your work, college or shopping areas write it down and find which one take you back to your home. Its easy to find out because there are always signs next to bus stations telling you which bus is heading where. If you couldn’t understand, ask a local Chinese person. If you want to use a taxi then you must have your address written in Chinese characters. If you know your way to work, college of home very well you can just buy a bike.

 

 

That’s it for now.  If you have any questions please contact me or write your question down here. I will try to answer you as soon as possible.