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.

 

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

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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.

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

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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.

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 men are embarrassed of their mother’s name

Saudi men believe that their mother’s name is scandalous and shameful and shouldn’t be mentioned in public. Reaction is a Saudi show views how saudi men reacted when they were asked about their mother’s name. Some refused to say their mother’s name on TV saysing ” I’m not crazy to do so” and others chose to say a nickname such as ” Mother of Mohammad, Mother of Abdullah.. etc..”.  Very few men were okay with it.

The video is in Arabic. I couldn’t find a version with English subtitles but you will be hearing mostly

Wish issm Ommk? Or  Whish issm Al Walda? = Whats your mother’s name?

ملعوب علينا

ملعوب علينا…

القطاع الحكومي ساعات العمل فيه 5 ساعات باليوم – و يعملون خمس ايام بالاسبوع – يعني مجمل ساعات العمل بالاسبوع 25ساعه – اما بالشهر فهي 100 ساعه.

 اما القطاع الخاص و هو القطاع المشهور بالكرف و استغلال الطاقة البشريه بطريقه غير انسانيه بعد 6 ساعات باليوم و يعملون ست ايام بالاسبوع – مجمل ساعات بالاسبوع فهو 36 ساعه – اي بالشهر 144 ساعة.

في الحرس الوطني الدعوه تختلف – احا نظام شفتات – يعني بالاساس دون رمضان نعمل 15 شفت – 12 ساعه يعني 180 ساعه في
الايام العاديه.

ولكن في رمضان نشتغل 11 شفت نهاري
لمدة 12 ساعه – يعني بمجمل 132 ساعه بالشهر

يعني اقل من قطاع الخاص و اكثر من
القطاع الحكومي…؟

يعني كأنه احنا مو تبع وزارة الصحه و لا
تبع قطاع الخاص ( بإختصار احنا تبع الحرس) بس المقصه و المقلب الي ماكلينا نا لما راسلت بندر القناوي شخصيا
اشتكي على المكافئه الخرطي الي يعطونا اياها…

قالي بس مكافئتكم تبع وزارة التعليم
العالي ( يعني بعباره اخرى ) تبع القطاع الحكومي.

طيب يعني اذا المكافئه الي تندفع من
قطاع حكومي – زي وزارة التعليم العالي – ما يفترض نعامل كذالك كـ متدربات تبع قطاع
حكومي – حالنا حال الاوادم الثانيه – و خاصة انها مبلغ زهيد – و اضح جدا انه مو حق
اودام كرف 12 ساعه!

و بعدين اذا الحكومه الكريمه ققرت ان
يكون ساعات العمل بمجمل الشهر 100 ساعه للقطاع الحكوي- ليش النظام مو نازل علينا –
مو احنا تبع وزارة التعليم العالي ( حسب ادعاء د. بندر القناوي – نسيب د.عبدالله
الربيعه) – ايوه يا بنات … هو متزوج اخت د. عبدالله الربيعه –

وبالحديث عن صلة القرابة الي تربط د.
عبدالله الربيعه و بندر القناوي .. ما يخليكم تتسألون كيف حصل بندر القناوي على
المنصب بهذه السرعه و كانه كان ولي عهد للربيعه ؟؟ الربيعه فجاء صار وزير بلا
مقدمات و فجاء طلع القناوي في المنصب.. من دون وضع اي عرض بأن الوظيفه شاغره لمن
هم بمستوى عالي من الشهادات و الخبره – و كان الوظيفه عارفين لمين بتروح..

من جديد اقول للدكتور بندر القناوي –
على بركه الكرسي الي جاك في طبق من ذهب.. و احترم كل شهادتك و لكن لا انكر ان صلة
القرابه الي بينك و بين و زير الصحه و سرعة حصولك ع المنصب.. تثير
الشكوك!!!!!!!!!!