Happy New Year to all of my readers. I hope the year 2016 brings with it peace, health, and happy moments for all.
After spending my New Year’s Eve with a group of independent, intellectual and confident Arab women, I realized how important it is for us to be the change that we want to see in this world.
As cliche as the above statement sounds, I believe that it’s up to us to make our voices heard and our message noticed. Only when we stand up for what we believe in and highlight our views and concerns, we can begin to make a difference in our communities and eventually in the rest of the world we live in.
When I lived in Saudi, all I longed for were the simple freedoms. The ability to just be who I am, without having to conform to social standards and expectations. I didn’t care about driving a car, and I still don’t.
All I wanted was to breathe. To be able to just leave the house whenever I wanted to and get back whenever I please. The reason my parents were over-protective and controlling is partly because of society. They were constantly worrying about what others thought. Since we lived in a highly conservative country and society, they gave extra attention to what the extended family, community or society would think. They knew how strongly opinionated and conservative the rest of the family and the community were, and how they would scrutinize and judge every move.
However, what my parents should’ve done was to be stronger and more confident than all of that. They should’ve been strong enough to tell everyone that it was none of their business. And instead of making me miserable by controlling my every move, they could’ve stood strong in the face of the conservative culture and society. Instead of taking the conservative society’s side against me (which is the easy way out), they could’ve stated that they are different and not allow a third party to dictate their lives and their children’s lives.
I know that it’s easier said than done, since we don’t come from a liberal family. But I still believe that it was doable and that it would’ve been a reasonable way to deal with the subject matter.
In my previous post, I spoke about working at an IT Help Desk wearing an Abayah and a head scarf. Today, despite not having to conform to a certain dress code when leaving the house, I still face situations on an almost daily basis where I am being judged for being a modern woman. Most of these judgmental behaviors come from Arab or Asian men. I won’t get into details about that in this post and I will talk about this topic in a future post.
Every time I meet with women from Arab and Asian culture, I realize that I’m not alone in this. That most of us – Arab and Asian women – are a constant subject to unfair prejudice from others. These others aren’t necessarily from the opposite sex – they can be other women too.
When different members of the same family don’t think alike, we immediately face the judgement. The main reason for this is that we were all conditioned by our parents or environment to think in a certain way. So, when some of us decide to think outside of the box or think differently and not follow the standard path, we are facing a strong opposition from everyone else. That’s simply because we were brave enough to explore our options and to decide on what fits our personality most. Regardless of whether our choices match the standards of society or not, we have the power to stick to what we believe in and to fight for it all the way.
As if living in a restrictive culture and society isn’t difficult and stressful enough for a woman, we must deal with strong opposition and harsh labeling from our own families and (sometimes) friends.
The simple life freedoms include being able to walk to the nearest coffee shop to get myself a honey latte on a Saturday afternoon, then walking straight back to my apartment to write this post. I’m not asking for much freedom. All I want is to have some space to think for myself, to make my own life choices and career decisions, and to evolve smoothly into the person that I was born to be.
Simple freedoms mean not having our parents decide on our career choices when we are still alive and kicking. Maybe I’m not into science and I choose a more creative field instead. Maybe I’m not a fan of IT or business and I’d rather write and take photos for a living. Yes, the journey will be longer than if I had chosen to stay in a non-creative field. But it is also more rewarding and aligned with my life purpose.
Not all of us dream of working for Saudi Aramco – as my dad believes this is the best future for anyone who lives in Saudi. Some of us want to lead more creative lives and work in more fun and interesting professions.
I could go on and on about this topic, but I will leave that for another time.
As a young girl growing up in Saudi, I always dreamed of leaving the Gulf and Arab region to greener pastures in Europe. To me, Europe symbolized personal freedom and individuality. I wanted to be as far away as I could from the region. But after living in Dubai for over five years, I realized that there’s a good reason that my original plan didn’t go through.
I believe that I’m here because I have an important cause to fight for, a powerful message to convey to the world, a cruel reality to shed light on, and a voice to be heard.
I was highly fortunate to meet a number of amazing women – from all over the world – who share my story.
We all share a huge dose of positive energy and good vibes, an unmatched determination and a strong love for life and the freedom that comes with living life to the fullest.
Our struggles might come in different shapes and sizes, but we are united by our strong will and desire to live freely with no restrictions and to just be who we choose to be.
Despite our difficult life situations, strict cultural backgrounds, or the challenges that lie ahead of us, we are determined to succeed and to make our voices heard.
Whether you’re at a phase of new beginnings in your life, or you are thinking of making a change or taking a life-changing decision, or if you’ve already taken a huge step towards starting a new life, then please allow me to congratulate you on your courage and bravery.
I wish all of you a fabulous new year – full of fearless, fun and bold beginnings.
Let us promote individuality in the Arab world and specifically in the Gulf Region; while at the same time banishing restrictive views, opinions and limiting beliefs and attitudes.