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Logan's Run

Logan's Run

As a teenager one of my favourite movies was Logan’s Run, a science fiction spectacular starring Michael York as Logan 5, Jenny Agutter (as Jessica 6, and deliciously naked in the movie as well!) and Farrah Fawcett (of Charlie’s Angels fame). The more time I spend in Saudi Arabia the more similarities and parallels I see to the world inhabited within Logan’s Run.

A so-called ‘utopian society’ exists, where the ruling governors wish you not to see the outside world, a place called Sanctuary. Only bad things exist outside of ‘our little society’ and you will be punished for trying to escape our borders if you try and seek Sanctuary. You must do everything we tell you, or else. We know best.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of the draconian state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

  1. Women are not allowed to drive. Not a bad thing the male readers amongst you may suggest, but given my experience of male drivers then I would love to see women drive over here. They certainly can’t be any worse than their male counterparts!
  2. In order to gain employment, women need to have the permission of their male guardian – father, husband, son, uncle, etc. Yes, you read correctly – son. So a single mother with no relatives and a young son would need to get his written permission in order to work.
  3. The same principle applies if a woman wants to leave the country. Permission has to be granted from a male guardian.
  4. Most marriages are arranged, between close families and friends. Obviously where the female wears a veil, or niqāb, the bridegroom may not even ‘see’ his bride until they’re married. Often the bride has a value and can be used to pay debts.
  5. And for a Saudi to marry a non-Saudi then perish the thought! Government permission has to be sought before this can take place.
  6. The extreme cases of marriage involve young girls and old men. The cases of girls yet to reach even the age of ten being married to men in their 60’s and 70’s is unfortunately not too unusual. The ones typically reported in the Arab News are where the mother of the young girl is kept in the dark about the marriage and has to appeal to the courts for it to be annulled. Sometimes the court does annul it, sometimes it doesn’t.

    A recent case was of an 8 year old girl married-off to a man in his 50’s – to pay a debt. The father of the girl said the man had agreed not to consummate the marriage until she turned 18. The husband actually states that he will wait until she reaches puberty. A local court has so far refused to annul the marriage.
  7. One of the most concerning aspects of this way of life that I read about all too often in the Arab News (if item #6 above wasn’t bad enough) is that of abuse. Physical, mental and sexual abuse by men of their wives and children goes on largely unreported. Most women and children put up with it as it is ‘part of life’, part of being a Saudi.

    Take this example as a reason why – a woman is being physically and sexually abused by her husband. If she went to a police station to report this crime she would need the permission of her husband to press charges – against him! And how many husbands are going to do that?
  8. And lest not forget, no mingling between strange men and women – remember they have separate dining areas for singles and families. I still don’t understand where that leaves the male waiters who have to serve these females. Obviously the females have to remove the niqāb whilst they are eating – so surely this is a totally corrupting sight for the waiters!
  9. Public demonstrations are banned, and don’t even think about going on strike.
  10. You can go to a cinema, concerts are not allowed; praying is their main form of 'entertainment'

As you can see from much of the above, males rule what happens here. Women need permission to do almost anything at all; their prime responsibilities appear to be looking after the home and bearing children – and not to ‘have a life’; and if they do go outside, stay covered up so as not to tempt the Saudi male into forbidden thoughts.

They are ‘encouraged’ to wear a niqāb, not to mingle with members of the opposite sex, and heaven forbid should they (or men for that matter) have feelings for someone of the same sex! Remember, you face the death penalty for being gay.

Many of the practices in Saudi Arabia lie in the dark ages, and once the oil runs out then the country has the chance to return there. It talks much about attracting tourists, yet the difficulties of obtaining visas and then the strictness of the local customs, means that this country will never become the next Dubai. Unless, of course, there is a young Logan 5 and Jessica 6 out there, willing to take a chance, willing to take a stand in order to break out of the current bubble that Saudi Arabia resides in. I’m not holding my breath. It makes me ever more proud to be British and grateful to live in a 'free' world.

 

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  (C) 2009 Mark Sykes