Black Saudi woman activist faces death threats

Updated 05 January 2016
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Black Saudi woman activist faces death threats

RIYADH: A well-known black Saudi woman, who is a family counselor and pilot, has been targeted online by racists, including with images of monkeys and gorillas, questions raised about her citizenship, and death threats.
Nawal Al-Hawsawi said that her work to help victims of domestic violence on social media, including 50,000 followers on Twitter, has been the target of mainly racist men who appear to hate women, foreigners and those who are not members of certain tribes. “In addition, pictures of my family and children have been leaked, threatening their safety.”
Al-Hawsawi said the most recent attack was launched by someone who goes by the name “Saudi Conscience” and operates under the Twitter handle @saudi100d100. He and his followers have blamed foreigners for various socioeconomic problems, including unemployment and gasoline and electricity price increases, she said.
They are a self-proclaimed “National Guard,” divide the country into three groups: “Original Saudis” (certain Bedouin tribes), “Vomit of the Seas Saudis” (Saudis of foreign descent or Saudis that are not members of certain Bedouin tribes), and “Strangers” (all legal residents and foreigners in Saudi Arabia).
They have called for the deportation of all “Strangers,” and for the citizenship of those who are not supposedly “pure” Saudis to be revoked, in addition to immediate deportation.
She said her work is a threat to the “hate agenda” of these Saudi “neo-Nazis." "I represent everything that they hate. I am a Saudi married to an American and they are openly anti-American. My husband is white and they condemn inter-racial marriages. I am black and they believe all black people are slaves who should ‘remain in their place.’”
“I am a native Saudi from Al-Hijaz, born and raised in Makkah, and they believe people from Al-Hijaz are not real Saudis. I am a Ph.D. student, but they claim that women are not intelligent and shouldn’t be allowed to work. I also hold an FAA pilot’s license while living in a country that does not allow women to drive cars.
“They don’t like to see a strong woman standing up for women’s empowerment, undermining their misogynistic and gynophobic platform. They have successfully bullied many activists into silence in the past and they are trying to intimidate me. But they picked on the wrong person,” Al-Hawsawi said.
Al-Hawsawi said she has filed a complaint with the authorities about the death threats and the comments under the country’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law, overseen by the Communications and Information Technology Commission.
Some of her tweets that have been attacked include a message received from a Pakistani resident who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and wanted to marry a Saudi, but her brothers objected because of the nationality of the groom.
She also posted a question received from a Saudi teacher being physically abused by her unemployed brother, who had forced her to give him money by taking out bank loans and buy him a car. He had also refused to allow her to marry an Egyptian man because of his nationality.
“Again, this was done in the name of protecting the ‘pure lineage.’ With the victim’s permission, I posted pictures of her bruises and injuries sustained when her brother beat her.”


Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

Updated 22 min 54 sec ago
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Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

  • Saudi Arabia’s first women-only 10-kilometer cycling race was held in April 2018 at the King Abdullah City for Sports in Jeddah
  • More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members

JEDDAH: Before Saudi Arabia’s women drivers there were Saudi women cyclists. Thousands of women around the Kingdom have taken to two wheels in the past few years, and groups of female cyclists are a common sight on city streets.

Now four young women have taken cycling to a new level by becoming the first Saudi female cycling team to join the Global Biking Initiative (GBI) European tour, an annual seven-day ride that highlights the sport and raises money for a range of charitable causes.

Sisters Fatimah and Yasa Al-Bloushi, Dina Al-Nasser and Anoud Aljuraid — founder members of the HerRide cycling group — joined hundreds of cyclists from all over the world earlier this month when the tour kicked off from Gothenburg in Sweden before heading through Denmark and on to the port of Hamburg in northern Germany.

More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members. 

The dynamic HerRide team shares a passion for adventure, and a love of outdoor activities and sports. Fatimah Al-Bloushi, the team captain, told Arab News that when she started the group in July, 2017, “we were a group of amateur cycling enthusiasts and our idea was to train to be the first Saudi female team to participate in GBI Europe 2018.” 

This year was Fatimah’s second time in the GBI tour. Last year she was the first and only Saudi woman to take part in the event. 

“I want to empower Saudi women and encourage cycling,” she said.

Fatimah also enjoys skydiving, surfing, abseiling and climbing, and is also the first woman member of the Saudi Cycling Federation. In her hometown of Alkhobar, she organizes women’s gatherings twice a week to cycle together along the beachfront. She also volunteers to teach cycling for beginners. 

Like all sports events and tours, training plays a crucial role in preparing for the GBI tour. Team member Anoud Aljuraid, an accomplished hiker and technical climber, met Fatimah two years ago while climbing the Ol Doinyo Lengai, or “Mountain of God,” volcano in Tanzania.

“For me the challenge was sitting on the bike for up to eight hours while riding up to 100 kilometers a day,” Aljuraid said. “It was also hard to maintain a certain speed to reach the next destination or nutrition point on time, but my training helped me get over those challenges.”

Although the number of women cyclists on the streets of Saudi Arabia is growing, challenges remain for those joining the sport.

Team member Dina Al-Nasser lives in Riyadh and enjoys long-distance cycling as well as hiking and boxing. Her biggest challenge during the GBI tour was cycling alongside cars.

“I mostly trained at home, but it’s hard for me to train in areas where men usually train, such as Wadi Hanifa and Ammariyah,” she said. “However, I was able to get over my fear and by the third day on the tour I was riding alongside trucks and didn’t even notice.”

Al-Nasser said that cycling is challenging not only for women in Saudi Arabia but for professional cyclists in general.

“We hope that the streets will be more bike friendly, and that people can adopt the same infrastructure for cyclists that we have seen on the tour — such as special paved paths and traffic lights — here in the Kingdom,” she said. 

“Hopefully, cycling will become a lifestyle in Saudi Arabia and we will see people cycling to work one day.” 

The Saudi HerRide women’s team celebrate a challenging stage finish on the GBI European tour. (Supplied photo)

Despite the challenges, the HerRide team say they are hoping to join the next GBI tour. “It was a great experience to cross three countries by bicycle,” Yasa Al-Bloushi said. “Of course, we got some bruises and had falls here and there, but I look at that as a sign of accomplishment.”

The team members gained valuable skills from watching other riders during the tour. “I learned how to be a part of a team and to look out for each other. It was important to listen to my team-mates and focus on their needs,” said Dina Al-Nasser.

 Fatima Al-Bloushi said that the support of her team made her second tour more special than the first. “We knew each other’s weaknesses from day one and we always had each other’s back. If our energy levels were low, someone would provide nutrition. When our spirits were down, we had music to give us a boost, and when someone was nervous, we reminded each other to have fun,” she said.

“I experienced GBI twice. The first time I went alone and came back with a family of friends. The second time I went with friends and came back with family.”

The woman said the spirit of cooperation among cyclists on the tour was empowering. “What made this experience even more amazing, besides the beautiful scenery, was the quality of people we met,” said Fatima. “If we were struggling, they would pass by with a smile, give you a pat on the back and tell you that you were strong enough to push through — it really did make us feel stronger.”

 In future, the group plans to hire a professional trainer and offer cycling workshops for Saudi women. They also hope long-distance cycling events, such as the GBI, will one day be held in Saudi Arabia. 

“Under Vision 2030, I’m sure there will be a lot of local events for cyclists in the Kingdom, including women,” said Al-Nasser.

The four cyclists have some words of encouragement for Saudi women hoping to fulfil their dreams. “You will always find people who will give you negative comments, but as long as you are doing what you love and are not hurting anyone, just keep going,” said Al-Nasser. 

Fatimah said: “Two years ago I was looking to join a cycling team, but as a woman in Saudi Arabia I was unable to — now things have changed. My advice to all women out there is never say ‘no,’ always say ‘yes’ to opportunities.”