Saudi social media users break silence on violence against women

Updated 13 February 2017

Saudi social media users break silence on violence against women

JEDDAH: Saudi women found an innovative way to break their silence and expose stories of harassment, rape and physical abuse they face often on a daily basis.
The hashtag #Break_Your_Silence_Speak_Up went viral among Saudi women who started sharing their bitter stories that often go untold.
One woman said that she has been locked up for a year inside the house after her mother learned that her father had raped her over three years. She now needs to be treated for depression as a result of the psychological damage she endured.
Another woman named Sarah spoke up against her brother’s sexual harassment with the knowledge of the father who, in return, slapped her in the face. “I was 8 years old,” she said. “He taught me how to shut up every time I was molested.”
The fact that such abuse continues to happen in a conservative Muslim society is shocking, the women wrote under the trending hashtag.
Along with sexual harassment, physical and verbal abuse takes place daily, according to some women.
Statistics released in 2016 show the continuous exposure of a large number of Saudi women to violence, despite a domestic violence awareness campaign launched in 2013 and a subsequent law criminalizing domestic abuse.
Research has shown that 37 percent of husbands in Saudi Arabia oppress their wives and children, in addition to depriving women of seeing their family.
Mashael Al-Bakri, a Saudi researcher, said in an interview with Al-Hayat newspaper one of the Saudi centers for domestic abuse victims that suppression of the wife or children and forbidding them from expressing their issues freely is prevalent and a form of psychological violence.
An estimated 53 percent of men in 2016 are willing to use violence against their wives in case of disobedience, where 32 percent have already used physical abuse against their wives, according to a study conducted by researcher Norah Al-Musaed.
The study also reported that 36 percent of the women expressed their acceptance of violence against them in case of misbehavior. Social media confirm that abuse is commonplace.
A college student said her father hit her after she failed to get home on time due to heavy traffic, and he threatened to deprive her of college if she does not change her schedule.
Professionals are also subjected to such treatment by their male guardians.
“My brother threatened my sister, who is a physician, to prevent her from working because she wanted to attend a conference in Kuwait,” said Rahaf Al-Otaibi.
The abuse extends in some cases to depriving a woman of her own children. “I cannot describe the pain of losing my children,” said another woman.
Violence against women can take many forms, not only physical or verbal. Psychological pain can result from constant threats or possibility of violence, one woman tweeted. “I may not have been exposed to physical or verbal violence but I suffer from psychological violence every day because my life could turn upside down if someone wishes.”
#Break_Your_Silence_Speak_Up has been trending along with the hashtag that calls for the abolition of the male guardianship system, which reached day 220 of fighting.
“Don’t back down from demanding your rights if you believe in justice,” tweeted (@MERiAM_AL3TEEBE) who is an outspoken justice activist with 21,000 followers. She urged her Saudi sisters to demand their rights and not to be ashamed as long as they are protesting peacefully.
Meanwhile, the women’s campaign to expose the forms of harassment against them was faced with rejection and accusations of lying. However, despite the attacks by some deniers, those women have the support of several international human rights organizations.
Amnesty International paid tribute to Saudi women last Thursday on International Women’s Human Rights Defenders’ Day.


Russian museum CEO: Archaeology in Saudi Arabia is at its peak

Since the launch of the Vision 2030 reform plans, many steps have been taken to present Saudi Arabia’s ancient wonders such as Al-Gara Mountain in Al-Ahsa to the world. (Shutterstock)
Updated 3 min 50 sec ago

Russian museum CEO: Archaeology in Saudi Arabia is at its peak

  • Undiscovered archaeological treasures key to cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Russia

MOSCOW: Archaeology in Saudi Arabia has seen an unprecedented number of discoveries and findings in recent years. With over 44 Saudi and international missions working in the Kingdom this year alone, Russia’s State Hermitage Museum director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, commended the country’s efforts in presenting its hidden treasures to the world.
Arab News met with the director in Moscow to discuss the future of archaeology in Saudi Arabia and his interest in hosting one of its most famous exhibits, “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia.”
Piotrovsky, the urbane general director of the State Hermitage Museum located in Saint Petersburg, was appointed in 1992 by decree of the prime minister at the time.
He has a long history with the museum.
He took up the position following his father, Boris Piotrovsky, who was director from 1964 until his death in 1990.
Piotrovsky’s work at the museum is inspired by both his passion for the arts and a deeply rooted adoration for archaeology.
A graduate of Leningrad University, he spent a year taking part in archaeological explorations in Yemen, the Caucuses and central Asia, with over 200 scholarly publications, including catalogues of Arabic manuscripts.
A fluent Arabic speaker, he dedicated many years of his career to the archaeology of the Arab world, the spiritual and political history of Islam and Arab culture as well as medieval works and ancient inscriptions.
He told Arab News how the school of archaeology is always developing, and in order to achieve success in any excursion, it is key that teams coordinate with others to learn from their experiences.
“It is a very international field. If it is not, it will become too narrow and nationalistic,” Piotrovsky said.
“Archaeological departments are the most open bodies in every country. Be it Russia, Egypt, Iraq or Saudi Arabia, they are accustomed to working with different points of view and people from other civilizations. Openness is important for achieving success.”
The director said that many archaeologists from the Kingdom have been invited by the museum to partake in expeditions alongside Russian archaeologists to gain experience and exchange knowledge.
“AlUla is one of the jewels of archaeology,” he said. “It is a rare site, the Nabataeans controlled the routes from south to north. The Romans, Indians, ancient Palmyrians and Bedouins have been there.” The director told Arab News that they have been working in joint teams not only in archaeological diggings but also with plans to develop what they call an “archaeological park.”

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4.5m - people visited the State Hermitage Museum.

The Russian State Hermitage Museum tells the story of Russia, its palaces, Peter the Great and many more significant historical moments. The museum also exhibits artifacts of different civilizations: Islamic, Buddhist, Catholic and others.
The museum’s message and goal is for “different civilizations to speak to each other and to us and make a connection,” he exclaimed.
Piotrovsky believes the same concept can be developed for AlUla.
Speaking to Arab News last January, Dr. Abdullah Al-Zahrani, general director of archaeological research studies at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said that digs in Saudi Arabia are increasing at an unprecedented rate.
“Archaeology in the Kingdom is on the rise,” said the director.
“There is still a lot to be discovered and we are still in the period where you begin to dig and make a discovery, dig more and make another discovery. In the Arab world, everything is new and holds a base for the development of knowledge.”
Piotrovsky has been following the progress of archaeology in the Arab world for many years and he said that more archaeologists are going to Saudi Arabia now than at any point in the past 10 years.
Antiquities discovered in the Kingdom are known to come from one of the oldest areas of human settlements, with discoveries dating back 1.2 million years. In this past year alone, 15 new sites were discovered across the country.

FASTFACT

85,000-year-old discovery of a rare fossilized finger bone in the Nefud Desert is the oldest human fossil on record unearthed.

“It is a very important region which is still undiscovered properly. We all know the first man, according to our theories, was born in Africa and then we see its traces moving to Europe and Asia through the Arabian Peninsula,” said Piotrovsky.
“Ancient archaeology is very important but I think for this time period it should be the archaeology of the written period. Archaeology of the trade routes, coming from India and Africa, trade routes from Iraq and Palestine and Syria. There were fantastic kingdoms and sites.”
The museum’s keen interest in Saudi Arabia’s archaeological findings are a reflection of the director’s move to enhance cooperation between the countries.
It is planning on bringing the Kingdom’s first international exhibition dedicated to the human and natural heritage of AlUla titled “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia” to Saint Petersburg.
In 2011, the museum hosted the third leg of the “Saudi Archaeological Masterpieces through the Ages” exhibition after the successful exhibitions at the Louvre Museum in Paris and the La Caixa Foundation in Barcelona.
Aimed to introduce the historical and cultural importance of the Kingdom, the 450 relics were displayed for the first time outside of Saudi Arabia. They date back to a time between the Palaeolithic era and the pre-Islamic ages.
Since the launch of the Vision 2030 reform plans, many steps have been taken to present Saudi Arabia’s modern culture and ancient wonders to the world.
There is history lying beneath the Kingdom’s vast sand dunes, and a dig will not suffice, there is more to be done for the world to connect with the Kingdom.
“Opening up to the world is a little bit dangerous, but a museum recipe is a good one,” said Piotrovsky.