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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
My life in Saudi: Abla
Eight young Saudi women discuss their lives and how they hope to progress in the next 10 years.

22, student

21, student

22, student

21, student

17, student

27, translator

21, housewife


After I finished studying in high school I was supposed to travel, but I ended up going to this orientation and I overheard them talking about a psychology course.

I thought, why not take a shot at that? So I went.

You see, when you're educated in a private school and you're not that confident about your languages, you don't know if you're going to stand out.

But my Arabic teacher taught us for three courses and she used to tell us never to forget where you're from. You are actually Arabs originally.

And that definitely made an impact on my life because I never forget I'm actually an Arab. I can never forget my roots.

I never forget I'm actually an Arab, I can never forget my roots
All these women that have passed through my life, I look up to them and think: "They're normal women from different parts of the world, who were brought up in different ways, but they all have one main goal: Women's education."

They want to be somebody. They want to prove that not only men are actually capable of doing things.

This project was about where am I going to see myself in 2015. Well, I see myself out there in the world.

I see myself with my Phd, with my masters done, with my office, looking out of my window and smiling to the world, and saying: "Now, we're even."

The following comments reflect the balance of views received:

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The most impressive thing about this piece is that you have Saudi women talking about what it is like being a Saudi women. It is sad that this notion is revolutionary in the world today. If we want to know about someone, some place or some people we should ask them instead of formulating our thoughts based on secondhand information. Why is it that most of the experts on Islam in the media are themselves not Muslims?
Joe Bruin, LA, USA

I agree with the first comment. Some of these women are privileged. The reality could make hit them hard. It is someone who is only 23 and could easily get disillusioned and disappointed. They need to be engaged and encouraged. I do hope they to achieve what they are aiming for.
Najia Edrisi, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Lately, Arab women have started to denounce the social norms controlling their lives and to reclaim the rights given to them 1426 years ago by Islam. It should be noted that their revolution, in contrast to most revolutions, is a very responsible and considerate one. They do not ignore or compromise their God given gift roles as virtuous Muslim daughters, mothers, and wives. These gifts were dropped on the up way struggle of a lot of other world feminists. It is true that unfair social norms exist in some Arab countries, as they do in other ways in a lot of other world countries. However, I cannot but applaud the Arab women's struggle to correct these norms, while maintaining their religion. May God give them the happiness they deserve at the end.
Noha Hamed, Egypt

I am sure these quotes are from a handful of fortunate women. The reality is far from this. Their freedom is very much restricted to their family or friends' circle. No doubt about the respect for women in Saudi Arabia as mother, daughter, wife or sister. There is a long way to go before women can achieve their freedom as an individual. Political empowerment of women is going to happen in the coming years, but a lot of work has to be done to increase the social acceptability of women as an individual.
Hussain Chirathodi, Kerala, India

I am an Arabian Girl just like Abla; however, I decided to pursue my studies in the US. I was very much impressed at Abla's aspirations; however, it should not simply stop at a PHD or a masters, it should develop to roles influencing other women where we are truly making a difference. Things should not be done to be even at the world, as much as personal fulfilment, or else you will lose track of yourself and your own objectives.
Lina Taher, Amman, Jordan

I love what Abla said and wish her all the best. I live in Saudi Arabia and am a woman and yes, I go and come as I please without a male watchdog looking after me, Jeddah is not like that.
Sarah, Jeddah Saudi Arabia

I wish you best of luck in your endeavours to enhance role of women in Saudi society. Women should be considered as human beings and not lesser human beings. They should have their own identity, should be allowed to travel alone safely, should be allowed to drive and be given freedom of choice then they can vote or stand in elections. A country cannot develop without improvement for half of its population in terms of education, enlightenment and freedom.
Muhammad Asif, Karachi, Pakistan

It's interesting to note that Switzerland only gave women the right to vote in 1971.
Salim Manji, Atlanta, USA

After my long time experience in Saudi Arabia I hope to see one day a Saudi woman driving or performing her work alone without male company or a guard behind her. It is the country were women cannot travel alone, drive or make their own decision in every aspect of life.
A Jama, Columbus USA

Surely what the Saudi authorities have to explain is why they believe that serious-minded, responsible young ladies like these need to be kept under virtual house arrest? Never mind driving or voting, surely the most basic human right is to be able to come and go without needing to ask permission.
Rosemary, Cambridge, UK

I entirely agree with Abla on remaining loyal to your roots. In addition to that, I think all Muslims, both women and men, should rediscover their pasts and see how they can compete with the Western world in a way that both promote the values of the Islamic civilisation and opens the way to a relationship with the rest of the world based on mutual respect and cooperation. And Muslim women have a tremendously important role to play in this process of self-assessment and rejuvenation.
Janan, Ottawa, Canada

I wish Abla success in her ventures. I also hope Saudi women will not only work for their rights but also for rights of minorities in their country. Let's hope multiculturalism and tolerance to all religion thrives in Saudi Arabia in near future.
Daisy, Kansas, US

The BBC should have witnessed the real folks on the streets not the ones from the secluded areas of the rich Wahabis in the Kingdom. After all, this a the only country on earth where women are not allowed to venture out of their homes without the consent of their overbearing male patriarch.
Bnur, USA

I live in Saudi, have a liberal background and am free to do as I please but if you are going to do a story on Saudi women why not talk about the majority who have no freedom, and the country as a whole which is an economy-based authoritarian theocratic dictatorship where massive human rights abuses are suffered by all- and there is in reality no freedom for anyone!
Nasreen, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

People should leave Saudi Arabia alone. On balance, the masses are secure and well taken care of. There may be corruption in various forms, but wreaking havoc won't solve any problems. One needs to compare what Saudi Arabia did with its oil compared to Iraq, Iran, Libya, Algeria, Venezuela, the Emirates, Kuwait and Nigeria. Pound for pound, the Saudi people are much better off in terms of education, peace, and respect in the world than any other nation that's economically oil-driven.
Aly A. Farag, USA

What people fail to realize is that Saudi Arabia is a pretty rich country. Just because women do not drive does not mean they can't get anywhere.
Aaisha B., CA, USA

It's sad to see how some readers have already decided in their minds that all Muslim women are oppressed and Islam supports it, despite stories like these. I do not deny that there are many who distort Islam to subjugate women, but Islam doesn't advocate it. As for Abla and the other women in these articles I wish them the best.
Athar, Nashville

Reading through the negative comments on these hard working intelligent women, it shows how small minded and bigoted we are in the West. We are the ones who are oppressed, oppressed by our small mindedness and believing the anti Islam propaganda we have been given for centuries.
B Barrett, South-west UK

I find it really sad that some of these comments have nothing positive to say about these young women. They are educated with a bright future ahead of them. Encourage these women and don't put them down. People of a country do not represent a government.
Mayada, Saudi Arabia

I am absolutely astonished with Phil's comments. I would like to know if he has ever visited the Kingdom and if so, has he been to all the towns and cities as he claims 'the majority of the population, who live in fear and poverty'? This is absolutely absurd. I have visited Saudi many times and have Saudi friends and have relatives who live all over the country. They love the country and have a great deal of respect towards the system.
Abu Mariyum, Basingstoke, UK

It is important to distinguish that emancipating women is a two step process. The most fundamental step is education. However, the second step is allowing women to use their education. I believe that a fair number of women get education in the Arab world, but what's the point for if they're not visible in society? Even in the USA, a lot of women get PhDs and then disappear from the workforce.
Masa, New York, USA

Come on, the real story in Saudi Arabia is one of torture, discrimination and total disregard for human rights. If you're going to do a story on the women who live in Saudi try speaking to the majority of the population, who live in fear and poverty, not the children (students) of the rich few.
Phil, Manchester, UK

Now if only these women had the power to vote, then their voices would be heard in their own countries, not just on a Western website.
Lindy, Boston, USA

It's encouraging to see women of your ilk and knowledge. You sure can act as a role model not only for the Saudi women also for the South Asian women of all communities.
Naz, Bangalore, India

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