Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
By Mona Eltahawy
<a href=”http://www.metronews.ca/Toronto/comment/article/217463–naivete-and-international-hypocrisy”>Metro Canada</a>
If pirates were holding Nathalie Moran and her three children hostage would the Canadian government rescue her?
Moran, 24, is the Canadian woman who claims her Saudi husband Samir Said Ramthi Al-Bishi – whom she met in Canada – is holding her against her will in the kingdom, infamous for its appalling women’s rights record. Moran’s mother has threatened to sue the Canadian government for negligence if it doesn’t do more to help her daughter.
Moran moved to Saudi Arabia in 2005, taking the Canadian-born child she had with Bishi with her. The couple has since had two more children, one of whom – according to Moran’s mother – was conceived after rape.
Moran, who complained to her mother that Bishi beats her and will not let her leave their apartment alone, visited Canada in 2006, but returned to Saudi Arabia saying she couldn’t be without her children. Since then, Bishi has apparently refused to give her permission to travel, a requirement in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Alleged marital rape? No leaving the house or travel without your husband’s permission? Sound familiar?
Surely questions that should trouble Canada where horrified headlines recently – and rightly – chastised Afghan President Hamid Karzai for signing a law that allowed marital rape and barred women from leaving home without a husband’s permission. After an international outcry, Karzai ordered a review of the law.
Where are the horrified headlines over women’s rights in Saudi Arabia? Moran admitted it was a mistake to move to Saudi Arabia so those who want her to lie in the bed she made of her own naïveté can move on.
But it is precisely those shouting “she should’ve known better” who should answer my pirate question. Did they blame U.S. Capt. Richard Philips and his crew for sailing along a stretch of water where Somali pirates had taken dozens of hostages?
I don’t believe invasions can liberate women. Laws that guarantee equality and protect women’s rights are more important than guns and tanks. But as a Muslim woman who has lived in Saudi Arabia and experienced that country’s gender apartheid firsthand, I also know that when it comes to women’s rights and international outcries some countries, to borrow from George Orwell, are more equal than others,
So we hear an outcry over a proposed law in Afghanistan but when it comes to Saudi Arabia we hear of the need to respect Saudi law. Could such respect be tied by any chance to those huge oil reserves that lie beneath the kingdom?
Let me rephrase my initial question: If Natalie Moran and her three children were being held captive in Afghanistan, what would the Canadian government say?