True Stories of Oppression in Saudi Arabia
By Sami Alrabaa
(Prometheus Books, Paperback, 9781616141592, 275pp.)
Publication Date: March 23, 2010
A deaf-mute woman waiting for her brother to pick her up in front of shop window is arrested by two members of the Saudi "morality police" (mutawas) on suspicion of prostitution. They report their allegation to the governor of Riyadh, who accepts it without question and passes sentence. The next Friday she is stoned to death in public. A German woman married to a Saudi man makes the mistake of taking a taxi downtown without a male escort. For her "crime" she is arrested, raped, and thrown into prison. Later her German-Saudi baby son is taken away and she is deported to Cyprus without passport and money. A Syrian truck driver is accused of stealing the truck he is driving. As a consequence, both of his hands are amputated. Are these incredible but true incidents merely aberrations, the result of a few power-crazed officials acting outrageously outside the reach of a generally law-abiding society? Unfortunately, they are all too common in the theocratic police state that is contemporary Saudi Arabia. As the author vividly recounts in this shocking expose, in the wealthy Saudi oil kingdom there is no such thing as secular law or modern courts. Instead, Saudi princes create the laws, based on Sharia, Islamic law derived from the Koran and Hadith, and the muttawas act as judges, enforcers, and executioners. The author lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for many years. A fluent speaker of Arabic, he was told about the many appalling incidents reported in this book by victims and their friends and relatives. He cross-checked all the accounts here given through multiple interviews. Amazingly, in some cases, the actual victimizers themselves openly, often with condescending and smug contempt, corroborated the events. This revealing portrait of intolerance and social oppression presents an image that foreign reporters never see in the carefully controlled Saudi kingdom.
Sami Alrabaa is a professor of anthropology and sociology at a German university. For five years he worked in Saudi Arabia at King Saud University as the deputy chair of the Department of European Languages and Translation.