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Daughters of Arabia - Jean Sasson

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Author: Jean Sasson / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 01 October 2004 / Genre: History / Subcategory: History Theme: Social & Cultural History / Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd / Title: Daughters of Arabia / ISBN 13: 9780553816938 / ISBN 10: 0553816938

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      31.08.2004 20:31
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      This book is the second part of a trilogy which is the story of the life of Princess Sultana (this is not her real name as she needed to hide her identity) and her fight to gain freedom for women in Saudi Arabia. She is a royal princess from an extended family branch of the Al Sa'ud royal family. What you should bear in mind is that the American author, Jean P Sasson wrote the words but the story is Sultana?s and it was deemed to be very dangerous for Sultana for this story to be told; it could culminate in her death and at all times the reader is aware that should her identity become public then a terrible fate awaited her. The first book reveals childhood memories and atrocities that were meted out to women and ends with Sultana getting married at a young age; having 3 children and suffering from breast cancer. Women in Saudi Arabia are not just second-class citizens but are just a child-bearing vehicle and that they don?t have any opinions, are not intellectual and shouldn?t experience sexual pleasure of any kind. They are purely there to satisfy the needs of the Saudi men. I must tell you that the first book evoked many emotions in me, particularly anger towards the men of Saudi Arabia. I would strongly advise you to read ?Princess? first. Princess Sultana has three children; her eldest Abdullah (her only son), daughters Maha and Amani, and is married to Kareem, a handsome royal prince who, by Saudi Arabian standards seems to be a very nice caring husband, not at all like the sex-mad, vile male species that seem to inhabit this land (although later in this book it is revealed that many Egyptians are also like this). I am truly sorry if I am offending anyone but this is how the book portrays most of the men. I do know that Sultana does not wish to decry Saudi Arabia (or any ot
      her country for that matter) because she truly loves her country and she is a good Muslim ? her desire is just to liberate women from a life behind the veil and to be able to be free of the restrictions that their men place on them. She does not want her daughters to live a life of a sex slave to decrepit older men nor does she want her son to grow up to be like her brother Ali, who treats his four wives and many concubines extremely badly as he is quite a sadistic lover (lover is really too kind of a word for Ali as lover denotes someone who loves and who is caring and he is neither of these). After reading ?Princess? I really couldn?t understand how she could think that she wouldn?t be found out. It surely is quite obvious that the people she talks about and the situations she recounts would be the topic of discussion in her land and that eventually someone would realise it was her family that was being written about. The second book starts off by Sultana being found out by her brother Ali who had seen the German translation of the book in an airport. He had been infuriated that someone could write about life as a royal princess and so he bought the book and had it translated. As he read it, he realised that it was his own family and that the culprit was his sister Sultana. Sultana, Kareem and the rest of her sisters were summoned and when she saw the translation she realised that she had been found out and was quite terrified. ?When the beast is cornered, the hunter is in danger? However, likened to a rat being cornered and the gutsy lady that she is, Sultana fought back as she felt that she had nothing to lose at this point in time and the reader gets the impression that her life was spared because the royal family could not afford a scandal of this magnitude. Her mind was racing with the thoughts about her friends who had suffered de
      ath as a consequence of very slight misdemeanours. It was unthinkable that a royal princess could do such a thing but she insisted it was done to help her free the women of Arabia. This was such an anti-climax in the first few pages of the book because the author had led the readers to believe that in book one that something dreadful would happen to the princess. Obviously, I was pleased that she wasn?t actually harmed and I tried to examine my feelings and thought that, after all, this is not fiction, this is real-life and surely it is better that Sultana survived and nothing untoward should happen to her. Perhaps my mind was getting mixed up between fiction and non-fiction, I don?t know. ?A mouse can only give birth to a mouse? Maha is the eldest daughter of Sultana and Kareem and showed quite a vindictive tendency early on in her years towards her brother Abdullah as she adored her father. Whilst Kareem loved his daughters, a son is more important and gets so much more attention (in fact, in some households daughters get not one bit of attention from their fathers). Maha once set alight the thobe of her brother Abdullah. Maha wanted the attention of the male members of her family and, on a family gathering, she tried in vain to get the attention of her grandfather, Sultana?s father. He took no notice of her and so she spat out accusations at her grandfather who was so shocked that he never spoke to her again. He likened to Maha to Sultana who was a very spirited child also. Like mother, like daughter. When Maha became very friendly with an older girl, Aisha, Sultana began to worry and questioned Aisha about her life. She was horrified at the events that were told to her. Aisha?s father like young girls and would buy very young girls for his pleasure. A story is told about one particular young girl
      who was bought, then after the pleasure had worn off, Aisha?s father sold her on to another older man and the little girl was taken from Aisha?s home clutching a doll to become the bride of another man. I was near to tears reading about this. It is a crime against humanity, it truly is. Man?s greed for sex with virgins, no matter what their age, a disposable commodity. It is truly unbelievable that this happens in this day and age, but it does and worse happens too. It was revealed to Sultana and Kareem that their daughter Maha and Aisha were lesbian lovers and Maha had a nervous breakdown. Had the religious militia found out then serious consequences would have been paid for such an act is abhorred. Maha was whisked away to a London clinic and it took several months before she was cured by a doctor who specialised in the Arabic way of life; he knew how the unbearable constraints of life behind the veil takes its tolls on females. ?She cared more for animals than her own family? Then we have Amani who appeared a sweet little girl who loved animals so much that she wanted to rescue every living thing. Her father built her a zoo in the grounds of their palace in Riyadh to try and stop the animals from wandering around the home. Unlike me and you, who love our animals and look after them, the poor dogs of Saudi Arabia are rounded up and released in the desert to die. I really don?t know how anyone could be so cruel as to leave these poor animals without food and water and without any means to obtain any! What a terrible, slow death these animals must endure. Sultana persuades Kareem to go on the annual pilgrimage to Makkah as she wanted to show her devotion to God for curing Maha from her illness. The book not only tells about the family?s pilgrimage but also informs the reader of the whole process of the
      act of worshipping and of the Koran. Unlike many pilgrims, Sultana?s family travel in air-conditioned luxury and the theme throughout the book shows how pampered the family truly area. During the pilgrimage Amani becomes extremely religious ? to the point of being fanatical ? and on their return to Riyadh she tries to convert her friends and family and even becomes dictatorial to the servants demanding that they convert to being Muslims. Sultana, who had fought all of her life to liberate women, now had an extremist daughter Amani who was trying to enforce the segregation of men and women, who scorned on women wearing make-up etc. Sultana had two daughters who fought totally opposite fights. This book also tells the story of female circumcision in Egypt and it is totally disgusting that this ritual is still imposed on young girls who have no say in what happens to them. To have all your genitalia removed by a razor is barbaric and totally unnecessary. My heart bled for this poor little girl and, indeed, all the girls who are maimed in this way. Sultana and her family live in luxury surroundings ? they have all the trappings of wealth that the oil fields have brought. 10-carat diamond earrings, a million dollars locked in the safe, palaces in major cities, private airplanes, hosts of servants to pander to their every need but the one thing these women cannot have is their freedom; to choose the man they marry, to choose what they want to wear, to travel without the permission of their husbands, to divorce their husbands for the treachery against them; to work; to drive. Some of the simple pleasures in life that most of us take foregranted, the Saudi women cannot have. Yet again, when reading this book, the author has recounted the life of Sultana and her daughters in such a way that I felt as if I was an actual participan
      t in her life, I could see the palaces, see the people and be with them. I could feel Sultana?s frustration and anger and feel the happiness she sometimes felt. I could relate to her with reference to her problems with her daughters. Their wealth and lifestyle did not stop problems occurring with her family but their wealth could buy the silence of lesser people. The case of the poor foreign woman who was in a coma in a Saudi hospital who became pregnant by a drunken Saudi prince (not her brother, I may add). Money bought the silence of the Pakistani employee who had seen what the prince did. Nothing happened to him. He should have been jailed or in fact executed for such a despicable act but he wasn?t. Money bought silence. After all, she was just a woman, irrespective that she had been in a coma for months. Oh, and she was just a foreign woman. What did it matter to the men of Saudi Arabia. A woman, a non-descript person was violated against but only one person paid the price ? the woman herself. After all, it must have been her own fault for lying there, enticing this royal prince! I would have liked to have known what happened to this lady and her pregnancy. A woman is just another chattel, not a worthy human being. She can be raped, mutilated and divorced. The Saudi man has the upper hand at all times and, at most, uses this to further his own depraved means. Men do another terrible deed. How can a father take his little daughter and dig a grave watched by this child and then put his terrified daughter into it and then pile the earth on top of this live child? How can anyone be so cruel and unfeeling towards a child because she is female and ?will bring shame onto his family?. Why aren?t these men tried for murder? Why? Because he is superior and owns that female child and can do what he wants with her. S
      he is of no consequence. None whatsoever. From what I have read, I can see that the current younger female generation are not as tolerant of the deplorable customs as their mothers and some of the younger males are more sympathetic to the female situation but I do think it will take years to alter the way the majority of the male population in Saudi Arabia view females. It seems that the male species have misinterpreted some of the teachings of the Koran because it does seem that the Koran is not totally against women. I don?t think this book has totally served the purpose it was originally intended for. On the one hand, I would imagine most readers, whether male or female, have given their full sympathy to Princess Sultana and all the other female population but, on the other hand, if they are anything like me, then they will have nothing but scorn for the male population of Saudi Arabia. After all, most of the men are hostile to their women, so how can I segregate the very few good ones from the majority bad ones? I don?t know how to so I class them all the same which I shouldn?t but I can?t help it. In this century we are all concerned about our human rights which, if I am honest, I think has just gone out of all proportion but, where are the basic human rights for the women of Saudi Arabia and, indeed Egypt and similar countries? Where is the human right not to be buried alive? Where is the human right that a husband can rape a wife, hospitalise her to the extent that she has to have a colostomy bag for life and yet she has to forgive him or else lose her sons and daughters. Just where are their basic human rights? I don?t think that any drastic changes in favour of women will happen in Princess Sultana?s lifetime but, with the next generation already being rebellious, th
      en perhaps some change may occur. I sincerely hope so.


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