By Anonymous (not verified) on November 26, 2012

In the summer of 2000, I received an e-mail message from a Saudi woman named Nura. She was the mother of three girls who were in elementary school. I didn't know who she was. She told me that she was suffering from breast cancer and she didn't have much time to live. She added that she felt that she could die in peace and wouldn't worry about her girls because she had a faith that I would make a difference in Saudi women's lives.

I thought of Nura recently when the Saudi authorities invested in a new technology to be the "watchdog" for men. Two weeks ago, Saudi women's male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are traveling together.

It's a new tracking system that was introduced by the Interior Affairs Ministry to monitor women's cross-border movements as if we were criminals.

Usually, governments around the world try to bring the latest technology to their people to improve their services and to move forward toward the future. But the Saudi government uses the technology to keep its backward traditions, in order to have more control over people's lives, especially women's. The new tracking system will keep women even more imprisoned than before.

Twelve years after I spoke with Nura, and after all the campaigns I have launched for women's rights, Saudi women are still suffering a lot in their daily lives. They are still fighting hard at all levels to gain their basic rights.

They are the only women in the whole world who are still not allowed to drive cars.

They are treated as immature people under the guardianship laws. Saudi women have to have a male guardian in order to do their own affairs, regardless of their age, their education or their social status.

A Saudi woman can't do anything, unless she gets permission from her male guardian, who could be her 16-year-old son.

In Saudi Arabia, women can't study, work, get married or divorced, live alone, rent a place, get medical care, or travel without a man's permission.

Nura has passed away, but her faith is still living within me.

Let them track us and monitor us.

That will not stop us from continuing the fight until we get treated fairly and equally.

Nura would have us settle for nothing less.

Wajeha Al-Huwaider is a Saudi writer and women's rights activist. She is the co-founder of the Society for Defending Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia. In 2011, Newsweek listed her as one of the 150 women who shake the world.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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