The Dawn of Saudi
In Search for Freedom
The Dawn of Saudi
In Search for Freedom
They buried her in an unmarked grave. Only in death did Saudi women and men receive equal
treatment. Her father’s face was grim, his body cold as ice. Her grandfather thought she was a
disgrace to the family name. Her mother didn’t shed a tear – not because public displays of grief were
frowned upon since Saudis consider all stages of life and death as submission to God’s supreme will
– but because she knew her 22-year-old daughter, Sahar, was finally free. She was going to miss her
daughter’s generous nature of giving away her belongings to those who needed them: her beautiful
chocolate eyes that sparkled when she laughed; her spunky aura that brightened any room she
entered. Oridol horeyata – Sahar often said – I want my freedom. Perhaps it was all for the best,
Asima thought, almost fainting from the sweltering August heat underneath her black cloak. She
squeezed her youngest daughter’s hand, who had insisted on accompanying her, as she turned
around and began walking back toward her car. She got in the back seat of her Rolls Royce with her
daughter and brother, Nadim. Her husband, Saad, sat in front with the chauffeur. A limousine
behind them followed, carrying Asima’s unhappily married eldest daughter and her brute of a
husband. As they all drove away, Asima looked one last time in the direction of Sahar’s grave and
hoped that she would be liberated at last.
There had been much speculation about exactly how Sahar’s life in Riyadh ended. Those who
attended the wedding believed she was so stressed from being forced into marriage that she suffered
a heart attack and died on her wedding night. Her immediate family thought the beautiful young
bride was depressed and committed suicide. But the headlines printed in bold letters and
announced over television and radio prior to the six o’clock news to entice people reported: The bride
of Saudi business tycoon, Husam bin Zaffar, died on their wedding night.
One TV reporter said:
Sahar bint Saad bin Kadar Al-Hijazi (Sahar, daughter of Saad and granddaughter of Kadar Al-
Hijazi.), the third wife of Husam bin Zaffar bin Amjad Abdul Samad (Husam, son of Zaffar, grandson
of Amjad Abdol Samad) collapsed on their wedding night, went into a coma and died within an hour.
Her physician reported that she died of an aneurysm.
International newspapers added:
Friends and family declined to comment, but a source who asked to remain anonymous stated, “The
stress of being forced into a marriage she abhorred was more than likely what caused the vessel to
burst. Sahar was a happy loving girl who none of us will ever forget.”
Cynthia Crawford’s eyes bulged when she read the news. She had sumptuous thick lips, an
hourglass figure and lush black and silver hair that reached her shoulders. “Drew, have you seen
this morning’s paper?” she asked as she burst into the sunlit breakfast room in her charmeuse robe
and pajamas, looking for her husband. Theirs was a marriage on paper. They lived separate lives, but
when it came to business and money matters, they collaborated.
Andrew Jason Crawford II of the Crawford Enterprises, a debonair man, the same age as his wife,
63, looked up in surprise. He rarely ran into her as early as seven in the morning in their Pasadena
mansion, about a 15-minute ride north of downtown Los Angeles. “I was about to read it when you
interrupted,” he answered creasing his high forehead hidden underneath his full head of softly
layered gray hair. He opened the Sunday paper and spotted the article about Sahar’s death. “Good
lord! That poor girl. I must call and extend my condolences to her husband.” Husam was soon to be
one of Crawford’s major investors due to his association with Sahar’s family.
“Such a shame,” remarked Cynthia. “They don’t show her picture here but I read somewhere that
she was lovely.”
“Was she? Aneurysm. Who would have thought? I suppose this will postpone his visit to the U.S.”
“What’s going to happen to the merger, now?” Cynthia was nobody’s fool. She may not have
bothered with the day-to-day office business, but because she owned 50 percent of her husband’s
assets, she made sure to keep up with current events that could affect their finances.
The Crawford Enterprises, a Real Estate Acquisition, Inc., was a publicly traded multibillion-dollar
business with American and international investors. Andrew Crawford and his 37-year-old eldest
son, Jason, sat on the board of directors.
Kadar, Sahar’s grandfather, was a famous Saudi multibillionaire. A well-known businessman, he
owned 65 percent of his company and the rest was owned equally by seven foreign partners who
were not involved in the day-to-day activities of the partnership. Kadar’s businesses hadn’t been
doing well lately. He was a major shareholder in Crawford enterprise.
Sahar’s widower, Husam, was also a well-recognized multibillionaire businessman. He owned
businesses all over the world and his prospering company was privately owned. Husam’s company
was supposed to merge with Kadar’s. If their companies didn’t merge, then Kadar would have to file
bankruptcy and sell his businesses and shares in Crawford Enterprise to cover his debts. This would,
in turn, not only devastate Kadar’s business partners but would also make the Crawford shares go
tumbling down. However if Kadar joined forces with Husam and their conglomerate became one,
their enterprise would become one of the largest in the world, thus boosting investor confidence,
increasing the value of Crawford Enterprise and making Kadar’s partners content.
“Damn! The merger!” Drew blurted. He threw his linen napkin on the table and called for his
chauffeur to bring the car around.
Upstairs, Jason Crawford III, a lean man with a muscular torso and strong legs, dark blonde hair
and thick eyebrows was changing into his golf clothes. He had a master in entertainment technology
and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon. His new girlfriend, Tiffany, was listening to the business news
when she heard about Sahar. He was about to put on his lucky green socks when Jason heard
Husam’s name. “That’s our client. I can’t believe his wife died on their wedding night. Talk about a
“That’s what I call extremely bad luck,” said Tiffany, lying underneath the cashmere blankets.
Even with her lustrous brown mane, big breasts and curvy body, there was nothing particularly
special about her. And just like Jason’s prior girlfriends, she wasn’t going to be around for long. He
preferred variety, even if he did date similar-looking girls.
“I wonder if the merger is going to go through now,” he said, more to himself than to Tiffany. “I’d
better cancel my golf game, go to the office and make some calls,” he added changing out of his golf
clothes into pants with a cuffed hem and a sports shirt, his usual weekend business attire.
“I guess we won’t be going sailing this afternoon,” she said. Jason didn’t even hear her.
“If that merger doesn’t go through, our stock could fall.” He looked at Tiffany blankly. “Did you say
“Nevermind,” she said and picked up the phone to call a male friend. Tiffany was never one to sit
home and wait for her man. Men were simply entertainment. Her relationships were here today,
gone tomorrow, and her family was her bank account. She was a lawyer at her father’s firm but only
put in half the time the other employees did.
In Riyadh, women like Tiffany caught in bed with men that weren’t their husbands would be
punished by the Mutawwan, the religious police of vice and virtue. The first part of punishment was
60 – 490 lashes. If they had sex with a stranger, they would be stoned to death, perhaps drowned by
a male family member or decapitated. The fate of all women, royalty or otherwise, was the same. The
only difference between the rich and poor was that the former lived in a golden cage and the latter in
a metal one. Affluent women were able to travel and have all the clothes, jewelry and chauffeurs they
desired, but they still were at the mercy of their husbands, fathers and brothers. A woman was
always considered the property of her husband or male guardian, and that male was allowed to treat
her any way he wanted, even kill her without being prosecuted.
Only recently had the Saudi government issued ID cards to women, much to the dismay of
hardliners who protested against women’s faces being unveiled for their photos. The cards were
issued to prevent fraud and embezzlement. Women used it to open bank accounts or to start a stock
portfolio. The only problem was that the ID wasn’t respected by many institutions. Oftentimes they
sent the woman back and asked her to bring two male family members who could vouch for her.
When a woman wanted to leave the house, she had to be escorted by a male relative. Traveling
without a man’s permission was forbidden.
Like all Saudi women, such was Sahar’s fate as her situation worsened when she turned 22.
According to Saudi tradition, she was too old to get married. Men preferred their women as young as
one year old. There were no laws in Saudi Arabia defining the marriage age. The prophet Mohammad
was the model they followed - he took Aisha to be his wife when she was 6 and consummated the
marriage when she was 9. The younger a woman married, the better. She would be more
subservient. Perhaps that was why it was too late for Sahar. She was too mature and independent to
be subservient. Against her culture’s popular belief that a woman’s purpose in life was to bear sons,
she expected more.
So often she had refused to leave her house, not wanting to be covered with an abaya – a black
cloak covering the body from head to toe – with a head scarf and dark veil over her face. She thought
it was unjust that she wasn’t allowed to breathe the same fresh air that men did, that she was forced
to look at the beautiful blue sky through the blackness of her veil, and that while men fornicated
before marriage, she had to be a virgin and was not allowed to have as many husbands as men were
allowed to have wives. She often wondered which God supported such cruelty toward women. Which
God created such inequality among men and women? After all, weren’t all humans supposed to be
equal? How much of this inequality was religion and how much was it the interpretation of men of
her culture? She hadn’t an answer but could no longer accept the life she was born into. She needed
her al horeyat – her freedom.
|Copyright 2008 by Homa Pourasgari