Saturday, 11 April 2015

Story of a Western Female Expatriate from Saudi Jail

Normally expats who visit Saudi Arabia have different adventures due to unawareness with Saudi culture and laws, especially western women. Recently a friend of mine went into jail due to some religious concerns and overly freedom act. Today we are going to share her experience of spending time in Saudi Arabia as well as Saudi Jail.
Me: what was your interest to visit Saudi Arabia as you belong to Finland? Did not it haunt you about your decision to stay in Saudi Arabia?

She: It was just a break out me wanted from life. Being a part of western culture, obviously it was a hard decision to move to an Islamic state with little or no information about its culture. The first thought which came in my mind was to take a break from common daily routine. Here I signed a contract as nurse in a governmental hospital. Right after six months of my approval for job call, I was moving to Saudi Arabia for joining my position in hospital. My family and friends did not take it seriously that I am going to Saudi Arabia. Till the day I arrived Riyadh airport, I was not actually sure about my stay in Saudi Arabia. I reached here during midnight without abaya and people saw me as if I am the most awkward thing on this whole Kingdom. Later I tried to get rid of that place as soon as possible and my attendant from hospital took me to my residence. I felt quite comfortable in hospital, as the environment and colleagues were so friendly and I took little time to become a part of this environment. My hospital timing were about 12 hours for one shift and for rest of the time I was free for so many thrilling and exciting activities like walk, sports, hang outs, parties and many more. I enjoyed my every moment here despite of restricted environment. The major change I faced here was to wear abaya otherwise, it is a cool place to live.

Me: what were your activities after your job timings here in Saudi Arabia?
She: I have heard so many expats complaining about shortage of activities and platforms for women here in Saudi Arabia. I had a different case, I enjoyed my after job time by all ways. I spent it while taking dance lessons, playing tennis, working out in gym and hangouts with friends on weekends and special occasions. I traveled to Middle East with my colleagues and explored various Asian regions. For this reason I extended my job here up to two years as I had so many things to do here.

Me: I admire your quality time management but what about jail experience you had have here? How it impact your personality and career?
She: being a western citizen, I had a non-pleasing experience with religious police here i.e. Muttawa. Once I had a hang out with my western expat colleagues here in Saudi Arabia. They all are males and were four in number. I was in car when Muttawwa police came towards me and started inquiring me. Meanwhile my colleagues were inside the restaurant taking meals for us. The worst scenario begun when they came back and the police found that I was with them. They right away took me out of my car, dragged me towards police car and took me to a remote location. It was just like a nightmare for me or a scary scene of adventure movie where some unknown people abruptly come and kidnap a heroin (lamao). When I reached that place, I came to know there were female police members as well, I felt a bit relaxed but again it was a worrisome factor that I was imprisoned in a foreign country and all my things i.e. phone, purse and stuff have taken away from me. It was just a moment of zero displacement for me.

ME: it sounds horrible, especially for an expat. How you found jail in Saudi Arabia and what kind of troubles you faced while your stay there?
She: Indeed it was like a horrible nightmare. After getting into jail, I took a corner and became silent part of that scenario without talking to anyone for hours. I saw many women crying over there. I was feeling like a deaf and dumb as they all were talking in Arabic and I was not having a clue what to do when no one was even giving me my phone to call my sponsor and family.

ME: The situation you borne, it indeed felt peak of helpless for a woman alone in a foreign jail. What happened later? How were your days there in jail? What about environment of jail?
She: the environment was quiet relaxing and unlike my expectations. I was kept in a big hall with number of beds where more than 40 prisoners stayed together. There was a single place which was used for cleaning, toilet, kids washing and dish washing. The washing room was comprised of 6 toilets. There was a mini market inside the cell. All necessary items were available there like toilet papers, eatables, clothes, casual stuff etc. I could not buy anything as my purse and cards were taken away and I had no money. I was jailed in the month of Ramadan. I had to fast along with all prisoner till the sun sets. The overall environment was friendly and mates were supportive there. One of the lady there offered me to have her trousers for sleeping purpose. When I was about to leave the jail, another western woman was taken there. She was constantly weeping. I asked ladies to take care of her as they took mine.

ME: what happened to your colleagues and how many days you spent in jail?
She: after getting out I came to know my colleagues were also taken to jail just for one day. Next day they informed my family and sponsor about my imprisonment and my sponsor took me out from jail right away. It was an incredible moment for me when I saw my sponsor there in jail to take me with him. He took me to my work place and asked me to feel relaxed it was just a miss understanding. I was so relaxed to even feel that I got rid of that worst situation and finally out of it. I was even ready to leave Saudi Arabia to Finland after going out of this jail.

ME: It sounds shocking how you faced circumstances here, but what were your feelings when you came back home? Did you feel normal like before or any major change you had in your personality after this incident?
She: obviously it had a little impact on my perception but overall things went well for me. I felt myself lucky as my jail mates treated me with kindness and in a friendly way. Mostly women I met in jail were expats. My sponsor supported me out of the way and every one treated me after coming back as it is normal like before. After taking a little break, I started working again and continued my routine after leaving that incident behind. By my simple perception is that no everyone gets out of such situations as I did thanks to God. I feel myself lucky at this stance. I would recommend all expats especially females to be very careful about rules and laws while residing in Saudi Arabia. It is the only way to keep yourself safe and at a better place during your job in Saudi Arabia. Overall life is exciting, thrilling and richer here in Saudi Arabia but people should learn from bad experiences of others, it will not only help you to keep yourself safe from such adventures as I faced while my stay here in Saudi Arabia but would make your stay healthier, safe and  sound.


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