Dec. 14, 2009
NIR BOMS and NOAM IVRI , THE JERUSALEM POST
‘I am writing from the other side of the ocean to inform you that after my graduation I won’t be returning” wrote Saudi student Layla (a pseudonym) to her family, in a letter published in the Saudi newspaper Okaz.
“I’ve been freed from my apprehensions and dismays and enjoy being separated from the [Middle] Eastern man; do I surprise you with the audacity to stop keeping tribal customs?”
Her voice, the voice of a free woman in an adopted country, joins a growing group of brave Saudi women activists who dare to dissent against one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
Layla describes her journey through literature that focused on a question seemingly trivial to readers on this side of the ocean: What value, if any, do I have in this world as a woman? Books banned in her native Saudi Arabia helped provide her with some answers. Al-Neehum, a Libyan exile and critic of Arab culture, was adopted to be Layla’s first teacher: “Equality between men and women is impossible in any society that doesn’t allow for equal earning opportunities,” he wrote. “Arab society adopts a predetermined system where the man’s earning power is independent of the woman, while a woman’s earning power is dependent on the man.”