One day we were average college students working towards our education and the next day we were young professionals working in the midst of a turning point in history. We were ecstatic when we learned we would be working for the Institute for Gulf Affairs on their “No Women, No Play” Campaign, but we never thought it would be like this. It seemed like a great opportunity to really make a difference in the world and learn about the Middle East. Unfortunately since joining the IGA, we have met a great deal of resistance on this particular campaign. The mission of the project is to pressure the International Olympic charter to ban Saudi Arabia from the 2012 Olympic Games until they change their discriminatory policies against women. The IGA has contacted people through hundreds of letters, e-mails and phone calls, but have received little response. The few responses received have either been rude ‘no’s or frightened individuals who are willing to talk about their experiences in the Middle East, but unwilling to give their name (let alone show their face on camera). It seems as though this “team” is a particularly dangerous one to be on.
In 1992, The Basic Law of Government declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of the first king, Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. This absolute monarchy rules under strict Islamic laws of the Wahhabi sect which dictates all that its citizens can and cannot do within the country. Especially for women, these Islamic regulations are incredibly harsh. They cannot drive vehicles, receive medical care, vote, or even go to the grocery store without a man’s permission. The Guardianship Laws are laws in which female oppression has been legalized and women have become less than human beings. “I felt like a prisoner,” an American female tells the IGA of her experiences living within the country. “I felt second rate as a woman. It was so restrictive! I couldn’t drive; my husband worked across the street and I couldn’t get in a car and go out anywhere. It’s unbelievable.”
So where is The Institute for Gulf Affairs going from here one might ask? “We are going to continue fighting for this cause despite opposition. The cruelty and oppression of Saudi Arabian women is unacceptable and these policies must change; Based on the current uprisings in the Middle East we believe that time for change is now.
The Institute for Gulf Affairs is currently looking for supporters and sponsorship for this campaign. For more information please contact email@example.com