Saudi Arabia: The Middle East Paradise - My Biggest Fear
There was never a time in the past that I could have foreseen this moment coming. Me sat in my room, in Bristol, in Great Britain, feeling scared about so many different things involving Islam; that I have to write about Saudi Arabia. I never thought there would be a need to share some of my experiences, in the hope that some people might actually listen and wake up!
I was almost eleven years old when my father announced us that he was now employed by a massive Cypriot construction engineering company called J&P (Joannou & Paraskevaides) located in Saudi Arabia. My father was a teacher. How was that possible? He explained us that J&P had built in the heart of Riyadh -the capital of Saudi -a small community for the employees of the company. This community included a Greek school that my father would run, with a salary almost ten times bigger from what he was already paid in Cyprus. Personally I was neutral to the idea, as since birth and until today I have had a very difficult relationship with my father. Him being in a different country didn’t matter much. It was not long after, I found out that the whole family was moving to Saudi Arabia. Yes, he was moving his wife, me and my brother in SAUDI ARABIA, in Riyadh. Riyadh specifically is a place so strict that nobody can visit for holidays unless one has a working visa.
My first vivid experience of Saudi and Islam started at the very first moment of landing at the airport of Riyadh. I was simply speechless by how massive the airport was and the obvious wealth. For a moment I thought I was in New York -from what I had seen on television. How wrong was I!! Minutes after our landing, a man in a white dress and a red/white headscarf run towards my father, grabbed him by his neck, pulled the golden cross he had around his neck and turned it into pieces with his own bare two hands. Me and my mother were left staring at each other in absolute shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Outside the airport we were met by a driver, that drove us outside a massive round wall and through some gates with armed security. Our Greek-Cypriot guarded community! It was inside those walls I lived for five years. It was a wall built all around our community and houses, so we could be allowed to live “free”. Meaning: dress as we wanted, say what we wanted, be able to have interaction between males and females and be able to eat during Ramadan. We was escorted to our lovely house, given a car, and been explained a few basics mainly about my mother's and mine dressing code. Basically we had to be dressed in a foul body black hijab. Period!
The first month, it was mostly my family meeting the rest of the Cypriot families living within the walls. Time really went by with other Cypriots sharing some scary stories and warnings about being outside the walls, and me and my brother settling in to our new school.
My second encounter with Islamic Saudi came on a day at the supermarket. We knew that the local imams of each areas -when they were not calling for prayers -they were patrolling their areas accompanied by Islamic police; ensuring the Islamic law and order are implemented. We were also warned that most of them carry whips and that they don't hesitate to use them.
"I remember hearing my mum screaming, turning my head and seeing the imam wiping her twice on her legs (ankle area). I remember him pulling her hijab showing her to cover her whole face, not only the hair". The traditional Arabic hijab is made in a such a way that can be worn in three different ways: covering the whole face, covering the whole face besides the eyes or covering the hair alone. We was told, that it was ok to go out covering only our hair. Obviously NOT! Eventhough the Islamic law permits to women to wear the hijab covering only the hair, the local imams had the power to force on the citizens of their area the dressing code they wanted.
"I stayed hidden until the imam was out of sight because my whole face was not covered either -only my hair". When the imam finished screaming in Arabic at my father and left, men that had been there explained what he had said. "My father had just got his two warnings from his local imam: One for allowing my mother to be uncovered in public and one for allowing my mother to walk next to him. He had said he knew we were from J&P and that in case he received a third warning, would mean imprisonment for my father". Imprisonment for a foreigner was the biggest fear we had, because we had heard of a few cases were Cypriots have been imprisoned, the embassy had failed to interfere and claim them back in time and they have died. True or not, I don’t know.
Since that incident J&P provided us with a driver who also had the duties of a security guard; for every time we would go outside of our community walls.
As months went by, we tried to keep life inside the walls as normal as possible. It was only when we could hear imams calling for prayers, we would usually freeze for a minute, trying to figure out if we were inside or outside the walls, so we could act accordingly.
In time I got to understand the Islamic law and the Arabic culture a bit more. I saw how women were worth NOTHING. I saw the cars having sheep as passengers at the passenger and back seats, and women placed in the boot of the cars (I have photos of that). I saw how every time Imams were calling for a prayers, EVERY SINGLE Arab would stop what they had been doing and bend on their knees to pray. I visited a few Prince palaces that J&P was building and I saw wealth beyond any normal human imagination. I saw piles of diamonds that some people could only dream of. But I also saw, that money did not matter in that country. Those people still lived in the stone-age.
I got sick and we had to visit one of the best hospitals Riyadh had to offer. I was diagnosed with hypothyroids and was refered to a specialist. My doctor seemed nice, treated me with kindness, spoke English, he was dressed like a “normal western man” thus I really thought I had met a nice progressive (as we call them today) Arab. How wrong could I be! When we got home i found out by my parents, that he was more interested in marrying me, by offering to my father seventy camels in exchange. Treating me was apparently NOT his priority and the fact that I had just turned twelve did not matter. We later found out that buying brides, usually child brides, was not something uncommon. This was how marriages were mostly arranged. Only difference was that the groom's mother usually found, chose and bought the bride. The fact that this man thought I was worth seventy camels and not money; our Arab security (who soon became our friend) explained that it was because I was a white western Christian (an infidel), thus I was not worth that much anyway. Seventy camels and he believed he was doing my family a favour by helping them get rid of me.
Hold your horses if you think that my experiences in Saudi cannot become any worse. "We were in a local indoors market, when I had my ass grabbed three or four times by an Arab man that was walking behind us. As any child would, I immediately reported it to my mother and in turns she had mentioned it to our security guard". His reply was: “Just bring her next to me, but there is nothing really you can do". Even though it is illegal by Islamic law for a woman and a man to touch each other if they are not married, no one would believe me. We were western infidels in their country. Even worse I could also get in trouble for causing it.
I think it is also wise to mention that Saudi had a similar law for car accidents, caused by foreigners. The law stated that: "The accident is always the foreigners' fault, because if they hadn’t been in their country there would be no accident". Very rational yeah? Almost as rational as seeing all western toilets in restaurants or anywhere else coming with instructions; because even the richest Arabs use the traditional wholes for toilets. The instructions signs said: “please do not stand on the toilet or toilet seat. Please sit” (I have photo of that).
Another major freedom we used to enjoy in Saudi was the absolute starvation from dawn to sunset during Ramadan. Once we were in public we couldn't eat ANYTHING the hours of fasting (dawn to sunset) -as it constituted a crime under the Islamic law. It was actually considered such a severe crime that punishment was life threatening. How lovely, the Islamic law isn’t it?
The last but not least incident I want to mention was by far the most traumatic one. Me and my mother witnessed the stoning of a woman. An incident both of us will carry with us for the rest of my lives. On that day, we had arranged to visit the place where the beheadings, the cutting off body parts and stonings used to take place. Sadly we had not been informed that on that day the stoning of a woman was taking place.
"As we walked closer to the area, me and my mother were suddenly dragged and separated from my father, brother and security guard. We were placed in a circle of women and a few imams where we watched all of them (imams and women) throw a stone at a woman tied in the middle. The Imams were making sure all women were throwing a stone. I think I got away with it because I was the youngest one there. Due to the noise, due to my shock and fear I cannot remember my mother's actions on the day". However, until this day she refuses to tell me if she was forced to throw a stone her self. What I do remember though is that we were forced to stay there and watch until the woman fell totally unconscious; I presume dead! What I do remember, is that this madness concluded with the crowd cheering the woman's death and acting as if it was "New Years Eve Celebration".
When we got united with my father, my mother had already decided that we had enough of this country. Three years were enough to see all we needed to see. What more was left for us to experience? We had just seen a woman being stoned to death and people happily cheering her barbaric death. However for another two years we had spent six months in Cyprus and six months in Saudi.
Why do I write all this? Because today I am sat in my room and I feel scared that I am experiencing Great Britain changing. I see the Islamic law in Britain alive. A law completely incompatible with any western values! Female genital mutilation, no freedom of speech, gang rapes by men that believe women -especially white western women- are worth nothing but rape; and of course death threats for criticizing their holy religion! I personally had threats by Muslims that suggested my rape, the bombing of my house and threats against my life (i have screenshots). I am today witnessing the British police becoming the authoritarian imams I so much used to and still hate. Tommy Robinson among the greatest victim example of the "imam style" authoritarian British Police. I am today experiencing the same feelings of fear and insecurity I had about 20 years ago, living in the heart of Islam.
Sharia law and courts are basically the imams and the Islamic police ensuring the Islamic law and lifestyle are being applied by Muslims; and punishing accordingly if they are not. The Islamic law is based almost exclusively on the sayings (verses) of the Koran. In turn, the Koran is basically the life example and teachings of their prophet Muhammed. Thus, I urge and I beg people to do some reading about the Islamic history and the biography of Muhhamet. Understanding islam is not as complicated as you might think. Understanding why those people put nothing above their religion, you need to do some digging into the Koran. You need to read yourselves how the Koran is a repetitive force calling for extreme violence, referring to a generally uneducated audience easy to manipulate.
I will close this delirium of mine by begging you to think of this: "If all Muslims take the Koran literally, then the rest of us need to either convert to Islam or die". So I dare you tell me, that the Koran is not dangerous! Even if only 0.1% of Muslims take the Koran literally. You face me in the eyes and dare tell me I shouldn't be ISLAMOTERRIFIED!