Women Biking Together in Baghdad, Iraq

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An event took place in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 5, where a woman organised a joint bike ride for women. The event was called “I, the society”, and was set up in order to motivate women to bike in public.

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Photo and video credits: Irfaa Sawtak and Hayder Hamzoz

Diving Sisters from Saudi Arabia

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Noor Al-Dubais (left) and Taammul Al-Dubais (right)

Photo credit: saudigazette.com.sa

Two sisters from Sanabis town on Tarout Island on the Eastern coast of Saudi Arabia made headlines this week as some of the few professional women divers in the country.

The local newspaper Saudi Gazette reports that Noor and Taammul Al-Dubais were raised in a seafaring family and that they have been surrounded by water all their lives. Noor was 5 when her father taught her how to breath under water and the sisters held their international diving licenses as 10 year olds. Now they wish to pass on their passion for diving to other girls. They are diving as a professional duo and have been diving on many different occasions.

They started to dive in the city of Jubail on the east coast, around Jana Island. Noor says to the newspaper Alsharq daily, regarding her diving experiences in the Red Sea off the coast of Jeddah:

I swam among the beautiful coral reefs as if I was a bird flying in a garden. I enjoy diving because my soul separates from my body when I am at great depths.

She says she finds guidance in her parents and that her friends from school encouraged her. The sisters’ father has been a great supporter and he himself is also a diver and a fisherman. He is also Noor’s and Taammul’s professional trainer and has designed a special diving suit for women that he said respects Saudi customs and traditions. Sports for Saudi women are not accepted by everyone and professional sports women in the Kingdom are an exception. But the sisters’ father says:

Noor and Taammul are part of a diving family that loves to look for coral reefs and explore the magical waters of the Gulf. All of my sons and daughters are divers.

Hopefully Noor and Taammul will set an example for many other brave young women around the world.

Saudi Women

Saudi Arabia is being ridiculed world wide for their ban on women’s right to drive; vote; work in various number of professions; sitting next to men in coffee houses, etc. I pity Saudi sometimes as their backwards regulations prevents the international community to see the other sides of the country. Saudi supposedly has many beautiful places in the country side and the city of Jeddah would make an excellent tourist city with it’s long boardwalk along the seaside. But Saudi authorities refuse to open up the country like it’s fellow Gulf neighbours have done, despite the financial advantages it would entail.

What I would like to bring to your attention is the strive for development that do exist within the Saudi community itself. Not everyone are satisfied with the regulations that prevents freedom and drains resources from the development of the country. Only on Facebook there are a number of pages supporting women’s rights: Saudi Women to Drive and Free Saudi Women for example. In 2011 the women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif filmed herself driving and posted the video on Youtube, in which she discussed the problems the ban on driving caused women and how it could lead to dangerous situations when women might need to drive somewhere in case of an emergency. For this she was arrested and released on bail, on the conditions that she wouldn’t speak with media.

Also last year, a female film director named Haifaa al-Mansour released the movie Wadjda, that portraits an 11-year-old girl who dreams about riding a green bicycle -culturally this is not accepted even for small girls.

I do feel for poor Saudi when it’s being ridiculed internationally, but the other day on April 1st, the ban on women riding bicycles was lifted, and Saudi Women to Drive posted a link from Al Arabiya with their own comment on their newfound freedom: “At last, Saudi women are allowed to cruise on bikes and buggies!! What a joke! Happy April Fool Day!