While reading Homa Pourasgari’s recent novel, The Dawn of Saudi, I found myself stepping away from the well-plotted story of two women, one from Saudi Arabia and one from the U.S., who marry Saudi men and are trapped inside the barbaric hell of fundamentalist sharia law. I had to step away and remind myself that no, I’m not reading historical fiction, I’m reading a contemporary story.
Anger pulled me away: anger at the oppression of women based on an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam and outmoded cultural views.
I found myself almost equally angry at the stance of the United States. We condemn human rights abuses around the world, yet we are mostly silent when it comes to those within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I have to agree with Pourasgari that we “remain quiet in the name of oil, greed and politics.” How shameful these reasons are!
The Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia says that, “as documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House and even the US Department of State, Saudi women are among the most oppressed and marginalized citizens in Arab and Muslim countries.” In an author’s note at the end of her novel, Homa Pourasgari describes the social and legal environment in Saudi Arabia more directly: “Women have no rights and are considered the property of a man.”
Pourasgari’s novel tells a compelling story, but the depressing reality of it is a heavy weight around my neck.
See my review of the book on Writer’s Notebook.