In the U.S., I heard there was a march on Washington D.C., a women’s march where prominent figures of influence and fame gathered in solidarity. It was a rallying call to address key issues women faced in society. Of their grievances, I understood they called for things like reproductive rights, gender equality, health care reform, equal pay, and an overall acceptance towards the right of a woman to do and be whatever they wanted.
I’m not sure if this movement was promulgated by the Swords of St. Catherine or not, either way, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted in so many ways. In the United States, women have so much control, so much power, so much influence. We can say what we want. Do what we want. There are obstacles sure, but the trials and tribulations makes us ten times stronger than men. I embraced them.
And if the women of America are ten times stronger than men on the basis of that logic, then I can tell you from the bottom of my heart and with the utmost sincerity… The women fighting in the Middle East are a hundred times more powerful.
In many countries, women are still treated like cattle, like currency, like a bartering chip between families. I’ve seen women stoned for exposing too much skin. I’ve seen teenage girls beheaded simply for reporting they were raped. I’ve seen entire villages beating on women for walking without a man’s supervision or daring to take off her hijab in the scorching sun.
In Saudi Arabia, there’s a practice called Wahhabism by which groups of clergy men literally patrol the streets like wolves to surround and attack anyone they deem violators of their sacred laws. They were given carte blanche to determine for themselves what’s consider blasphemy or treason. Women are their main targets.
Here, women need the permission of men to marry, divorce, educate themselves, seek employment, or even open a bank account. That’s just to name a few. And God forbid any woman was caught driving, though I heard they recently ‘laxed on that law. The punishments ranged from mutilation, stoning, death, and on occasion, crucifixion.
Saudi Arabia was my first stop when I came to the Middle East. An underground activist tutored me and the three other protégés on the customs. My blue eyes and blonde hair would have made me an eyesore by which the wolves would be driven to a frenzy. Thankfully, I was able to fully take advantage of the abaya and niqab, black robes that would conceal my fair skin. Additionally, I darkened my face with foundation and used brown contact lenses.
Initially, the plan was to spend five days in Saudi Arabia before smuggling ourselves north into Jordan. But one of my comrades, Shelly, she saw a group of men raping a student in an alley outside our loft. Shelly attacked. The ensuing battle was loud, bloody, and attracted the Wolves of Wahhabi. That’s when I intervened with my trusty Dragunov sniper rifle. The bodies we left in the streets roiled the public for months.
We were long gone by time the police raided shops and homes with impunity, but I learned very fast that all actions had unintended consequences. The public demanded justice and the government gave it to them. The student who was raped was publically beheaded. Her entire family was stoned in the middle of a town square.