Tuesday, 7 September 2010

WHY I LOVE OMAN: from living in another GCC country

Before I moved to Oman, I lived in the UAE. I was going to take a teaching job there but I took the first few months off to take time to aclimatize, to discover and enjoy my 'new' country.

I never adjusted. I had a very hard time. As a Muslim woman living by herself, despite the advertised image of UAE being a very "modern" country toted in the West, the ordeal of just doing daily chores like grocery shopping in YEMEN of ALL places was easier than doing so in UAE without local male harassment.

And I WORE A FACE VEIL AND A VERY LOOSE OVERHEAD ABAYA when I lived there, a plain abaya, with no decoration. I wore plain black flat sandals and no make-up. An extremist would approve of my "hijab".

I looked even more modest then most locals.

Honestly, I couldn't shop by myself or even with female friends without a male companion to discourage Emirati men to leave me alone. I know people talk bad about Saudi Arabia, but I know ALOT of Saudis, and what happened to me in UAE wouldn't even be allowed to happen in Saudi Arabia, and I know that FOR SURE.

Here goes:

I had four witnesses to the event. The local wife of an Abu Dhabi politician, an American non-muslim woman, a Canadian Muslim woman, and an Emirati infant. These people saw what happened.

I was going for a peaceful walk with my female friends. We were modestly attired. Our American friend is Arab-country saavy and fluent in Arabic. Peacefully walking, pushing a stroller.

A car passed by us, window rolled down, creeping slowly, blasting Arabic music. Saying something in arabic to us, we did not make eye contact, we ignored him. We kept walking, trying to enjoy our night. This car continued to follow us and would not leave us alone. This continued for up to a half an hour and we had cancelled our walk and were trying to exit. The car blocked our exit by circling around for another pass.

Now you know, I would have phoned the Emirati police, wallah, but my faith in them had only been destroyed the other night, when I saw them stop two prostitutes (one Iranian, one Sudanese) on the Corniche. Knowing that they were prostitutes, I assumed they were to be arrested by the Emirati police officers. But the fear in the two girls eyes was worse than that for their locale Emirati pimp who drove a white hummer parked just down the rode from them. [Understand, I have a special respect for prostitutes and a hatred for what drove them to this way of life].

The police took the girls phone numbers and resident card #s and drove off. The girls looked like death. I made the mistake of inquiring what had gone down, thus destroying my faith in UAE justice early on.

Iranian Lady-of-the-Night: "They are making us go to their party." Translation, the girls have to sleep with the cops or face deportation or worse.

Anyways, thus that explains why I did not really want to call the police, and why I did what I DO when I am scared. I started a fight.

I confronted the Emirati stalker. I hit his car. Note: I did not damage it. I also told him to lower his gaze. I yelled "shame!" at him in Arabic.

The adhan rang out in the background, calling Muslim men to prayer.

Thus did that Emirati, the fact that I rejected him and hurt his pride by NOT puting up with his sad social behaviour, called the UAE authorities ON ME.

To teach me, the foreigner, to BOW DOWN to my UAE superior.

The police knew full well we women did nothing wrong and that he was the one commiting a crime. We were superior in witnesses.

So why was I facing arrest?

But he was a local.

One of us was also, and on top of that, she had considerable wasta, but tribe and country and race don't matter in Islam, and I wanted to make an Islamic point to the creep. We didn't play the local card.

When the police told me to apologize or be arrested I told them I'd rather go to jail. OPNO is just like that.

I told the Emirati man if he would swear to Allah he wasn't harassing women I'd apologize. He refused, of course.

Anyways, I never did get arrested. The cops made OUT like they were arresting us to save face in front of the proud local but then let us go at the mall but that made me hate UAE for good. I was done with it.

Justice is not justice unless it stands for all mankind. Not one race or country over another.

In Saudi, I'd have been allowed to smack the dude right in the face btw, foreigner that I am. I would not have been detained and questioned by the police.

In my opinion, the justice system in UAE is even WORSE than the one in Saudi because women ARE allowed to defend themselves in Saudi, even if they are not encouraged to walk without male escorts. At least UAE should admit that women really can't walk free without harrassment.

In Oman, I have been harassed on one occasion. But you know what? The ROP more than dealt with it. The man went to JAIL for trying to kiss my friend. JAIL for a long, long time.

More than what we would have felt was justice but... at least Oman will prosecute its own misbehaving citizens when PUSHED to. Yes, you have to PUSH, but it at least exists as a possability. And you won't get arrested for some idiot STALKING YOU!

***If you are accompanied by your husband or a male relative in UAE this does not happen.****

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