Two of my Saudi friends had responded to this post by uploading their pictures onto FB and providing me with a link. They told me, we’re doing so because we can. We just never thought about doing it until now!
Their response got me thinking on rights as a muscle that needs constant exercising or else it will weaken and diminish. It also got me to perceive rights as valuable items; once left unattended they become the property of someone else. They become a privilege that someone else, now with full ownership, may put a price tag on-or give away as charity!
This perception on rights applies even more strongly in societies where rights are scarce. When people are hungered by their lack of privileges, they are more likely to steal others’ rights, let alone take over ones which are left unattended.
The tragic aspect to losing rights is that it often triggers a chain reaction, especially if the loser is associated with members of a certain gender or ethnicity. E.g., if a woman loses her right to seek education abroad by not practicing it, other women could be affected by this. It might indicate that women are not keen on pursuing their education, thus it can be easily taken away from them. Once a fair number of women lose their right to pursue their education abroad, the ones who still keep their right to education abroad will be viewed as –hear this- ones who are privileged, and eventually, ones who stole property which does not belong to them!
The other downside to loss of rights is its recurrence. E.g., if a woman loses her right to education abroad, loses her right to choose her dress type, loses her right to choose her job, loses her right to marry out of love, loses her right to independency, etc. If she makes a pattern of loss, she allows for the creation of a pattern of theft. Pattern eventually turns into habit, habits into norm. Norms are rarely questionable. What is questionable is altering the norm.
A year has passed since my friends’ correspondence, a time in which many real Saudi female names and faces have come forth on FB as well as other social networks. Through that change, I’ve noticed how winning rights can make a pattern also, allowing for personal gains as well as gains of an entire gender or ethnic group.
In a society where rights are scarce, people should be more alert and protective over their rights. Sometimes they might even need to be fierce in winning some of their losses back. They need to also make a balance between discussing rights in theory, and putting them into actual practice so they are visual and touchable by the public.
Winning rights requires the belief that even when one is demanding things for themselves, nothing selfish can come out of this deed, because winning for the self is a step towards winning for the group. Once rights go back to their rightful owner, once everyone in the society stands right by what they own, those who find a lacking in their property can clearly see who it is that they need to put a fight with. Not the woman, not the shiit, not the sunni, not the sufi-someone else probably.