Saudi Arabia: Women bloggers express themselves on Web

By RIMA AL-MUKHTAR | ARAB NEWS

Published: Jun 8, 2010 00:24 Updated: Jun 8, 2010 00:24

JEDDAH: As Internet usage in the Kingdom increases, so is the number of women who use it to express themselves in ways they would never do in public, not even in front of their closest friends.

Around 500 female Saudi bloggers responded to an online Arab News survey about their ages, the topics they write about and why they blog. Sixty percent of respondents, all of whom are between 17 and 30, use blogs as personal diaries, while 30 percent comment on social issues and 10 percent write about fashion.

The vast majority (93 percent) said they blog to remain anonymous and fear someone may recognize them through their writings.

There are at present hundreds of Saudi bloggers who write either in English or Arabic and include both men and women. Blogging became a trend in the Kingdom around five years ago with the growth in Internet use and it seems people blog to express their thoughts and tell their personal stories. “I’ve made a lot of friends through blogging. It feels like I’ve known them for a long time having read about them every day,” said one blogger.

The Kingdom is still in many ways a closed society and so many from the younger generation find it difficult to share their adventures and concerns with their families and friends.

“My family is strict and if they knew what I was thinking or what was on my mind, they wouldn’t only kill me, they would also hang me in front of my house,” said Fatima, a blogger from Al-Qassim province.

Lamia uses her blog to publish poetry describing her love and yearning for her cousin, Firas. She says she is scared her family may find out about her infatuation.

“Saudi people are judgmental and that’s why I opt to remain anonymous. I hate being looked at as the girl who did this and that and brought shame on her parents. I write poetry and do not take credit for it,” she said.

Lamia writes her poetry in English, something that makes her feel safe as her parents only know Arabic. She also blogs as it is easy to remain anonymous.

“I used to have a proper physical diary. My mother was once going through my stuff and found it. I was beaten so badly that day. That’s when I decided to create an online diary,” she added.

There are bloggers who like to write about family problems and ask other bloggers for solutions. “I’m married and I always have problems with my husband,” said Asmaa Al-Abdulmajeed.

“I can’t share those issues with my family and friends as they are personal issues and so I ask random bloggers and post anonymously so no one knows who I am and who my husband is,” she added.

“I have to admit that a lot of recommendations I’ve received from other bloggers have been very useful and helpful. I don’t regret asking them about personal issues at all,” said Al-Abdulmajeed.

Online diaries are safe and Saudi bloggers feel they can confide in them more than their family and friends. “I was backstabbed by a friend once who told everyone my secrets. But when I started writing for people who I’d never met, I felt safe and wanted to write more,” said Maha Al-Khaledi, a blogger from Riyadh.

“I write everyday and give updates on my daily life. People always comment on my posts and advise me what to do in the different situations I get myself into,” she added. “It’s sad that I love my online blogger friends more than my real ones — I trust them more,” she added. Some bloggers do not post anything that could be held against them.

They instead use their blogs to share their love for subjects such as fashion, music and poetry. “I’m a fashion addict. I therefore write about fashion and share photos on the subject. I like reading people’s comments of what I write about even if the subject isn’t that important,” said Alia, a blogger from Jeddah.

Sawsan Khushaim is a blogger from Al-Madinah who began writing blogs to improve her English and share her feelings and thoughts. She said blogging has been an eye opener and a good way to connect with people both inside and outside the Kingdom.

“I almost always write about my feelings and what I am going through. I’ve never told my family about my blog. It’s not that I’m keeping it a secret, I’ve simply not had a chance to share it with them,” she said.

“Some names have been changed to protect the identities of those mentioned.”

Source taken from: http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article62476.ece

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