“Imagine being condemned as a victim who didn’t ask for their reality to become a lived nightmare…
Dar Al Reaya are female prison systems in Saudi Arabia that are accountable for holding majority of female Saudi victims or activists who have committed no wrong. The females that are being held are mostly imprisoned for reporting an abuse, a crime or for simply advocating or enjoying the luxuries of being a woman. Most of the time, the women are taken by FORCE to the prison when they are seen as ‘shameful’ beings in their society — a society which sees the average woman as a second class citizen in their own country. Sometimes, the woman in question may feel as though she has no choice but to go there due to desperation and the feelings of hopelessness. You would often find that when a Saudi woman is trapped in a circumstance of abuse, she would make the Dar Al Reaya center the first point of escape due to Saudi Arabia lacking in protection centers that cater for runaway female victims.
Where else can she go? Despite Dar Al Reaya being an option that no woman would prefer, it usually presents itself as a better opportunity than to be in the clutches of severe abuse at home or otherwise.
The conditions of the prison include:
- Small room, 1 window, a bed, a Quran and a toilet (if you’re lucky). Some cells do not have toilet facilities forcing women to unhealthy practices of hygiene. The cells are not cleaned and often get infested with rodents.
- Dar Al Reaya does not provide rehabilitation activities for the victims as they are confined in their cells all day and all night.
- Many victims in the prison exhibit psychological and physical distresses overtime. One victim who was able to recall how her prison experience, mentioned hearing the women in nearby cells: screaming, cursing themselves for death, talking to themselves, crying excessively and making animal noises such as cat sounds illustrating their mental breakdown.
- If the victim’s male guardian does not request for the woman’s freedom due to him neglecting her or other reasons, the prison does have the options to marry her off OR keep her imprisoned for long periods of time which is said to be similar to life imprisonment.
- Women held in the prison include: victims of rape and abuse from male guardians, women activists and women charged for petty activities such as the wrong dress code or not seen with a guardian in public.
- Depending on the extent of her ‘rebellion’, victims allegedly receive lashes every Thursday of the week. Lashes range from 40 and upwards.
Dar Al Reaya is a facility that is feared by many Saudi women because it is known for its injustices that contribute to an oppressive society by law. It is also a topic that many tend to shy away from. The fear Saudi governmental institutions instill on the women, has previously landed many Saudi activists in jail and receiving death sentences.
This year, it has been declared that 5 more Dar Al Reaya centers have been built. Some of which are now holding children.
The United Nations has proven its failures countless times over the years by failing victims of highly oppressive societies for the sake of keeping monetary ties and benefits from certain countries. Women of Saudi Arabia form as an exemplar of a modern day world that continuously rejects the livelihood that human beings ought to deserve.
Where do victims turn to when the world has turned against the cries of those in severe misery?”
Although I personally wrote the above article in 2018 and raised the much needed awareness it deserved, I find myself going back to this each and every single time because it’s a human rights atrocity that we as a society need to continue to raise. It’s 2020 and Saudi Arabia has made adjustments to many of its laws pertaining women and their role in society. However I must emphasise that there is still so much to target which often times many find themselves in fear of speaking out due to the intimidation that comes with it.
I still continue to raise these injustices because I do it on the behalf of the great women of Saudi whom I’ve known and encountered that depend on the international community to be their voice. I will continue to update my readers on this campaign as there is so much to address in this context. I will also create content around my involvement with Saudi women, the campaign which I had created, my relationship with the victims and all that revolves around this topic.
Your Girl, Thobeka F. Signing off.
Original Article draft Year: 2018
Sourced from my Medium Page: https://medium.com/@feliciathobeka/dar-al-reaya-female-torture-chambers-in-saudi-arabia-f78c16271859