PODCAST: Serah Gazali on escaping Saudi Arabia, the guardianship system, and how Saudi women are fighting back

Meghan Murphy speaks with Serah Gazali, who escaped Saudi Arabia a decade ago.

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A decade ago, Serah Gazali escaped Saudi Arabia, leaving behind a life where her every move was monitored and controlled. She acquired refugee status while in Mexico, based on her sex, and her application set a precedent in Latin American UNHCR case law. She is now living in Vancouver, and has not had contact with any of her family members since she left. Serah is an MA graduate student in the Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia, worked at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Mexico, as well as with the Women’s Economic Council, and was a senior counselor for the Syrian refugee project in Canada.

In this episode I speak with her about women’s oppression in Saudi Arabian, the guardianship system, how she escaped, and how Western feminists can support the women’s movement in Saudi.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Safa

    Excellent interview. Ms. Gazali provided very relevant and intelligent discussion. She is remarkably brave and inspirational. I like how she pointed out that she is considered radical because she is working and living alone. She is radical because she is not a man’s slave. That is basically what women are in most of the world’s societies. Replace the word “guardianship” with “ownership” and there you have it. She mentioned food preparation as the major task for Saudi women. The other task is, of course, sex. She explained that when a man is admonishing his woman that he can still have sex with her. That is what it’s all about–food and sex. Human culture has become so boring. I’m glad she mentioned the superficiality of the new law permitting Saudi women to drive. Driving does not automatically equate with freedom. It must be quite a conflict for Saudi women to even get into a taxi with a male driver. If he becomes sexually aggressive towards them, it is the women who must prove their innocence. It probably isn’t worth the trouble to even get in the taxi!