13 Saudi girls are looking for husbands so they can travel abroad to study accompanied by a man
“After finding out that if we want to study abroad we must be accompanied by
a male relation, myself and some friends decided to get married. We’re hoping
to do it as soon as possible so that we can take advantage of the foreign study
Rights being protected.
This is the story told to the Saudi daily newspaper, Arab News, by a girl calling
herself Zuleykha who is one of 13 young women who want to take advantage of the
King Abdullah Scholarship Programme, which is a kind of Saudi Erasmus project.
The only thing is that unlike their fellow students scattered around the world,
Zuleykha and her friends cannot do it on their own because of strict Saudi customs
that forbid young women to travel on their own to another country. For this reason
the programme, as Zuleykha told the newspaper, requires women to be accompanied
abroad by a male relative. The problem is that for obvious reasons it’s very difficult
for a father or brother to stay abroad for a year or more to protect a female
student. So Zuleykha and her friends came up with the idea of a “masfaar”, a travel
marriage. “The name was coined after we announced our intention”, Zuleykha explained.
“It’s all perfectly legal and doesn’t contradict the principles of Islamic marriage
or our traditions, including the acceptance of the respective families and the
registration of the marriage”.
Controversy and opportunity.
But not everyone agrees. “This type of marriage doesn’t exist in Islam and it
goes against the precepts. It’s only based on personal interests, therefore it’s
illegal and wrong”, according to Zaid Maharsh, professor of Islamic law. “The
only goal of young women today is to have a personal career and to earn money,
and they’re prepared to overturn traditional values to achieve these objectives”,
Nour al-Attas, the head of the Islamic education office in Abu Arysh, added. “It’s
shameful that young women would think of such an idea”. Given the reaction, it’s
no surprise that Zuleykha wouldn’t give her real name for the interview, and it’s
a fair bet that her friends wouldn’t either. This is the situation in Saudi Arabia
for women. “This idea helps female students to follow a high-level education programme”,
Safiya Ahmed, a teacher, explained to the Arab News. “The level of education in
Saudi Arabia isn’t perfect and young women have to invent ways of carrying on
their studies. The masfaar isn’t a temporary marriage but will last for all their
lives, so I can’t see anything wrong”. “What’s the problem? Why can’t I travel,
complete my studies and then come back home to help my country?”, Zuleykha continued.
“We’re asking people to understand the circumstances and not to make quick judgements”.