Irina Bernebring Journiette

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Tag: women

120317–The Only Girl in the World ?

Björn and I was fortunate enough to be invited along side the Ambassador and his senior adviser for lunch with the minister of culture and information the other day. One might say it was a small gathering to celebrate the end of the ten day long book fair. Greeted as a success the mood was jolly. I sat with a hand full of women in the women section during the pre-lunch speech, all prominent scholars and professors. (The network for Saudi prominent women is actually quite impressive, but of course, also quite exclusive, the all seem to know each other quite well. Perhaps they can also serve as a lesson to us, women of the “westerland,” and our ability to constantly work against and not towards each other.) Anyway. All seemed to be like a typical Saudi event, mostly men, some women, until it was time for lunch. At the VIP – seating I sat down to dine at a table with 50 guests, 49 men and I. The absence of women not as noticeable as the presence of one–me, yours truly–abaya wearing of course, but refusing the hijab, seated across two members of the “haiia,”–mutawwah. And it was, truly astonishing. Me, Haram in my every being, sat there and shared a meal, with all the men. The debate surrounding the lack of women in public space and the oddity in excluding all the prominent female members of society and including me will be left for a later stage. Now I just felt the amaze of being the only girl in the world.

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120310–Book Fair!

Just got back to work after a great weekend. First I spent the day working at the Book Fair here in Riyadh, where Sweden is an honorary guest. Super intense but a lot of fun. A showed the KSA 2 crew around our pavilion in live TV and then apparently was dubbed “Miss Sweden” by news outlets. “I’m soooo glad you are not blond and blue-eyed,” an anonymous source proclaimed after. I could not agree more. Promoting Sweden here is also about challenging many of the stereotypes that people have about our country up in the far north. “No, we are not all blond,” “No, English is not out official language, we speak Swedish and that is not English,” “No, we don’t speak like we do because we are to cold to speak normally” (this was by far the best question of the day). At the same time I feel as if it’s as important to remember to promote Saudi Arabia back home in Sweden. It is a totalitarian country, and there are many things here that most swedes, Scandinavians or westerners might not like. But we have to remember to look past stereotypes. On Thursday for example we hosted a poetry recitation at the embassy and I was lucky to meet several empowering and inspiring women.