The Time I Was Arrested in Saudi Arabia


By Aya Tariq

I’m a firm believer that people aren’t always provided with the circumstances that allow us to be our true selves. I’m telling you this so that I can tell you my story without worrying about being stoned to death. I can tell you, for instance, about the time I sat waiting in a police station trying to figure out how to stop my body from vibrating because I was worried sick about how my parents would feel if they knew what I’d just done.

The arguments I’d heard over and over played in my head. “She’s crazy, how could someone be this bold!” my dad would say. My mom would defend me: “She’s not crazy, she’s a kid, she’s not a normal kid, not for this culture, but she’s done nothing that other kids around the world wouldn’t do.”

I’ve always been in the wrong. I remember when I first realized that. I was only twelve when our neighbor called my mother asking her not let me go outside and play soccer with boys. She said that her husband would sit and watch me and get aroused. Of course, instead of dealing with her husband, she turned twelve-year-old me into the problem. I knew right then that I didn’t belong in this land of make believe. Where people think that women are less than men, where kings still rule, and people get their heads cut off for sorcery.

Shaking in anger and pacing around my jail cell in Saudi Arabia, a familiar rant raced through my mind: “This isn’t fair; me being who I am isn’t fair!” But then my thoughts shifted to, “No, it’s this place, this is hell! I was born on the wrong side of the world, this is fucked up oh it’s so fucked up, I just got unlucky! I need to be out!”

At school, family gatherings, and weddings in Saudi Arabia people would say that all Moroccans were witches. My mother, a charming Moroccan woman, was constantly called a witch who stole my father’s heart. I once had a boyfriend break up with me because his father took him to an exorcist who told him I had cast a spell on him and that was why he fell madly in love with me.

I was arrested for driving a car. I was arrested for driving a car with a man who isn’t related to me. BIG. FUCKING. DEAL. Pacing around my cell, I thought of all the things I wanted to yell at those stupid fucks. Part of me didn’t care if I got stoned to death, but those words my dad repeatedly said around the house rang in my ears: “People know who we are, our reputation!” I knew I didn’t want to give away my name. My parents had suffered enough.

The cop came around the cell and asked for my name again. I was scared, but I was at the fuck-it stage. I said, “My name is Aya. This is my brother’s number.”

While I waited for him to show up, my mind entertained the hilarity of my name. I started laughing like a crazy person until someone showed up to tell me to shut the fuck up and that women aren’t allowed to laugh in public. I continued laughing and thinking, “My name is AYA!” Aya: the physical representation of perfection. How my culture saw the flaws in my being. How I was anything but perfect in the eyes of my religion and culture. How I was constantly rejected like a bad organ transplant! I laughed. I laughed and thought, there is no way out of this.

Then I thought about all the fun I’d had. I was the girl who hosted parties where men, women, cross-dressers, gays and lesbians were welcome to attend. I got some sort of a high seeing people being comfortable with who they truly were, even if it was just for one night. I thought about what I stand for and how I’ve always given zero fucks about people’s religious beliefs. I didn’t need religion to know I wanted to be kind. I think in my parents’ core they didn’t care either.

I remember when I  was caught watching TV in my first boyfriend’s living room. His mother dragged me to the kitchen and put a knife on her son’s throat and told me she’d rather see him dead than for him to be with a “witchy cunt.”

She later called my mom to have her come pick me up, and she told my mom I’m a test from god and they should remain strong. My mom and dad both replied, “Fuck you and fuck your beliefs!”

Back to the prison: my brother finally showed up with someone who knew the cop that arrested me, and they let me go. I got in the car with my brother who looked at me and laughed and went, “You’re crazy, you know that, you don’t belong here.” I was relieved that he had my back, that he showed up and didn’t worry about what his friend thought of him.

Two weeks later, I packed my things and got a one-way ticket to JFK. I knew I was done being mentally and emotionally abused, and especially that I was done pretending to give a fuck. I knew that for me to be comfortable, to be my true self and celebrate it, I needed to change my circumstances. I knew as heartbroken as my parents were to send me away from them, they were also comforted by knowing that I could be whoever the fuck I wanted. Maybe I got unlucky being born in Saudi Arabia, but I also got lucky being born to parents who overcame cultural blocks, and who still to this day support my dreams.

My journey to the U.S wasn’t easy. I never take for granted the level of freedom I have here, the freedom to be able to sit at a bar, order my drink, and share the stories that make me who I am without fearing the consequences.


21 thoughts on “The Time I Was Arrested in Saudi Arabia

  1. Someone doesn't give a fuck about your fucking life says:

    I’m really sorry for your parents who had to deal with such person 😦
    You really don’t belong to the great kingdom, enjoy you drinking and life
    At the end you are nothing!


    1. Hikmah says:

      “At the end you are nothing!” – typically a statement said in desperation by someone seeking to control another person out of fear that the person they are accusing of being “nothing” might actually be greater than them (normally an abusive person’s way of manipulating others to conform to their wants and desires). Frankly, if the great kingdom has you in it, it will quickly be seen more like the great fire.

      Magst du es heiss? Bitte, sagen hallo zum die Teufel wann du sind da und kome dich wieder nie!

      og husk, før du taler, hold kæft



  2. Abdelaziz El Makdouni says:

    Aya suffers from culture clash education( Moroccan and Saudi) that made her not able to adopt the proper life style when it needed, to be fair it is quite difficult; but the fear now is how she is dealing with the problem over in the US, loosing identity is even worst.


    1. Florence says:

      You only have one life which shouldn’t be controlled by anyone….there is nothing more precious in life than freedom and people fight for this right every day. A Muslim way of life is controlled by men, brainwashing it’s subjects and sadly disfiguring the religion. Men are afraid of losing control.


  3. rené Geneva says:

    We are building our next generation of strong women right here, and right now. Your mom is an amazing and strong woman. And your dad is equally as strong for supporting her and your family. And a shout out to your brothers too, Aya – you’re so lucky. I am over the moon that you’re here sharing and will follow you to the end of the earth. I love you so much, keep telling your stories mama!!


  4. Jhanisse says:

    I am shocked that people who don’t even show their real name on the comments dare to criticize someone who is openly discussing her life experience… A person’s worth is intricate to their humanity and therefore no “kingdom” or country or government can determine it, neither can trolls on the internet.
    Aya, I think you are a strong, beautiful and free woman. Thank you for sharing your experience since I am sure it will encourage many (as it did with me). You are proof that a person’s identity goes beyond the place where one was born but is rather shaped by the values that person holds (and fights for).
    Lastly, I feel sorry more than anything, for the people who cannot appreciate Aya’s story because their mind cannot cross religious or political boundaries. You are missing on a lot that life has to offer, my friends.
    Thanks fluxweekly for publishing this!


  5. Hikmah says:

    “At the end you are nothing!” – typically a statement said in desperation by someone seeking to control another person out of fear that the person they are accusing of being “nothing” might actually be greater than them (normally an abusive person’s way of manipulating others to conform to their wants and desires). Frankly, if the great kingdom has you in it, it will quickly be seen more like the great fire.

    Magst du es heiss? Bitte, sagen hallo zum die Teufel wann du sind da und kome dich wieder nie!

    og husk, før du taler, hold kæft


    fanacht Aya láidir!


  6. Laila says:

    Im a hybrid too! And Im glad people like you are out of the Kingdom we wouldn’t want our kids to be sorounded by ignorant people like you


  7. Nour F says:

    Thank you for sharing your story.. We take so many things for granted that when we see them in the grand scheme of things we realize how trivial they are like women driving or a 12 year old playing soccer.. These are normal things and we need to make them normal things in KSA as they are in other parts of the world.. I believe people as courageous as you can and will make that happen inshallah!! I hope you will come back.. God knows we need more people like you to make this country better..


  8. Real Human says:

    I understand what do you mean. It is not about the drink (good metaphor tho) it is about the feeling of “I can” and the freedom of “I am” ..
    U did good by going to usa. Come back after 20 years, ksa gonna be good at that time.


  9. Mo says:

    Good job Aya.

    May Allah bless you and guide you sister.

    Can you please Look for other Mixed people stories in the Kingdom. I am sure there some people who are still being bullyed for the same reason, in which Islam prohibits in the firet place.


  10. Life is unfair says:

    Thank you for sharing Aya. Life in Saudi Arabia is really tough and it shaped me to an awful person. You might not got effected, but unfortunately I was. You are very strong my friend, if I’m allowed to call you that. Please stay bold, crazy and beautiful, as I forever knew you. I am very sorry and I know it’s meaningless.

    Be safe


  11. Aya tariq says:

    Not meaningless at all. Of course it has effected me. But by recognizing that, is actually the first step to change it. Do something out of your comfort zone. Do things you don’t usually do! Don’t call yourself an awful person, rather be kind to yourself. You didn’t choose where you were born but you choose what to do with that.


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