Being a women’s rights activist is difficult in Saudi Arabia. But being a black women’s rights activist is way more difficult.
Case in point: Nawa al-Hawsawi is a certified pilot but also provides counseling to women suffering domestic abuse. Recently, she has come under fire for her activism on social media, especially on Twitter, where racists and misogynists have compared her to monkeys and gorillas, raising questions about her citizenship, and even sending her death threats.
Al-Hawsawi’s critics are reportedly a group of men who refer to themselves as the “National Guard,” according to whom the Saudi population is divided into: “‘Original Saudis’ (certain Bedouin tribes), ‘Vomit of the Seas Saudis’ (Saudis of foreign descent or Saudis that are not members of certain Bedouin tribes), and ‘Strangers’ (all legal residents and foreigners in Saudi Arabia).”
These racists consider Al-Hawsawi a part of the third group, especially after she married a white American during her stay in the United States.
"I represent everything that they hate. I am a Saudi married to an American and they are openly anti-American. My husband is white and they condemn inter-racial marriages. I am black and they believe all black people are slaves who should ‘remain in their place,’” she told Arab News.
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Al-Hawsawi is also sometimes referred to as the Saudi “Rosa Parks.” She began the first ever campaign against racism in the Gulf Kingdom in 2014 after two local women in a Saudi Arabia called her “Al Abda,” a derogatory term for female slaves.
Although she filed a lawsuit against the women, she later dropped the case saying she was “happy with the legal proceedings” and that the women had apologized to her.
She now plans to take legal action against her online critics, some of whom have been sending her threatening messagers.
“They don’t like to see a strong woman standing up for women’s empowerment, undermining their misogynistic and gynophobic platform. They have successfully bullied many activists into silence in the past and they are trying to intimidate me. But they picked on the wrong person,” al-Hawsawi said.