Monday, May 28, 2007

Revisiting Sandra Mackey

There was a book that I read years and years ago.

Sandra Mackey lived in Saudi Arabia for four years, and as far as the authorities knew, she was simply the wife of an American doctor. But she saw things and traveled to places rarely viewed by any outsider, let alone a Western woman, and she succeeded in smuggling out a series of crucial articles on Saudi culture and politics.

The Saudis offers a fascinating portrait of Saudi life, chronicling Mackey's extraordinary travels and experiences and depicting Saudi Arabia's strange metamorphosis from backward desert kingdom to world power.

The New York Times (which criticized Mackey for writing for the Christian Science Monitor under a male pseudonym while in Saudi Arabia) nevertheless praised this anecdote:

DESCRIBING life inside Saudi Arabia, Sandra Mackey recounts an incident involving a 20-year-old unmarried Saudi woman who one day appeared with her mother and a male relative at a hospital, complaining of severe abdominal pain. The mother told a doctor that her daughter was suffering from a stomach tumor; the doctor examined her and rushed her to the delivery room, where she gave birth to a healthy boy. Outraged, her relatives demanded that the medical staff kill the mother and the baby with lethal injections of drugs. The hospital stationed guards to protect both mother and baby from the family but after five days was forced to surrender them to the police, who turned them over to their relatives. The family, Mrs. Mackey writes, ''took them home where its own justice would be dispensed. The punishment for fornication is the same as for adultery: death.''


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