Egypt: Heba Mohammed Najeeb – between a rock and a hard place

Heba Najeeb

Heba Najeeb

Between those who support her right to choose and those who urge her to conform to traditions and Saudi law, 27-year-old Egyptian Heba Najeeb is trapped between a rock and a hard place.

From her blog, Heba reached out to Egyptian bloggers asking for their help:

هبة محمد نجيب – 27 سنة -مصرية- مقيمة في جدة تحت كفالة والدي المصري
قام والدي باحتجاز جواز سفري ومنعي السفر والعودة لمصر لمدة 3 سنوات كما قام باحتجاز الاقامة السعودي الاصل
My name is Heba Mohammed Najeeb - 27 years – Egyptian – residing in Jeddah under the patronage of, and in the custody of, my Egyptian father who has held me hostage, took my passport, withheld my Saudi residency, and denied me the right to travel back to Egypt for three years.

In a post dedicated to explaining her reasons, she wrote:

سؤال : لماذا أرغب في السفر
جواب: لأن الحرية هي الأصل ، لا ينبغي أن تُسلب بسبب جنس لم يكن لي يد في اختاره – شاء حظي العاثر فقط ان أكون أنثى
لم يجب أن أبرر حقي في الحصول على كامل حريتي وأسعى لتعاطف ما أو إقناع الأفراد باختياري؟؟!!!!
لم يجب أن تقوم الاسرة على أساس سلب الإناث حريتهن بدعاوي البر والدين أو بدعوى حمايتهن ، لم لا ينبري المجتمع بمثل هكذا أقاويل في حق الذكور ، لا يجعل الدين من أي شخص ملكا لأي شخص ، لأن التباغض أمر وارد الحدوث
سأسعي لانتزاع حقي القانوني الدولي :أن لي كامل الحق في الحرية والتنقل والسفر وعلى الأشخاص والدول المتمسكين بعادات لقرون مضت تقبل التغير والوعي بأننا نعيش في عالم متفتح ، حيث لا يجدي القهر ولا يستجلب سوى مزيدا من الرفض والعنف
وعلى اساس هذا من يريد التضامن فليتضامن من أجل حقوق غير مشروطة
Question: Why do I want to travel?
Answer: Because freedom is our basic right and I should not be denied my freedom because of my gender – that I did not choose. To my bad luck, I was born a female! Why do I have to justify my right to my freedom? Why do I have to seek people's sympathy or willingly convince individuals of my birth-given right?
Why do family values have to revolve around ripping females off their rights in the name of obedience, protection, or religion? Why is such nonsense not applicable to males? Religion does not promote ownership of another individual who was born free for fear of resentment!
I will pursue my legal international right: I am fully entitled to be free, to commute, and to travel and those who abide by the stone age dogmas need to revisit their laws and beliefs for we live in an open free world. Oppression begets nothing but hatred, rejections, and violence. Hence, I welcome those who are in solidarity with unconditional human rights!

Heba has corresponded with several human rights bodies in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian consulate in Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior, the UN in Riyadh, some foreign embassies, the UNCHR, the Egyptian Ambassador in Riyadh, and the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – all in vain. She has also met with several Saudi princes, who turned a deaf ear to her request to leave the kingdom.

Heba states in her plea:

حسب القانون المصري بعدما تخطيت 21 عام – لي حق السفر والاقامة والتحرك دون موافقة الوالد
وان كان القانون السعودي ينص على ما ينص عليه ، فأنا لست سعودية ، اريد فقط العودة لبلدي
According to the Egyptian law, once I have turned 21 years of age, I am entitled to travel and commute without the permission of my father. If the Saudi law states otherwise, I insist that I am not Saudi and I just want to return to my country.

Many bloggers gave her a louder voice; Amr Ezzat gave her unconditional support saying:

لا تحتاج مصرية تبلغ من العمر الآن 27 عاما أي مبررات لتحظى بحرية أن تختار مكان حياتها بدون أن يكون ذلك بالضرورة تبعا لرجل ما
A 27-year-old Egyptian does not need any justifications to freely choose where she wants to live without the patronage of a male

Ibn Abdel Aziz wrote a post titled: Let Heba tell you about oppression

لا أعتقد أن نبي الله حينما نظم علاقات الأسرة الداخلية فجعل للأسرة وليا ووصيا وقائدا كان يعطي الضوء الأخضر لكل ولي أمر التحكم بمصائر أبنائه وبناته وحرمانهم من حقوقهم المشروعة التي استئنمها الله عليه وجعله حاميا لها ومدافعا عنها .
بل إن الفقهاء الذين قالوا بالولاية على المرأة حتى بعد سن البلوغ حددوا هذه السلطة بسلطة أعلى ألا وهي سلطة القضاء أو الحاكم الذي يقلم أظافر كل طاغية منزلي يستبيح الحقوق بحجة أن الله خوله بهذه الأمانة
When Prophet Mohammed coordinated family relations and set the man as a guide to lead the family, I do not believe that this was a green light for parental tyranny whereby the parent abuses his authority and denies his children their God-given rights instead of protecting those rights. Even those men of religion who support parental patronage over an adult woman confined such patronage to the judiciary system and the law.

Magi said:

هبه بقالها اكتر من 3 سنين عايشه فى سجن وللاسف السجان هو والدها اخد جواز سفرها منعها من الحياه بحريه اجبرها على تنفيذ افكاره واعتقاداته هو..بحاول اتخيل شعورها بالظلم بالسجن لو حاول اى حد فينا يتخيل مقدار الظلم الممكن يقع عليه وهو محتجز على غير ارادته فى ارض غريبه ميعرفش فيها حد بدون اصحاب بدون شبكه دعم شبكه امان من اهل واصدقاء اقرب الناس ليه هم نفسهم الى خانوه واعتدوا على حقه فى الاختيار هيعرف ليه هبه بتحارب بالاصرار ده عشان حقها فى الرجوع لبلدها وسط اهلها واصحابها وجيرانها
Heba has been living in a prison for the past three years; sadly enough the prisoner is her very own father who denied her the right to live freely and forced her into adopting his beliefs and his life style. If you want to know why Heba is fighting so ferociously to come back to Egypt, imagine yourself confined and oppressed against your will in a land that is not yours away from your family, friends, and support group. Imagine that those assaulting you are your parents and that you have been betrayed by your closest kin.

Radwa Osama wrote:

من السخيف أن تعيش فى بيتك وأنت لا تشعر بأنه بيتك ، ومن الأسخف أن تعيش فى وطن تلفظه بقدر ما يلفظك مجتمعه يوميا.. أعجب بصمودك ، وأتخيلنى وقد بت مكانك ، لن يحتمل عقلى ما احتملتى
It is ridiculous to live in your home, without feeling that it is yours; it is even more ridiculous to live in a society that rejects you just as much as you reject it. I admire your tolerance and persistence … I try to walk a mile in your shoes and I realize that my mind would not bear the thought of it.

Bent Al Kamar insists that

الحرية حق لهبة نجيب
Heba Najeeb is entitled to her freedom

and Rasha ElKheshin highlights Heba's misery saying:

القنصل السابق في جدة قال لها: ما دام بتاكلي وتشربي عاوزة إيه؟ تنزلي مصر تصيعي ؟! مع القنصل الجديد تحسن الأمر وقال لها: يجب أن تذهبي إلى طبيب نفسي! هذا فضلا عن إهانتها من قبل بعض موظفي القنصلية واعتبارها “منحلة” لأنها تريد العودة إلى مصر والعيش وحدها
The former Egyptian Consul in Jeddah told her that as long as she was being given food and water, she had nothing to complain of unless she wanted to go to Egypt and lead an immoral life. The new Consul was better and told her that she needed to go to a shrink while other members of the Egyptian Consulate insulted her and frowned upon her decision to return to Egypt independently from her family.

Wa7da Masreya was infuriated as she cited the law:

ينتهك حقهن الأساسي في حرية الإختيار لمكان الإقامة مما يتعارض مع الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الأنسان الذي ينص على أن لكل فرد حرية التنقل واختيار محل إقامته داخل حدود كل دولة. يحق لكل فرد أن يغادر أية بلاد بما في ذلك بلده كما يحق له العودة إليه و أتساءل من أين أتوا بهذا التشريع الذي لا أصدق أن يكون من الإسلام في شيء و أين هم علماء المسلمين ليردوا هذا الظلم عن المراة المسلمة و طبقا للدستور المصري حيت أن هبة قد تخطت ال21 عاما فليس لوالدها أي وصاية عليها
[The Saudi Law] prohibits women from commuting without their “patron” and this is a violation of the international human rights law that states that adults are fully entitled to travel freely and to choose where they want to live within the borders of each country. Any individual is allowed to leave, or return to, any country including his own. I wonder where did they come up with such a law and I refuse to believe that it is remotely related to Islam. Where are the Islamic clerics? And according to the Egyptian law, Heba is well over 21 and her parents have no patronage over her.

Lasto Adri posted a link to Heba's support group on Facebook and linked to other supporting bloggers.

And Azza Moghazy repeats:

لابد ان اكرر امنيتى فى ان يلعن الله الاوطان التى تطالب ابناءها بمبررات للانتماء اليها
للحياة فيها
I must ask God to curse those countries that ask its rightful citizens to provide justifications to belong to, and reside in, what they know as their homes

while Farida, in solidarity with Heba, questions the reasons behind patronage in Islam:

هل فعلا و مؤكدا هذا هو الشرع و لا يوجد نسبة شك فيه؟؟؟ فعلا حرام على المرأة التحرك بدون الموافقه أو المرافقه؟؟
و إن كان هذا صحيحا ما هو الحل الشرعي لحالات يكون فيها هذا التشريع ضرر أكثر منه نفع للمرأه المسلمه
التي و ان افترضنا أن الإسلام يحرم عليها السفر دون محرم فإنه قطعا فرض عليها ذلك لحمايتها … فما هو الحل إن تحول هذا التشريع لسلاح تهديد لها و كبت لحريتها؟؟
Is that really and undoubtedly religion? Is it really forbidden for a woman to travel unescorted by a patron? If that is true, what is that woman supposed to do when this law turns into a cold blade on her throat and instead of protecting her, oppresses her?

Along with many other Egyptians who have heard Heba‘s story, Farouk Adel wonders:

العقل والمنطق يفرض علينا ان نحاول ان نسأل والدها ونحاول ان نفهم وجهه نظرة فما هو السبب الحقيقى لسحب جواز سفر ابنته منها؟
وماهو السبب فى رغبته عدم عودة الابنه الى مصر؟
لماذا ترفض هبه نجيب ان تكتب الاسباب الحقيقيه لرفض الاب عودتها؟وتكتفى بعرض عبارات مطاطه من نوعيه ان اباها متشدد اسلاميا او انها انثى وان اخاها له الحريه لانه ولد؟
We are forced by the power of logic to wonder why her father took her passport? Why does he refuse her coming back to Egypt? Why doesn't Heba share her father's real reasons? Why does she use intangible phrases along the lines of her father being an Islamist who oppresses her for being a female?

Enas Lotfy posted a video interview [Arabic with English subtitles] with Heba on Skype.

Asmaa Aly summed Heba‘s dilemma saying:

عن هبة نجيب أحكي
عن فتاة سلبوا حريتها في تقرير مصيرها
لتُصبح العودة إلى وطنها حلم بعيد المنال
و السّجان والدها
و الخارجية المصرية تتغافل عن قوانينها
و تتغافل عن قوانين حقوق الإنسان
About Heba Najeeb I write … about a girl who was denied the right to choose her destiny … a girl whose right to return to her country seems like a far-fetched dream … imprisoned by her father while Egyptian officials ignore the Egyptian law and turn a blind eye to human rights.


  • This is the story of so many females in the kingdom, oppressed by their own families they are kept in a child like state of dependency and anyone wanting to rebel from this barbaric system is labeled a slut.

    My thoughts and prayers are with people like Heba who are fighting everyday!!

    Great post!!

  • Kay kactuz

    She cant make decisions; she can’t leave home; she can’t travel; she must submit to the authority of others…..

    Isn’t there a word for this? S-L-A-V-E-R-Y


  • Thank you Marwa for your wonderful post!.. I feel so proud of Egyptian bloggers and their contributions that caused the media stir..

    So Happy that Heba finally reached an agreement with her parents to grant her the right of return.. (According to the daily AlMasry EL Youm newspaper)

  • نجيب المصري

    الحرية شئ بعيد المنال في هذا الوطن الذي لم يعد يعرف معني الحرية فالناس التي عاشت تحت هذا الظلام الذي يدعي التقاليد لا تعرف معني ولا قيمة الحرية كمثل الاعمي بالميلاد لا يستطيع ان يعرف الالوان مهما حاولت وصفها له ستعودي الي مصر قريبا وسوف تبصري الحقيقة وهي ان الطريق الي الحرية مازال طويل

  • May we all learn to fight for our basic rights the way Heba fought for hers

  • I’m amazed that slavery and backwards-attitudes prevail in many countries around the world. We critcize this: but I’m certain that based on all he knows, everything he’s been taught since childhood, Heba’s father is probably 100% certain he is doing what’s best for his daughter. We need to try to uderstand him and where he’s coming from too.

  • Heba is an inspiration. This is an outrage and it is definitely slavery. Great post.

  • ed

    What does the banner say?

  • Hey Ed

    In the red stamp: Not allowed to return to Egypt
    The White text:

    Heba is suffocating
    An Adult .. Mature … Free
    Do you job (addressing the Egyptian consul)

    FYI – After the blogger’s campaign, her parents gave in to pressure and now she is back in Egypt

  • tina

    yr story made me cry. i am from usa and if i walked a mile in yr shoes i would rather be dead.i could never imagine living somewhere where i did not feel safe and or at home. i do wish u the best of luck getting yr freedom and my prayers are with u..

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