Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

An Open Letter to Oprah | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55289378

Essam Al-Ghalib and Rania Al-Baz

Essam Al-Ghalib and Rania Al-Baz

Essam Al-Ghalib and Rania Al-Baz

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

Your media relations department sent me the following official statement regarding the episode featuring Rania Al-Baz. “Rania’s story was always intended for inclusion in a show that examined the different lives of women from various countries. We feel her story was presented accurately and we hope that her courage in sharing it with an international audience will help millions of other women around the world.”

I was told you weren’t available to actually reply yourself, which leaves me wondering, if you are personally aware of the injustice that’s been committed.

First, let me share with you what has been written about Rania in the local and international press after she appeared on your show. The following was taken from a Deutsche Presse Agentur wires report:

“Rania’s divorce has been finalized, and she has secured custody of her two children, but many conservative Saudis were critical of her decision to go public. By contrast, many women are angry that she withdrew a charge of assault against her husband. And now she stands accused of using the Oprah Winfrey Show to harm the kingdom’s image in the United States.”

From a letter to the editor printed in an English language daily:

“I was seriously offended by that episode. That show was offensive to all Muslims. I was surprised to hear all the things they said about Saudi Arabia and blamed it on Islam and Rania also agreed with it, without even telling them the beauty of the hijab and the reasons and benefits for covering and restrictions. Rania has all my sympathy for what happened to her and I think her husband got off easy, but the way she and Oprah portrayed Islam and Saudi Arabia was disappointing.”

These are just two examples. I won’t cause Rania further stress and embarrassment by revealing here what more has been said about her in Saudi social circles, and in chat rooms on the internet as a result of your presentation of the facts. It is fair to say that she has been victimized yet again, and the catalyst was your show.

Your media department, in their statement, said that you hoped Rania’s courage in sharing her story would help millions of women around the world. Help them to do what exactly? Many here think that your episode helped millions of women around the world hate Saudi Arabia and its men.

Had Rania or I known that her story was going to be presented in the way that it was, you simply would not have had that interview. Your producer’s actions were unprofessional and unethical.

I’ve been calling Rania and leaving messages at her father’s house and on her mobile since the episode aired here in order to apologize and to try to offer an explanation, but she isn’t answering my calls, or returning my messages. I can’t say that I blame her, as it was my personal guarantees to her that secured you that interview.

Based on what your producer had told me, I explained to Rania at the time – in no uncertain terms – that the segment was about what happened to her, and that it would air along with other stories of battered women. Well, that episode came and went almost seven weeks ago, and Rania’s story was not included in it. Instead, it was included in an episode that aired weeks later about happy women from around the globe telling us how wonderful life in their particular country is.

Including Rania’s segment in that episode was irresponsible and was the clearest example of media bias and propaganda I have ever seen. I sent you more than an hour’s worth of footage, in which Rania also spoke about some of the things Saudi women enjoy, why was none of that used?

I still have a copy of the entire interview that I sent you, here in Saudi. May I have your permission to release it to an Arab television network that can perhaps help undo some of the damage you did to Rania’s reputation? Or would you like to do something realistic, fair and unbiased yourself worthy of your name?

Something has to be done, if not for Saudi Arabia, if not for your Arab fans, if not for your very reputation, then at least for Rania, who has suffered enough – really.