Social boycott of illegitimate kids unjustified
By RIMA AL-MUKHTAR
JEDDAH: Saudi society looks down upon children with unknown parents, claiming they are seeds of the devil as they were born illegally. A big part of society is prejudiced against them, refusing to marry them or even socialize with them.
“Saudis do not accept orphans with unknown parents psychologically and socially, because they see them as results of sins, even though they know this was not their mistake but that of their parents,” said Salma Seibeih, a family psychologist and founder of the “Orphans With Anonymous Parents” online campaign. “We live in a tribal and racial society that only mingles with people of its own. We exclude anyone else from our society,” she added.
The main problem these orphans face is having family names like Abdullah, Abdulmajeed or anything that starts with Abdul and one of God’s names, according to Seibeih. “All Saudis know that people with such family names are orphans with unknown parents, and they automatically push them away thinking that it is bad to marry them or even be seen with them,” she said. “Being rejected by society is what drives these orphans toward developing mental problems. Society makes them feel they are worthless and less of a human,” she added.
The social stigma the orphans with unknown parents face pushes them to reclusive social behavior, said Seibeih. “In schools, you find mothers asking their children not to be friends with them. Most fail at school or even reject education, because they don’t want to face repudiation at the school campus,” she said. “Those mothers think that such orphans are a bad influence and that their behavior is bad because they are hyperactive and not disciplined,” she added.
Seibeih believes that the reason behind these orphans having ill manners is that they are put under a lot of pressure at the orphanage. School is a breathable place to them, where they can be whoever they want to: “They can laugh, run or even scream without anyone threatening to give them a harsh punishment,” she said. “We can only stress the fact that they don’t have mothers to guide them to the right path and tell them how to behave in public. They are raised by teachers who treat them harshly and don’t even try to talk to them about their feelings and problems,” she explained.
Seibeih appealed to society to sympathize with such orphans, claiming that it is not their fault that their parents are unknown and that they should be treated like other individuals. “They don’t need any financial help from society; all they need is affection from people. They need to feel they are equal to any other Saudi who knows both his parents,” she said. “If we all just imagined ourselves in those orphans’ shoes, we would know how it feels to be abandoned and ignored.”