Anish Vergis

As Interviewed by Nitya V., March 14, 2019

Anish Vergis: In His Own Words

I grew up in India, I moved to Saudi Arabia at the age of 25, and from there, I moved to the United States at the age of 26. I went to Saudi Arabia as a software engineer, I was an Indian citizen when I went to Saudi Arabia.

My first experience within the country was kind of a shocking one. First of all, I was never used to a country that would treat different citizens of different countries in a varied way. Saudi Arabia, being an orthodox Muslim country, they have prayer five times a day, during that time, you were encouraged not to stroll out. So if a Muslim strolls during the prayer, they could be treated with lashes or they could be dropped in the middle of the desert. The punishment was very arbitrary and severe.

One of the shopkeepers, who was caught gambling, went missing for three or four days, and later on I heard from him that he was jailed for awhile, and then he was dropped in the middle of the desert where he was lucky enough to walk back. They would warn you, if you’re a non-Muslim, that you are supposed to respect their beliefs. So during Ramadan, you could not eat publicly, nor would you get any food from public places.

In addition, for woman, had to cover their heads with scarves. If you were found without a head cover, the religious police, they would come and hit with a baton on their heads. I have seen women getting hit on the head, some really viciously.

I think that really changed my point of view. I have come to respect the freedom that is given to me, especially in America. I remember my American boss, during lunch time, would have to duck under his desk just to eat his lunch because he, himself, was scared of someone complaining that -- hey, somebody was eating. Especially since during Ramadan you’re not supposed to eat. I never really had a personal experience with the religious police except for the fact that I had seen these police mistreating women, I was always careful. I wanted to count each and every day -- I wanted to leave that country very safely.