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Nadeen Alsayat: KSA’s First Female Detective

Profile photo of Aabiya Noman Baqai

Aabiya Noman Baqai

Writer and Editor at Destination Jeddah

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KSA’s first female detective her background, experience and hopes for the future.

How would you describe yourself?
A young Saudi woman who loves adventures and exploration and always seeks to develop her society.
What got you into the field of criminology and criminal justice?
It was my childhood dream. When I was a child, my favorite cartoon was “Detective Conan,” a detective who had a new crime every day and tried to find the right suspect through collecting and analyzing the evidence. Because of this, I always imagined myself to be that detective. Then when I became a teenager, I liked to read about the analysis of characters and play brain games that were about connectivity and conclusions. So criminal justice, as a major, was very close to my personality and preferences.


What were your biggest challenges as the first Saudi female studying to become a detective?
Firstly, I had a different issue since my first language is Arabic, and when I went to the US I did not speak English at all. So, I studied English and finished the program in one year, and then I started the Masters program. But, in my opinion, learning English in one year was not enough to study for a master’s degree in Criminal Justice. Since this major uses high-level vocabulary, it was difficult for me to learn the language in one year.

I could not understand everything in the classes and I had trouble understanding the school books. Moreover, I was the only Arab student at the school, I sometimes needed help to understand the assignments or the classes since my professors were treating me like the rest of the American students, ignoring that I am actually an international student and this my second language.

Secondly, this major talks a lot about the international terrorism. And unfortunately, some western people have the belief that Muslims are terrorists. So, I faced some harassment from my classmates because I was the only Muslim in all my classes. Also, some of the books taught some wrong ideas about Islam and Muslims, which definitely bothered me.

However, I worked very hard to improve my language and tried as much as I could to set a good example of Muslims by treating them nicely. Also, I tried to fix some misconceptions about Islam by writing all my papers about the security efforts in Saudi Arabia, which show an example of the Islamic community that fights crimes and seeks a safe society.

So, I thank Allah, who helped me acquire the degree under all these pressures.


What are you planning to pursue in Saudi Arabia with this degree?
I hope to be a detective at The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, and at the same time I would like to teach in a university to transfer the experiences I got from the US to my society.
Can you tell us a “wow, this is awesome!” moment you had while studying criminology?
My wow moments were when I had the internship at the police department because I was actually living the fascinating moments I watched on TV.

I remember one day I went on a ride along with some police officers. They asked me to sign a paper asking me to take responsibility in case something happened to me. I signed the paper and we left the police department.

In the police car we got a call from 911 to look for a suspect who had a fight with his family then ran away with a gun in his neighborhood. We arrived at the neighborhood, and before we got out of the car to look for him, one of the police officers asked me, “Nadeen, are you sure you want to get out of the car? The suspect has a gun! He may shoot you and you do not have gun or a bullet resistant vest to protect yourself! Stay in the car for your safety!”

I said, “Yes, I’m sure I want to get out of the car. This opportunity will never come again in Saudi Arabia.” The police officer thought I was crazy. I laughed it off and we both proceeded to look for the suspect.

It was very dark and quiet and the officers were walking very carefully with guns and flashlights in their hands. I was walking with them and asking myself whether this was really happening. It was just like an action movie. I was smiling the whole time!

We were looking behind trees and trash searching for the suspect, and the five officers were walking in front of me all the time to protect me. I followed closely behind them. Then I noticed movement between a trashcan, so I stopped and within a second, the suspect stood up and pointed his gun at me.

Next thing I know, I fell to the ground. One of the officers pushed me down to move me away from the suspect’s gun. The officers then arrested the suspect without any harm.

It was scary and surreal but I was still smiling. I still could not digest that I was working with police officers against criminals!
You’ve paved a new way for women in Saudi Arabia, how does that make you feel?
I am so proud of myself and what I have done. It is a great feeling when people tell me that I am their hero and they hope someday to do what I have done. But still I would like to achieve more in my life and leave an important mark in Saudi Arabia’s history.


What piece of advice would you give to other Saudi women passionate about this field?
Fieldwork experience is important to any student because it shows the real needs of any major and how to apply the materials received in classes. So I advise all students to have internships.

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