Nice to see such a rigorous debate going on. Long overdue...
Remember those shots of Iranian morality police arresting young women who did not "properly" wear their hijab or who showed a little much skin?
Now, authorities have taken their campaign to the next level, targeting online photos of Iranian women. Iran's dress-code crackdown has now gone cyber:
The vast and popular Iranian community in Yahoo is the first target. Members whose profile showed a picture without proper hijab are threatening to be dealt with by authorities. At the same time such members are targeted by unnamed groups who threaten to identify and punish them severely. This has resulted in many young women to delete their profile all together.
Here's the online warning:
There also appears to be no timeframe for lifting a ban on women's driving, Yakin Erturk, thespecial rapporteur on violence against women, told reporters at the end of a 10-day visit to the Muslim kingdom...
Erturk said that progress had been made in women's access to education, but there has been no comparable increase in their participation in the labour force, mainly due to, and they are "particularly excluded from decision-making positions."
She said many of her interlocutors complained about the behaviour of the religious police, or Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice who are commonly known as Muttawa and enforce a strict Islamic moral code.
"The Muttawa are said to be responsible for serious human rights abuses in harassing, threatening and arresting women who 'deviate from accepted norms'," the UN official said, citing an incident reported during her visit in which they arrested a businesswoman for sitting in a coffee shop with a male colleague in.
In light of the recent proposal to eliminate two university level gender segregation laws, the issue of gender segregation is topic number one in diwaniyas and cafes all over Kuwait... The first university level segregation law, which required the state's public system to be segregated, was passed in 1996 and implemented in 2001. The second law, which requires private universities to be segregated, was passed in 2000 and has not yet been fully implemented...
Segregation opponents cite hypocrisy high on their list of reasons why they believe supporters are wrong. "The government sends students to co-ed schools all over the world, will that be done away with too?," wondered Fala Abdulwahab. "These MPs are too much with this segregation business, they send their children to co-ed schools abroad and then try to demand those that cannot afford to go abroad be stuck with half a library, half a biology lab, and half a computer lab just to satisfy their egos," said Fatma Ali...
"We are a free society and as such, should have free choice to send our children to segregated schools or co-education schools. We do not need policing in these areas," said Wasmiya Faisal. "One gets the feeling that segregation is step one in a plan to limit citizens choices. We are Muslims and we love Islam, we do not need somebody in Parliament telling us how to be good Muslims," said Saad Barrak.
Don't be so sure, Saad! In fact, this blog is considering implementing its own gender segregation. Men and women will now only be allowed to browse it at separate times. Otherwise - kafallah as-shar! - there might be some inappropriate cross-gender mixing online. So gentlemen, for the next few hours kindly point your browsers elsewhere. It's Ladies Night!
The Mutawwa are at it again, keeping the streets, sidewalks, and shops of Saudi Arabia safe for Salafists. Their latest bold crime-fighting move? Arresting a 37-year-old American woman for sitting at Starbucks next to a male:
A 37 -year-old American businesswoman and married mother of three is seeking justice after she was thrown in jail by Saudi Arabia's religious police for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.
Yara, who does not want her last name published for fear of retribution, was bruised and crying when she was freed from a day in prison after she was strip-searched, threatened and forced to sign false confessions by the Kingdom's “Mutaween” police.
Her story offers a rare first-hand glimpse of the discrimination faced by women living in Saudi Arabia. In her first interview with the foreign press, Yara told The Times that she would remain in Saudi Arabia to challenge its harsh enforcement of conservative Islam rather than return to America.
“If I want to make a difference I have to stick around. If I leave they win. I can't just surrender to the terrorist acts of these people,” said Yara, who moved to Jeddah eight years ago with her husband, a prominent businessman.
Her ordeal began with a routine visit to the new Riyadh offices of her finance company, where she is a managing partner. The electricity temporarily cut out, so Yara and her colleagues — who are all men — went to a nearby Starbucks to use its wireless internet.
She sat in a curtained booth with her business partner in the café's “family” area, the only seats where men and women are allowed to mix. For Yara, it was a matter of convenience. But in Saudi Arabia, public contact between unrelated men and women is strictly prohibited.
“Some men came up to us with very long beards and white dresses. They asked ‘Why are you here together?'. I explained about the power being out in our office. They got very angry and told me what I was doing was a great sin,” recalled Yara, who wears an abaya and headscarf, like most Saudi women...
Yara, whose parents are Jordanian and grew up in Salt Lake City, once believed that life in Saudi Arabia was becoming more liberal. But on Monday the religious police took her mobile phone, pushed her into a cab and drove her to Malaz prison in Riyadh. She was interrogated, strip-searched and forced to sign and fingerprint a series of confessions pleading guilty to her “crime”.
“They took me into a filthy bathroom, full of water and dirt. They made me take off my clothes and squat and they threw my clothes in this slush and made me put them back on,” she said. Eventually she was taken before a judge. “He said 'You are sinful and you are going to burn in hell'. I told him I was sorry. I was very submissive. I had given up. I felt hopeless,” she said...
Yara was visited yesterday by officials from the American Embassy, who promised they would file a report. An embassy official told The Times that it was being treated as “an internal Saudi matter” and refused to comment on her case.
It's hard to know what part of the story is most pathetic, but definitely the most ironic is the Mutaween strip-searching a woman accused of immodesty. It's hard to top that one! But good luck to Yara in taking on the forces of darkness in Saudi Arabia - she'll need it.
Yesterday we reported on the UN's recent interrogation of Saudi officials over repression of women. Today UN pressure seems to have yielded some small results. Just in time for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday holiday:
can now stay in a hotel or a furnished apartment without a male guardian, according to a government decision that comes as the country faces increasing criticism for its severe restrictions on women.
The daily Al-Watan, which is deemed close to the Saudi government, reported Monday that the ministry issued a circular to hotels asking them to accept lone women — as long as their information is sent to a local police station.
The decision was adopted after a study conducted by the Interior Ministry, the Supreme Commission of Tourism and theknown as the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
Saudi women, under strict Islamic law, suffer severe restrictions on daily life: They are not allowed to be anywhere with an unrelated man, cannot drive, appear before a judge without a male representative, or travel abroad without a male guardian's permission.
The paper interviewed some Saudi women who complained that they had been severely inconvenienced by the rules banning them from staying in the hotels alone.
It quoted a woman identified as saying that she once arrived late at night aton an internal flight and was denied a hotel room because she was alone.
Another woman, Fatima Ibrahim, said her son-in-law quarreled with his wife and daughters and threw them out of the house. When they tried to get a hotel room, they were asked to get a permission from the police.
Not quite "Free at last!" - but a tiny bit freer.
Saudi laws banning unmarried couples from being alone together is going global - as the Kingdom's officials have asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy not to bring his new girlfriend, "supermodel" Carla Bruni, along on a state visit.
Sarkozy, who divorced his wife Cecilia in October, has flaunted his relationship with Bruni on recent holidays in Egypt and Jordan, drawing criticism that he is being too loose with the presidential image.
The Saudi diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Sarkozy should leave Bruni behind for "religious reasons" when he visits the kingdom on Sunday.
Under the strict interpretation of Islamic law enforced in Saudi Arabia, unmarried or unrelated couples are not permitted to be alone together. Westerners are expected to abide by the rules in public, and many hotels will not check unmarried Western couples into a single room...
The French president was criticized by several Egyptian officials in December for sharing a room with Bruni while in Egypt on vacation, local media reported. Saudi Arabia is more conservative than Egypt, where unmarried Western couples are allowed to share hotel rooms.
That last paragraph is reminder that the regulation of private behavior is not limited to the Saudis. Unmarried Egyptians who would like to share a hotel room cannot under the law - while foreigners get a pass. It's hard to know which is more demeaning, the first part of the Egyptian legal code or the second.
A new report from King Saud University looks at suicide rates in the magic kingdom and discovers a massive gender disparity - wonder why?
In her study, which concentrated on failed suicide attempts in 2006, the researcher found out that 96 percent of the cases involved women. She told Reuters that in the hospital where she works, they receive around 11 cases every month of women who have failed in their suicide attempts...
The report highlights many factors that can lead women to consider killing themselves, one of them being forced marriages...
In this kind of environment, suicide can appear to some as a solution.Disregarding a woman’s free will and her right to choose her life can simply lead her to desperation. The researcher told Reuters that many Saudi girls do not have channels of communication with their parents, and that they seldom find sympathy for their emotional and social distress.
All that, plus the law of the country reduces you to the physical property of your male relatives.
From an extended comparison/contrast of the UAE and Saudi Arabia comes an interesting nugget:
...If anything, Saudi Arabia is going backwards. Older residents recall that the kingdom was more tolerant and progressive prior to the 1980s. The turning point was the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamic radicals. A 50-something Saudi journalist we met recalled that when he was growing up men and women could actually go to social events together. That's inconceivable today.