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[liberationtech] Saudi Arabia implements electronic tracking system for women

Mohammad Shublaq moh at riseup.net
Thu Nov 22 12:27:20 PST 2012


http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/22/saudi-arabia-implements-electronic-tracking-system-for-women
<http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/22/saudi-arabia-implements-electronic-tracking-system-for-women/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter>

RIYADH --- Denied the right to travel without consent from their male
guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now
monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

Since last week, Saudi women's male guardians began receiving text
messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody
leave the country, even if they are travelling together.

Manal al-Sherif, who became the symbol of a campaign launched last year
urging Saudi women to defy a driving ban, began spreading the
information on Twitter, after she was alerted by a couple.

The husband, who was travelling with his wife, received a text message
from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left
the international airport in Riyadh.

"The authorities are using technology to monitor women," said columnist
Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the "state of slavery under which women
are held" in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without permission from their
male guardian, who must give his consent by signing what is known as the
"yellow sheet" at the airport or border.

The move by the Saudi authorities was swiftly condemned on social
network Twitter --- a rare bubble of freedom for millions in the kingdom
--- with critics mocking the decision.

"Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!" read
one post.

"Why don't you cuff your women with tracking ankle bracelets too?" wrote
Israa.

"Why don't we just install a microchip into our women to track them
around?" joked another.

"If I need an SMS to let me know my wife is leaving Saudi Arabia, then
I'm either married to the wrong woman or need a psychiatrist," tweeted
Hisham.

"This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women
imprisoned," said Bishr, the columnist.

"It would have been better for the government to busy itself with
finding a solution for women subjected to domestic violence" than track
their movements into and out of the country.

Saudi Arabia applies a strict interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law,
and is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.

In June 2011, female activists launched a campaign to defy the ban, with
many arrested for doing so and forced to sign a pledge they will never
drive again.

No law specifically forbids women in Saudi Arabia from driving, but the
interior minister formally banned them after 47 women were arrested and
punished after demonstrating in cars in November 1990.

Last year, King Abdullah --- a cautious reformer --- granted women the
right to vote and run in the 2015 municipal elections, a historic first
for the country.

In January, the 89-year-old monarch appointed Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel
Aziz al-Sheikh, a moderate, to head the notorious religious police
commission, which enforces the kingdom's severe version of sharia law.

Following his appointment, Sheikh banned members of the commission from
harassing Saudi women over their behaviour and attire, raising hopes a
more lenient force will ease draconian social constraints in the country.

But the kingdom's "religious establishment" is still to blame for the
discrimination of women in Saudi Arabia, says liberal activist Suad
Shemmari.

"Saudi women are treated as minors throughout their lives even if they
hold high positions," said Shemmari, who believes "there can never be
reform in the kingdom without changing the status of women and treating
them" as equals to men.

But that seems a very long way off.

The kingdom enforces strict rules governing mixing between the sexes,
while women are forced to wear a veil and a black cloak, or abaya, that
covers them from head to toe except for their hands and faces.

The many restrictions on women have led to high rates of female
unemployment, officially estimated at around 30 percent.

In October, local media published a justice ministry directive allowing
all women lawyers who have a law degree and who have spent at least
three years working in a lawyer's office to plead cases in court.

But the ruling, which was to take effect this month, has not been
implemented.
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