Saudi Arabia Introduces Electronic Tracking System for Women
Saudi Arabia, a US that is among the worst places in the world to be born female, bans women from doing many things taken for granted in most of the rest of the world. Saudi women cannot vote or even drive cars. They are also forbidden from being treated in hospitals or traveling abroad without permission from husbands or male relatives.
Now, a new electronic tracking system that alerts male ‘guardians’ by text message when ‘their’ women attempt to leave the country has been introduced. Agence France-Presse reports that men receive these alerts even if the woman in question is traveling with them.
Manal al-Sharif, a women’s rights activist who gained worldwide attention when she defiantly drove a car and encouraged other Saudi women to violate the religious edict banning driving, took to Twitter to reveal the new monitoring system after being alerted by a couple.
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” Saudi writer Badriya al-Bishr told AFP. “This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned,” she said, lamenting the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia is among the most repressive nations on earth. Ruled by a cruel brand of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism known as Wahhabism, arbitrary arrests and torture of reform advocates, religious minorities and totally innocent people are commonplace. The Saudi legal system is a cruel farce, with defendants denied legal counsel and tortured into making false confessions, resulting in many people being unfairly executed, often by public beheading. Among the “crimes” that have resulted in executions are apostasy (renouncing Islam), blasphemy, prostitution, witchcraft, homosexuality and adultery. Those who are executed are sometimes crucified as well. Lesser criminals often have their hands chopped off without anesthesia.
Women are particularly repressed. Even rape victims are subject to unbelievable barbarism. One woman who was kidnapped and gang-raped by seven men was sentenced to 90 lashes of the whip because she was in a vehicle with an unrelated man prior to her abduction. When she went to the media with her story, her punishment was increased to 200 lashes. In 2002, fifteen schoolgirls needlessly died when officers of the morality police– the dreaded mutawas– locked them inside their burning school and stopped firefighters from saving them simply because they weren’t wearing headscarves and black robes.
Despite this shocking cruelty and despite the fact that Saudi monarchs are known supporters of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups– and 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi, the United States, which depends upon the oil beneath the cruel kingdom’s sands, counts Saudi Arabia as one of its closest regional allies. Despite declaring that he “stands squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights” in the Middle East, President Barack Obama has continued the decades-long US foreign policy of arming the Saudi regime and supporting it with diplomatic and legal cover. In September 2010, the Obama administration announced that $60 billion in advanced arms would be sold to the kingdom, the biggest arms deal in US history.
US officials do gently nudge the Saudis toward reform behind closed doors, and American efforts have produced some notable results. Last year, King Abdullah announced that Saudi women would be allowed to run for municipal office and vote in local elections starting in 2015. The dreaded morality police have also relaxed their harassment of women who violate dress and behavior restrictions.
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