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Social Issues
Not Free To Leave: Saudi Arabia Is Electronically Tracking Women
November 23, 2012
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They are already denied the right to drive and the right to travel without consent from their male partners.

Now, women in Saudi Arabia are apparently being monitored by a system that tracks them entering or leaving the country.

Whenever a Saudi woman leaves the country, authorities send her male "guardian" a text message informing him that she has left.

Apparently, the guy gets the text even if the woman in question is travelling with him.

The system came to light after Manal al-Sherif, a women's rights activist who started a women's right to drive campaign last year, found out about it from a couple she knew.

When the couple was travelling recently, the husband received a text message telling him that his wife had left the country. At the time, she was sitting next to him on a plane flying out of the international airport in Riyadh.

"This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned," said Saudi columnist Badriya al-Bishr.

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

al-Sherif went on Twitter to let people know about all of this. As you might expect, it's sparked plenty of criticism.

Saudi Arabia applies a strict interpretation of sharia, or Islamic, law. It's the only country in the world where women aren't allowed to drive (even though there's no specific law forbidding it).

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Last year, King Abdullah, who is seen as a cautious reformer, granted women the right to vote and run in the 2015 elections.

And in January, Abdullah appointed a moderate to head the religious police commission, the body that enforces the kingdom's sharia law.

The new head, Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, has banned members of the commission from harassing Saudi women over their behaviour and attire.

But activists say the kingdom's "religious establishment" is still discriminating against women.

"Saudi women are treated as minors through their lives even if they hold high positions," said liberal activist Suad Shammari.

"There can never be reform in the kingdom without changing the status of women," she said.

Related:

UPDATE: Saudi Arabia Is Sending Two Women To The Olympics

Women Defy Driving Ban In Saudi Arabia

Arab Woman Removes Veil She Was Forced To Wear & Posts Photo On Facebook

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