Saudi Arabia may be finding a new way to make social media more obnoxious than it already is. Media reports are detailing a ‘helpful’ service now being offered that will inform Saudi males when the females under their guardianship pass airport exit controls. I’m sure some see this as a useful tool, helping family stability. Once again, though, it comes at the cost of infantilizing Saudi women.

Al Arabiya TV reports (along with Agence France Presse) that the service is coming in for some serious derision from Saudis, male and female:

‘Where’s my wife?’ Electronic SMS tracker notifies Saudi husbands
AL ARABIYA WITH AFP

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.

The Saudi Arabic media isn’t thrilled by the move, either. Saudi Gazette translates a piece from Al-Hayat that links the service with other manifestations of oppression. The piece wonders just how much money was spent in coming up with this piece of nonsense.

‘Relax! We’ll track your wife down!’
Badriya Al-Bishir | Al-Hayat newspaper

YOU will find at the end of this article a link that will take you to the picture of a woman standing in the main entrance of Al-Hafayer police station in Khamis Mushayt.

The woman looks humiliated; she ran away from her husband who locked her in the bathroom for six days, whipped, tortured and made her drink his urine.

When he finally entered the bathroom to take a shower, the woman ran to the police but they refused to help her and left her stranded on the street.

Every time she runs away from her husband, her father makes her return.

This time, however, her father has refused to go to the police station and bring her home.

She is being treated as if she is a commodity that needs to be collected.

She sits and waits on the street until her owner claims her. And to make matters worse, despite her plight, the authorities have refused to intervene and help her.

The Passport Directorate has been recently working on a project called “Relax! We’ll track your wife down!”

I hope the authorities provide us with a total cost of this truly ground-shattering service, which is a sign of the backwardness that plagues Saudi society. Let me explain the reason behind this service.


November:23:2012 - 07:54 | Comments & Trackbacks (8) | Permalink
8 Responses to ““Do You Know Where Your Wife Is?””
  1. 1
    Jerry M Said:
    November:23:2012 - 15:28 

    It is a very odd way to handle this. Saudi Arabia values male privacy (names of male miscreants rarely make the English language press), but it seems to devalue female privacy completely.

  2. 2
    G Jeff Said:
    November:24:2012 - 07:53 

    I saw this news today, and while I agree that it is atrocious it is hardly any different than the treatment many Saudi Employers give to their expat workforce. Some Expat’s (Mainly Pakistani and Fillipino at my company) are not allowed to go home until the end of their contract (2-5 years). Others, such as myself must surrender our passports and beg for them back when we would like to leave. Our “sponsor” is more like an owner, that situation while broadcast has hardly caused the stink that this has. I guess in a way, their “just” women and were “just” foreigners. It’s legalized slavery either way.

  3. 3
    John Burgess Said:
    November:24:2012 - 13:03 

    @G Jeff: Well, your employer is in violation of Saudi law when it comes to who holds onto passports, but the fact that the employer must agree to the issuance of an exit visa makes it sort of moot anyway. I advise anyone contemplating working in the KSA to carefully consider the pros and cons. Earning a high salary might not balance the downsides.

  4. 4
    G Jeff Said:
    November:25:2012 - 04:45 

    My understanding was that while the employer was no longer required to hold passports, they still could if they so chose. That being said, you are exactly right on potential candidates carefully weighing the pro’s and con’s. Now that I’m here and know what I know, I imagine that I’ll do another year or so and then look for a more reasonable employer.

    I also mean to take nothing away from the plight of women in the KSA, I just find it hard to argue human rights for some but not others.

  5. 5
    John Burgess Said:
    November:25:2012 - 07:38 

    @G Jett: No, the government made it illegal for employers to hold their employees passports. It’s a criminal offense, but I’ve never heard of anyone being punished for it.

  6. 6
    Bigstick1 Said:
    November:25:2012 - 19:00 

    G. Jeff:

    Why not work in a different country which values human rights more and support them instead of such a government, culture and employer? You actually are aiding in your own plight by accepting it and the only way to stop it is to not abide by it. In other words don’t work in Saudi or work for any employer who treats you in this manner. Contact your embassy and then have them contact the Saudi government. If you insist on staying in Saudi then you should negotiate a contract that states certain conditions including that you keep your passport, certain working conditions to which if violated voids the contract and you are allowed to exit. Have some sort of condition where you can get an exit visa and have it placed into arabic language and then approved by a court. Otherwise leave as soon as possible as you have sold yourself into slavery voluntarily.

  7. 7
    me Said:
    November:26:2012 - 02:03 

    Low-income parents in Mississippi are now being fingerprinted like criminals when they pick up their children from daycare:

    http://m.npr.org/news/front/165225794

    By the way, try talking to some of the health care employees in Saudi. They are locked into their accommodation. They are only let out to get on the bus for work, and once a week when they are bussed to the supermarket so they can buy food.

    The passport is needed for riding a bus, or passing checkpoints, so confiscating a passport effectively prevents employees from traveling, something that may also be written into standard employment contracts.

    The earlier story about a Saudi family shocked about a prison sentence for a bomb-maker
    http://xrdarabia.org/2012/11/16/war-on-terror-november-16-2012/
    is so amusing–visitors to the Magical Kingdom are treated this way — locked up — WITHOUT committing any crime. And what do you bet the convicted bomb-maker will get a Koran and access to a Muslim clergy in jail, while whose who work in Saudi Arabia can face beheading for merely practicing their religion.
    http://www.ceylontoday.lk/16-9052-news-detail-arrested-for-idol-worship.html

  8. 8
    Michel Said:
    November:26:2012 - 10:26 

    To G Jeff: well that’s not specific to KSA; it’s also the case in neighbouring countries;
    now you also have many countries where, even if you are lucky enough to keep your passport, it does not enable you to leave the country as required; and the reason for that is very simple: your customer must give his formal approval to your leaving the country; freedom to come and go ? No way !

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