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.