These devices are the latest thing in Saudi Arabia. This way the men can keep track of all their wives on one monitor. Many lucky ladies will be getting one of these for their birthday this year.

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Saudi Arabia implements electronic tracking system for women

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 22, 2012 10:54 EST
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive (AFP:File, Fayez Nureldine)

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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10 thoughts on “These devices are the latest thing in Saudi Arabia. This way the men can keep track of all their wives on one monitor. Many lucky ladies will be getting one of these for their birthday this year.

    • 27 Jumada Al-Akhir, Hijiri Year 1432

      Dearest Azim,

      I write this in my medical record book, on a middle page below my notes, hoping my accusers will not notice and use it as further evidence of my “sinful nature”. I have run into some trouble here. May Allah be merciful.

      I mentioned a patient, Sarai, when I last phoned. Of the Britannian women I treat, she was the worst off. One doesn’t see these disorders among my middle-class patients in Cairo. Because women here wear chastity belts except during pregnancy or relations with their husbands, I see boils, abrasions, and rashes wherever the belts chafe the skin. Reproductive tract and urinary tract infections are chronic and considered normal. Only women in such pain that they cannot function as wives and mothers are sent here. How could anyone in Hijiri Year 1432 bear to live this way? But how can I possibly make them understand? They have no concepts in common with us, not even time. To them, this is “the year of our Lord 2011″.

      The other patients spend a few days, at most weeks living at Pentecost, but Sarai has been here for months. It’s a pleasant enough place to stay. The log dormitory has comfortable beds covered with colorful quilts made by former patients and matching rag carpets covering the dirt floor. A narrow river snakes through the trees and plunges into a waterfall beyond the grassy yard. I often find the gentle rushing sound and glistening water soothing as I peer out the clinic windows.

      But it is a prison for Sarai. I see pained resignation in her face when I take her vital signs. I catch her in the dormitory weeping over letters from her sons.

      Like many women in perimenopause, she has heavy menstrual bleeding and clotting which cannot pass through the opening in the belt. The stench is overpowering. I must stuff cotton soaked in clove oil in my nostrils to even examine her. Nobody else can bear to approach her. She sleeps in a closet in the clinic at night and eats at a wooden bench and table outside away from the buildings.

      When she came down with a rash and fever, I suspected toxic shock syndrome and administered antibiotics.

      After dressing myself as the Christians insist, in a bonnet and high-necked, floor-length dress with long sleeves, I was allowed to speak with her husband when he came to visit her at the encampment. It was hardly a visit. He stayed outside the rail fence, sitting under the black awning which covered his wagon, while his horse cropped bits of grass beside the dirt road. Sarai walked back and forth from the fence to the waterfall, the hem of her dress catching against stones and fallen twigs. She shouted questions to him about their children. I went up to him to explain that Sarai’s Armor-of-God was causing her suffering, and asked for permission to remove it. He could watch, confirming that nothing immoral happened. He sat silent, running his rough hands up and down his suspenders. When I finished speaking, one mumbled word passed over his beard. “No.”

      Nor would he come near her. I knew he would never remove the Armor himself for intimacy with her. She would continue to suffer horribly in her foul condition, believing it God’s will.

      After he left, I talked to her. I explained that the only way I could help her was to briefly remove her belt.

      She begged me not to. She said, “I sometimes have sinful thoughts. The Armor keeps me from acting on my wrongful desires.”

      I said, “Everyone has sinful thoughts. Azim and I certainly have them, and we constantly forgive each other for them. But we do not need armor. Our love and loyalty keeps us from betraying the other.”

      She said, “The Armor keeps me safe from evil men who would molest me.”

      “Yes,” I said, “but how often does that happen? Is it worth the cost you suffer?”

      She closed her eyes and crossed her arms, rocking on her feet and chanting: “The Armor is God’s gift to deliver us from evil. It makes my love holy, as a gift to Boaz who has gifted me with love and children. It protects me from evildoers.”

      I said, “Surely God would not want you to suffer or maybe die when the treatment is so simple.”

      She walked away to the river and spent the rest of the day staring at the water.

      The next day her son, James, came on horseback to see her. He was leaving for military duty and would not be home for four years. They stood with the fence between them. She reached her arms out to him but he would not come near to embrace her.

      When he left, she came to me in tears and asked me to do the procedure. I picked the lock with a scalpel.

      My gynecological exam found necrotic lesions, which no doubt led to the septicemia that caused the fever. I irrigated the area afterwards until she was clean.

      When I locked the device back around her she began to tremble and could not stop.

      Although I told her repeatedly that she had done nothing wrong, she kept lamenting that she was defiled.

      As I washed my hands before supper, she came to me and told me she had sent her husband a letter confessing her “sin”. She was still trembling, but her face was calm.

      She spent most of the next two days standing in the yard, staring at the waterfall. I came and stood with her when I was finished with my patients.

      Just below the first cascade, because of a submerged stone, some of the water forms a semicircle of spray like hair tied in a chignon. Sarai’s eyes seemed glued to it, so I watched it with her. Over and over the little arc surged toward the sky. But only for a short distance, until gravity dragged it down and made it rejoin the rest of the water.

      Toward sunset on the second day, two men came in an oxcart. Although they wore the same dark trousers, suspenders, and white shirts as all the other men, they had a crossed sword insignia on their broad-brimmed hats. After they showed me papers declaring them to be members of the National Guard, the men clamped their hands around Sarai’s arms and led her away. She left without a word.

      I hitched up my skirt and ran after them with a bottle of her medication.

      But they emptied it onto the road and ground the pills into the mud with their boots. They told me I had turned her to evil and she must have no contact with anything connected with me. Then they confiscated my phone and informed me that the Britannians had ordered Doctors without Borders to send a different female physician. I am under house arrest and will not be allowed to finish my three week assignment. I am not sure what they will do with me after that. I pray that they will send me home when the new physician comes.

      I have little to do but wait. Only my longing to see you and the children distracts me from worrying.

      Sustained only because our breaths will soon again intermingle,

      Your Nadirah

      ***
      Date: 20 Jumada Al-Akhir, Hijiri Year 1432
      Patient: Sarai wife-of-Boaz
      Location: Pentecost encampment, Town of Zebulon, North Carolina, South Britannia
      Diagnosis: rash, headache, 104 degree fever, possible TSS.
      Description: Intravenous Nafcillin (2 g q4h) 10 days
      Attending Physician: Dr. Nadirah Oyalan

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