When women’s rights activist Wajiha Al-Huwaidar flew out of Saudi Arabia last week for a holiday in Italy with her family, she was hoping for a brief respite from what she describes as the ‘gender apartheid kingdom.’
She wasn’t so lucky.
As she left, her husband received an automated SMS text message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informing him that his wife, legally considered his ‘dependant’ under Saudi Arabia’s strict gendered guardianship system, had left the country.
Women are property of the husband in Islam, the back to the seventh century desert cult that masquerades as a religion. They are no better than cattle and have few rights except to serve as commanded. The Arabic translation for Muslim is “one who submits”.
Al-Huwaidar’s husband received the same text, she learned last week, when she had left Saudi Arabia on another recent trip to Germany.
“It is sad how Saudis use technology in a way not intended to be used for,” she told The Media Line. “In Saudi Arabia, technology brings more restrictions and misery! They use it to have more control over people’s lives, especially women.”
“I am an adult woman that has been earning my own income for over a decade now but according to the Saudi government, I am a dependent until the day I die because of my gender,” Al-Huwaidar said. “I’m not sure how it works, but lately we get to be informed through our mobile phones about our bank accounts, sale ads, jobs, donation campaigns and others. I’m sure it’s a new service that the government is using for different purposes. They don’t state which country the dependent left for, but simply state that they did leave.”
Saudi authorities did not respond to requests to comment on this article, and whether the text messages received by Al-Huwaidar’s husband indicate a new system of monitoring or a case-specific effort to track Al-Huwaidar’s movements.
Saudi Arabia’s strict Islamic guardianship system requires all women to be represented by men — either their husband, father or son — in all public and official spheres of life. Women are not allowed to drive, inherit, divorce or gain custody of children; and cannot enter most public spaces without a male guardian.
“My husband had to fill out a form at the passport control authority to allow me and my children to travel outside the country whenever I like,” Asaad explained. “He has to renew that with each passport every five years. Most women travel this way.”
“The government has promised to change the system and said that women over 40 can travel a bit without a guardian,” Khalife said. “But from what we’ve seen and the complaints we’ve received from women in Saudi, the system is still very much in place. Women still need their guardian’s permission to travel, to study, to work, and even to go to a court to complain about domestic violence. So there’s a bit of a disconnect between the promises that have been made and the reality on the ground.”
We are waiting for the left to demonstrate, to run to the media and go into the streets over this. Where are they? Why are they silent? Don’t Muslim women count? Do they know the meaning of the word hypocrisy? Silence.