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Women in Saudi Arabia suffer from a brutal oppression, being forced to live with a man’s imposition, as her tutor, that decides everything for them.

By Lena Souza.

 

Also, Saudi Arabi is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. In 1990, around 40 women still drove, to defy such a prohibition, and they were detained and punished. However, since then, the movement grew and continued until September last year, in which the crown prince Mohamed bin Salman signed a decree to revoke the absurd prohibition. It will be effective on June 24.

However, between May 15 and 18, activists (women and men) leading the movement for women’s rights were detained by government’s order.[1]

Between those detained, there are Iman al Nafyan and Luyain al Hazlul,[2] known activists that were already detained several times. Luyain al Hazlul, 28, defied the banning in 2014 and went driving through the streets. An action that, together with the activist Maysaa al Amaudi, took them both to stay 73 days in jail.[3]

Among the detainees, there is nurse Al Shubar, who according to the press “carries out the defense of victims violence and of young girls in shelters,” in addition to fighting against the “male jurisdiction over women.”

In addition to these women, two men are also detained: Al Nafyan and Al Hazlul, activists and supporters of women’s rights struggle.

According to the International Human Rights Watch (NGO), “Saudi defenders of human rights said that, in September 2017, the House of Saud called the most known activists of the kingdom, including some of those detained this week, and warned them about not talking to the press.

The conservative sectors had started a campaign through the social media, one month from the established date to annul the prohibition of women driving, stating “women will not drive.”

The government is carrying out a major campaign against these activists, accusing them of making a “group” that brings security problems to the country because of its “contact with foreign bodies with the goal of undermining the stability and social fabric of the country.”[4] And this seems to be a campaign affecting other human rights activists in the country. Everything points to a government’s attempt to go back with the decree signed after much pressure by the women’s movement and most of the society.

It is important to highlight that the struggle for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia does not stop with the right to drive, as this is not the only measure of oppression they face. As Manal says, one of the women’s rights activist: “Not driving is only one of the prohibitions we have. And not the most serious one, but it is a symbol, because when we have the right to drive it will because the tutelage system is broken.”[5]

In the tutelage system, women are forced to have what is called a mahran, her male “tutor” or “guardian.” Without the authorization of that man, that can be her father, husband, brother and even a son, women cannot:

-Leave the house, travel, get a passport, open a bank account, rent a house, go to the doctor, have surgery, enter a cemetery, etc.

– Show any part of their bodies. They are forced to use a veil and abaya, a long black dress with long sleeves that cover the entire body.

– Take a bath at the beach or in public pools. There are specific beaches for women, and in hotels with pools, these are exclusive for men.

-Worked in male-female shared spaces. There are separated entries for men and women at public buildings, as women cannot talk or have contact with men who are not from their families.

All of this makes women have trouble to work, depending completely on men to survive, and suffering all kind of violence.

This is how women live in Saudi Arabia. However, all these measures of oppression on women could not avoid the movement, which confronting a brutal repression continued to demonstrate and revolt. Collectively or individually, women try to break these impositions.

It is necessary to demand the government to free all political prisoners, detained for fighting for women’s rights and democratic rights that are denied to the working population – as well as to guarantee that the decree that allows women to drive is put into practice.

Also, we have to support and encourage Saudi women to continue rebelling against oppression, to organize, to move forward and encourage the working class, men and women, to rebel and defeat this oppressive, exploiter system that imposes submission to several segments, including women, to better exploit the working class as a whole.

Only through a fight that defeats the capitalist system, we will be able to guarantee the implementation of measures towards real women’s equality.

***

Notes:

[1] According to some media, the government freed some of the activists, but not all of them. https://www.em.com.br/app/noticia/internacional/2018/05/25/interna_internacional,961632/quatro-ativistas-dos-direitos-da-mulher-libertadas-na-arabia-saudita.shtml

[2] http://www.lavanguardia.com/internacional/20180519/443701098503/detenciones-activistas-arabia-saudi-derechos-mujer.html

[3] http://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2018/05/18/5aff0631468aeb960a8b45c9.html

[4] https://www.es.amnesty.org/en-que-estamos/noticias/noticia/articulo/arabia-saudi-aterradora-campana-de-difamacion-contra-defensores-y-defensoras-de-los-derechos-hum/

[5] http://www.rtve.es/noticias/20161025/manal-sharif-redes-sociales-son-motor-del-cambio-arabia-saudi/1429740.shtml