Technology Bites Back

Jennifer O’Mahony:

As of 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.

Saudi women’s rights activist Manal al-Sherif, who last year urged women to defy a driving ban, said a man had contacted her to say he had received a text from the immigration authorities while at the airport with his wife.

“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said Saudi author and journalist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the kingdom.

“This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned,” she added.

Under laws influenced by the strict Wahabi interpretation of Islam, women are not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia without permission from their male guardian (a husband, father or brother), who must give consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.

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  • I am shocked, shocked I tell you to hear that all these advances in information technology can be used to oppress and not just to facilitate Arab Springs, Wikileaks and #occupythings.

    Just kidding, ’cause I read 1984.

  • P.

    This is one of those just-when-you think-you’ve-seen-it-all things.

  • stuart

    Any country which denies its citizens free exit has something to hide- or be ashamed of.

  • The stalking experienced by the women we helped at our shelter makes this surreal. I can’t imagine having the government aid & abet men’s oppression. There were times when the bureaucracy, older laws, or poorly informed cops made women’s safety problematic and worse, but coordination of oppression rises to the level of a demonic principality, it would seem to me.