Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Saudis Ease Restrictions on Women

I really struggle with this.

According to a recent article in Gulf News women in Saudi Arabia are now permitted to stay in a hotel without a a male escort. Woopee doo!!

http://www.gulfnews .com/news/ gulf/saudi_ arabia/10183906. html

I have spoken to many Muslim women about what I, and many women, see as unacceptable restrictions imposed on them in the name of religion. I cannot comprehend how they find this acceptable yet most I have spoken to adamantly defend the policies.

A few years ago I attended an National Union of Students conference where a guest speaker from Iraq spoke about the negative impact of the illegal war there. Hard fought improvements in rights and freedoms for women are being eroded as strict Muslim dress and behaviour codes are forcefully reimposed. Half way through her speech a large group of Muslim students at the meeting noisily stood up, turned their backs on the speaker and walked out of the conference. That behaviour was not challenged by the organisers and when I challenged them later I was rudely told to mind my own business, yet earlier in the conference members of that same group were appealing for support in their campaign against Islamaphobia. Since then of course we have heard that women are being beaten and even killed for failing to comply with these draconian rules. So clearly these rules are not a matter of choice - they are part of a viciously imposed regime of oppression against women.

Oh and back in Saudi - they are considering allowing women to drive. I think the airline pilot a few years ago got it right when he announced - "Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly be commencing our decent to Riyadh Airport and you may want to put your watches back about - Oh four hundred years." Unfortunately, as usual, the Saudi's were unable to see the humour and the pilot was sacked.

Of course as a trans woman I have had to keep Saudi along with other Arab states off my list of possible destinations - Though ironically Iran, where homosexuality carries the death penalty has become the transsexual mecca of the middle east thanks to the unbelievable courage of one trans women who managed to convince Ayatollah Khomeini to permit gender reassignment.

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