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A woman speaks on the phone as men ride a motorcycle on a cloudy day in Riyadh. – File Photo by Reuters
A woman speaks on the phone as men ride a motorcycle on a cloudy day in Riyadh. – File Photo by Reuters

RIYADH: Saudi women activists have petitioned the country's consultative council to back a demand to curb the “absolute authority” of male guardians over women in the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom, a signatory said.

Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians.

It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian.

Activist Aziza Yousef told AFP that “rights activists have petitioned the Shura (consultative) Council on the occasion of the International Women's Day (on March 8) demanding an end to the absolute authority of men over women.”

They demanded “measures to protect (women's) rights,” in their petition to the Shura Council, she said.

Laws in the kingdom enforcing such restrictions on women “are not based on religious” teachings, said Yousef.

The petition, signed by 10 female activists, also calls for allowing women to drive.

Women in Saudi must obtain permission from a male guardian to perform “certain surgeries” and to “leave the university campus during study hours,” she added.

She cited a recent case in which a pregnant student had to give birth on campus after a women-only university in Riyadh denied access to paramedics.

And a university student died in February after paramedics were prevented from entering her campus because they were not accompanied by a male guardian, a must according to the strict segregation rules in the Muslim kingdom.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia suspended a notification programme that had been running since 2012, which alerted male guardians once women under their custody left the country, even if they were travelling together.

Three female members of the Shura Council presented a recommendation that women be given the right to drive in October, but the male-dominated 150-member assembly blocked the proposal.

The Shura Council is appointed by the king and advises the monarch on policy, but cannot legislate.

Comments (71) Closed

GA Mar 02, 2014 06:57pm

Of course, campions of human rights in the Western governments never see any abuse when it comes to these desert gas stations.

asif Mar 02, 2014 07:01pm

The US condemns india over gay marriage but has never raised its voice against saudi arabias stone age treatment of women, there is something else in saudi arabia that trumps human rights in the eyes of the west.

NHM Mar 02, 2014 07:30pm

I salute the brave woman of Saudi Arabia who are challenging an idiotic male dominated society. Not to mention that their men are usually busy providing lectures on Islamic values while in the east and then wasting money on fast cars and easy women in the west.

Wakaz Mar 02, 2014 07:35pm

Wow!! This is how media influences people's thinking capability. Pulling out a snap from manhattan's local masjid with a couple of males on a honda bike smiling at the two burqa cladded women. Moreover, how important is this news to be published on the front page of dawn....

Bravo dawn news Bravo

Khalid Mar 02, 2014 07:50pm

@Wakaz: I live in manhattan and this picture wasn't snapped here. Not sure what your agenda is but keep your misinformation to yourself.

Anonymous Mar 02, 2014 07:56pm

Cold -stares are unavoidable everywhere. But I doubt if in the Middle East it's easy to get away after passing comments or remarks at Females more difficult is a direct physical assault. Muslim countries do have an edge in this area.

preet cheema Mar 02, 2014 08:40pm

Thanks to God millions times, I am not born there.

Unnas Ahmad Mar 02, 2014 09:06pm

Saudi is (In my opinion) a backwards country when it comes to womens rights.

Shahpur Mar 02, 2014 09:25pm

Saudis are worse now. Now they make money from Mecca, Medina and Oil and having good time the old fashioned way.

Jaffer Sheriff Mar 02, 2014 09:55pm

Once the kingdom dynasty is over thrown, everything will become normal. Time is fast approaching.

Red Dawn Mar 02, 2014 10:43pm

That picture is the more shameless than all the sites that government of pakistan tries to block,,, and its sad. Please publish my comment

gagan sarkar Mar 02, 2014 10:45pm

@preet cheema:

You should also thank your GOD you do not live there. Many do, and it is a hell.

gagan sarkar Mar 02, 2014 10:49pm


You are wrong. There are no permanent friends or enemies in the world of politics. As long as Americans need saudi oil, saudis will be pampered. Then the same Americans will bomb Saudis if they feel any terror suspect is living there. It is the economy , stupid,somebody told the world.

And in the same breath, Americans are forming a queue, along with their European colleagues, to meet Modi, once denied American visa. Moral of the story is countries only have their interest in mind, principles always take a back seat.

independentthinker Mar 02, 2014 10:56pm

This is the worst possible way to interpret our religion and bring a bad name to our faith. Anyone with little intelligence will know that God created man & woman as equal. It is to serve their own selfish interest, that they have manipulated the teachings of the Holy Quran. As women start rising to fight for equal rights, I am sure Islam will be practiced the way it was meant to be. Our religion if that of peace, equality and compassion.

ROHIT PANDEY Mar 02, 2014 11:14pm

@Wakaz: Ostrich with head stuck in the sand...try reading about it Mr.Wakaz!!!:):)

Md Imran Mar 02, 2014 11:32pm

..and the media war on the ummah continues. Please tell us what good "women rights" did in the west ? Do we want our women to be scantily dressed and have hundred partners ? Saudi is the only country that is trying to uphold the core essence of Islam. There is nothing wrong in advising women not to travel alone without male companions. Please look at the shameful picture. Would those guys on the motorcycle dare tried making comments if those 2 young ladies had a male guardian ?

Ad Zad Mar 02, 2014 11:41pm

@Wakaz: Who you trying to fool? Cant you see men wearing Kandura in backgroun?. It is not Manhattan, it is certainly Saudi Arabia.

Fiz Mar 02, 2014 11:51pm

Saudi Arabia is a Wahabi Muslim state, why has it been written as Sunni State? Will somebody clarify??

kevin Mar 03, 2014 12:13am

Women gave birth to such idiotic men. Stop making such mistakes Sorry independentthinker you don't know what you are talking. Most of the troubles are in muslim world today.

rizwan Mar 03, 2014 12:14am

its enough yar... why u always talk about women women women...why u start politicizing ur own intentions in the name of women rights. women are respected in Islam and islamic states . why u want to bring such vulgar,immoral, and pathetic western women democracy in the name of women rights !!! do u want ur women to wear nothing in the name jeans,start disrespecting their parents like they do.. its enough is must say... if u look at man he is too being jeopardize equally in this society...hundreds of men are being killed in bomb attack,in wars, or any other chaos, but why u forget his misery .. no u have to start ur politics in the name of women rights....women posses all rights... is there any restriction in any university upon their admission of any seats are reserved for men ??? no but u can find reserve sears in education, jobs, or other field for women and more amazing is that women can have men seat as well but the reserve seats are for women only...its bad.... stop it or one day men will be demanding his rights. stop it now

abdulaziz Mar 03, 2014 12:19am

Women get teased even after encasing them completely. What does it say about men?

Raks Mar 03, 2014 12:52am

I have never understood why women should cover their heads and faces when men shouldn't. How is it equal?

avtar Mar 03, 2014 01:47am

I understand that prophet's wife rode the camel, leading some troops in war. And in Saudi Arabia,women are not allowed to drive cars which provide more protection than camels!

Waheed Mar 03, 2014 02:12am

Control of women in Saudi Arabia is unislamic and therefore should not be associated with Islam. It is high time for the Saudi government to ensure rights which Islam has provided to Muslim women

Rev. Eldrick lal Mar 03, 2014 02:45am

@Fiz: Because Wahibsim is getting strong in Pakistan!

noon Mar 03, 2014 03:28am

@Wakaz: Can you tell me where is Manhattan and how do you know this is manhattan??

noon Mar 03, 2014 03:33am

@rizwan: I'm not sure if you have read the article, its about Women rights in KSA, where women cannot even go out even if they have a life threatening condition to a hospital unless there is a male guardian with them, do men have the same restriction in KSA. No, then why do women have to through this pain, can you please explain?

AZMAT KHAN Mar 03, 2014 04:23am

Saudi Arabia is fountain of Islam.We claim that Islam gives maximum value and regard to women which no other nation or country can do.How Saudi Arabia treats women you can see.Every mullah or the caretaker of Islam wants to treat women like Saudi Arabia.And the Taliban too want to enforce the same Shariat.Then everyone will see the value they extend to women.

Dr.Waqas Khan Mar 03, 2014 04:27am

This is nothing but a clear case of Islamophobia.

ahmad butt Mar 03, 2014 04:27am

I was in a debate with our very own Pakistani misguided and myopic champions of islam on saudi arabia being the ideal islamic state. And after i clarified them about the saud family monarchy/kindgom, i informed them that back in the times of prophet hazarat khadijah was a trader who being impressed by the dealing of prophet mohammed proposed. This means that current system there is even more backward where they restrict women. Then came the rant that it is all a conspiracy to malign Saudi Arabia, and then i referred that how many of your women drive a car and when they will be willing to settle in Saudi Arabia. Then the conversation ended, moral of the story is it is very hard to step in the shoes of people living in that environment, and then only can you form an opinion. and for all the comments of people who question that in their country the USA and other Saudi allies challenge human rights , but let the Saudis get off the hook, you have to realise that they are allies and have vested interests. Just like we no longer read human rights, child labor, tibet, muslims, falon gong being the headlines from mainstream USA and western media trying to malign China, because of their reliance on cheap labor and profiteering on the rules of capitalism.

indian Mar 03, 2014 07:53am

@independentthinker: any one except muslims

Raj Mar 03, 2014 08:26am

@Raks: They say the burka is to protect women from the evil intentions of the men. But it also proves that only men have bad intention and women have no bad intention towards men .

Danish Haider Mar 03, 2014 08:34am

@Fiz: Well said!

SAB Mar 03, 2014 10:38am

Doesn't matters where the pic was taken. It is no hidden truth that women in saudi arabia are deprived of many rights that islam has given to women.. Women can't drive..what the hell..

Ahmed Mar 03, 2014 10:41am

One correction to this author and all other mass communication people. Saudi Arabia is a Wahabi sect country which is very different from Sunni. We should not say that Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim country, it should be Wahabi Muslim country.

Edmond Mar 03, 2014 02:30pm


Seems like you haven't lived in ME for a long period. Besides cold stares it is not uncommon for women to get molested by men. If the women are expats then nobody dare report to police because the charges will be reversed and slapped on the accuser. The locals are exempted unless it is murder.

BS-Detector Mar 03, 2014 02:51pm

@noon: I live in Riyadh, you're absolutely mistaken and misinformed. Yes, they can leave their residences at any time of the day to anywhere they want. Just by calling a taxi or stopping one out on the road. They can travel by air/road anywhere in the kingdom and can also check-in at hotels alone.

Mohammad Ali Mar 03, 2014 07:10pm

@BS-Detector: You should get a gold medal in misleading!

Mohammad Ali Mar 03, 2014 07:11pm

@Ahmed: I agree with you.

Ayesha Khan Mar 03, 2014 07:13pm

Most of the comments by the readers project, as if they live in some different world. Did they ever try to ponder into the hair raising proplems which the women of the West are facing today, only because of the equal rights they demand as of men. There is no doubt that women have been a subject to a lot of tumult, and oppression but it is not only in Saudi Arabia,

Our religion Islam provides laws that are based on human psychology, human anotomy, and deep logic, if vwomen are more exposed the greater threats they invite. Please don't fall into this Trap by the West that is called the Arab Spring, it is only to incite and provoke. Islam is a perfect religion and there are no margins of any discrepencies, but if people distort the meanings and ill practice the religion, then its a different issue.

independentthinker Mar 03, 2014 08:05pm

@indian: I loved your response - which by the way, did not make any sense! "Any one except Muslims"? Are you implying that Muslims are not peaceful, compassionate and believe in equality? If that is the case, I am sorry to say - but it demonstrates your ignorance. And unfortunately, I cannot say anything in response to help you, unless you want to help yourself. Good luck!

haris Mar 03, 2014 08:30pm

@ahmad butt: Just to add one things; there is only ONE marriage story of a couple discussed in Quran and that was Moses marrying an Arabian girl. That girl actually indirectly informed her father that she wants to marry Moses as he has helped her. The father called Musa and asked him if he wanted to marry his daughter? Musa replied with Yes.

Imagine is it possible now for a girl to discuss about her affection towards certain man with her father in our society. The girl would either be killed immediately or thrown in the prison after severe berating.

independentthinker Mar 03, 2014 08:55pm

@kevin: I read your response a few times and each time, I was more confused then before! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY by stating "I don't know what I am talking about"? You made a comment which absolutely does not make any sense! The troubles you are talking about are universal, but with women demanding for their rights, a change is coming which will hopefully bring out the true interpretation of our religion, which is that of compassion, respect for all human beings and equality!

Sandip Singh Mar 03, 2014 09:02pm

@BS-Detector: Are you typing fairytales of Saudi Arab?

Sandip Singh Mar 03, 2014 09:03pm

@Ahmed: So what?

Rizwan Mar 03, 2014 11:07pm

@noon my answer concerned whole scenario,not KSA particularly, where ever any women is mistreated..without even knowing the real reason we start blaming men, our mind is set that only men is wrong. We face problems irrespective of gender then why everyone raise voice only for women rights..

Abdul majid Khan Mar 04, 2014 12:31am

Islam gives absolute equal rights to women with some restrictions to both male and female.

Women are urged to acquire knowledge at all levels as are instructions for men.

Women are restricted to mix up with men as soon they get to mature age and so are the men. This is to safe guard the women and to keep the society pure of sin.

Women are allowed inheritance as are men.Women have full control on their belongings and properties, men are not permitted to take it by force.

Both men and women are ordered to safe guard their private parts.

Women are allowed to serve the fields appropriate for them. For example medical fields for women and children needs. Teaching women and children. Practice law to defend women. Nursing. Beauty Salons. SPA Nails for women. Trade and commerce provided they do not come in contact with men. Women Police to deal with women only. Women are allowed to play with women in fortified areas. Women are allowed to exercise in health clubs established for ladies only.

If women observe PARDA as prescribed by Islam then there is no harm in driving a car.

Women can become news casters and lecturers on radio and TV in prescribed Parda. Indeed women are not permitted by Islam to show up on public stage for dance and singing as do today on almost all TV stages in Islamic countries.

There is no doubt that the foremost duty of a women is to raise the family and train / educate her children and look after the house hold. This is the prime duty of female. They can sing and dance with in their atmosphere, not for men. Allah has made men as guardian and trustee for women because men are physically stronger and braver than women. Men are given the duty to work and earn bread for their families. So they are given upper hand over the women.

Naturally women folks are weak in physique , construction and decision making. Allah has given power to women to select their partner but not allowed to marry with out the permission of their fathers and or elders.

Guardians must have knowledge of where about of their female dependents members.

In case of emergency if female service is not available, help from male is allowed as in case of hunger to save the life Haram food in limited

Islamic teachings are the best for both men and women. Accepting them is fruitful and rejection is harmful.


EQ8Rhomes Mar 04, 2014 02:28am

@Raks: It used to be the same with Judeo-Christians. Men uncovered their heads in places of worship. Women had to cover themselves! Islamic societies are of the same Abrahamic origin and they have taken it too far. Religions need to cut their followers some slack or be forsaken in time and become out-dated and irrelevant. LOOK UP THE RISE AND FALL OF CULTURES over time. Best lessons anyone can learn!

EQ8Rhomes Mar 04, 2014 02:33am

@rizwan: Mere yar, study biology. We men like women; there is no substitute -- unless .....! Modern men like free women who can choose or reject us and we don't mind either way -- plenty of fish in the oceans, so to speak! KHadija chose, and so today's women need to be able to do so AT A MINIMUM!

EQ8Rhomes Mar 04, 2014 02:36am

@gagan sarkar: Yes! Pragmatism!

EQ8Rhomes Mar 04, 2014 02:37am

@Anonymous: Only behind the purdah!

Ravi Mar 04, 2014 03:23am

@Raks: No religion provided equality to women, whatever rights they got was through struggle. Islam has given the most rights to women than any other religion at the time Islam was gifted to the world. But sadly most of the muslim societies are lacking far behind in providing rights to women, even rightful rights given by Islam to them are not given to them on the pretext of local culture and traditions. Education level is low among muslims, that also contributes to the people sticking to old customs and traditions which are not related to Islam. If education spreads in muslim societies, then there is good chance of people become more sensible in their attitudes towards women.

illawarrior Mar 04, 2014 06:10am

@rizwan: In Saudi, many professions are forbidden to women, and many others become impossible due to issues of transportation and gender mingling.

Babbarsher Khan Mar 04, 2014 08:31am

Oil wealth has been a curse for the women of that desert Sheikhdom. If it continues to get patronage from the West for assured supply of energy, things may not change significantly for the half of the population there. However, if the western reliance on Saudi energy comes to an end for whatsoever reason (technological or otherwise) or Saudis run of of oil, the change including other social and political changes would come there much earlier. Our solidarity is with the Saudi women who despite being denied human status, dare to speak.

ALLY WAQAR SYED Mar 04, 2014 11:27am

@BS-Detector: I used to live in Riyadh too, what you said would not help you to maintain your Iqamah (resident permit) since Saudi's are not even loyal to their Monarch feeding them day and night.

Saudi Arabia is the worst society in the world. Just one example, a generation of Filipino-face Saudi's has grown up this is result of having a Filipino maid or a Filipino driver at home.

mirza j baig Mar 04, 2014 12:00pm

@kevin: the troubles is Muslim world are due to ignorance and because Muslim people are away from education in general. The education does not mean that you start to take clothes off and go to beach but it give you an view a broader view. There are no educational institution of stature in Islamic countries why they wanna make big building but for what does that mean Muslim are more great no its the mental attitude that's it EDUCATE that the motto

mirza j baig Mar 04, 2014 12:11pm

@GA: the voice must be raised from inside of that nation its the time of internet raise the voice and people across the world will rally with you

Dev Mar 04, 2014 12:49pm

@Jaffer Sheriff: It will lead to utter chaos

Lalat Mar 04, 2014 06:55pm

@ALLY WAQAR SYED: "Saudi Arabia is the worst society in the world" - about this I don't know, never had been to that country, but I can say that the worst administration is that of the U.S, which talks volumes about the human right abuses in China, Russia and elsewhere but mum about the same in Saudi Arabia, where public floggings,beheadings could be routine. Hipocrisy at its best.

Lalat, Shaoxing, China

Sandip Singh Mar 04, 2014 08:15pm

@independentthinker: Well, he is right in whatever he said.

NASAH (USA) Mar 04, 2014 10:26pm

Saudi Arabia is the fountainhead of everything that is wrong with the Muslims of the world.

It's tribal backward country and it wants the entire Muslim world to stay tribal and backward -- like its own funless Wahabi desert.

Shafaat Mar 04, 2014 10:31pm

PPP is demanding resignation from Nisar but it would have been good if they had set an example when they were in power.

Shafaat Mar 04, 2014 10:33pm

It would have been good for PP to demand resignation of Nisar if they would have set an example of doing so when they were in power.

Obaid Mar 05, 2014 05:41am

@Ayesha Khan:

So the sun does revolve around the Earth then ?

n.qureshi Mar 05, 2014 07:27am

@mirza j baig: you are very right,historically we have never spend any thoughts on education

n.qureshi Mar 05, 2014 07:29am

@Ravi: depends on the kind of education

n.qureshi Mar 05, 2014 07:34am

@Abdul majid Khan: go live in saudi arabia

Mack Mar 05, 2014 10:13am

Islam will inherit earth one day. we all who are here at present will be dead by then. The day it happens or before there will be more violence among muslims themselves in the name of purity.
since all the modalities of world destruction have all been invented and in handy, they will throwing at each other to destroy the other. No amount of educating or whatever to contain this is not going to change the destiny of this world. Islam was born with violence to rule the world. days are not far the end this world which is millions of years old and civilisation is almost more than eight thousand years old. We have so much human testosterone in the world which only thinks from their destination.

Aftab Kenneth Wilson Mar 05, 2014 10:28am

But Muslim scholars do not tire day in and day out trumpeting that their religion gives equal rights to women and some even go further by claiming that women are given more rights than what other religions give. Please stop targeting women. They are thrown out by simply uttering three times Talak, Talak, Talak by men so why not give the same rights to women who unfortunately get married to some stupid person.

Riaz Papin Mar 05, 2014 04:31pm

@Abdul majid Khan: //Allah has made men as guardian and trustee for women because men are physically stronger and braver than women. Men are given the duty to work and earn bread for their families. So they are given upper hand over the women.// So in cases where the female partners are physically more powerful or braver OR where they contribute more to the bread earning, they must logically have the upper hand over them men..Right? Secondly could you please define Bravery for us. Thank you.

Shabana Faroo Mar 05, 2014 08:43pm

@Abdul majid Khan

Is it a coincidence that the societies where women are most free, are also the wealthiest, the most literate, have the highest levels of healthcare, are the best able to deliver the most from their potential?

On the other hand, the societies where women have little or no rights, are the least literate, least productive, most poor regions often holding onto backward interpretations of religion.

Islam does not prescribe one to be poor, illiterate or ignorant, much less suppress women. you forget the Prophet (PBUH) worked for Hazrat Khadija, she was the boss, he was the employee. Not the other way round.