March 21, 2019
Latest News
European Union

Bid for asylum in Canada stirs rights push in Saudi Arabia

Dubai, Jan 12 (efe-epa).- A young Saudi woman's flight from her family and country has stirred debate in Saudi Arabia about its requirement that women get permission from a male guardian to travel or marry, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report made available to EFE on Saturday.

Canada said Friday it would grant refugee status to 18-year-old Rahaf Alqunun, after a weeklong asylum bid that spurred some Saudis to question whether the male-guardianship system still has a place in a kingdom where social mores are quickly changing.

Saudi women can now drive, attend soccer matches with men and work in any field, but they can't travel freely without a guardian. Saudi women are treated as minors in many legal matters, including marriage and being released from prison, requiring authorization from a male guardian - father, husband or even a son.

Legally nonbinding social customs often force women to demonstrate their guardian's consent to work, get health care and conduct transactions such as renting an apartment, according to a 2016 Human Rights Watch report.

"No one of sound mind can rationalize the idea of the guardianship system," said a Saudi named Bandar, in a video posted this week on Twitter. "It's what's making girls wishful to leave their country and live somewhere else from the country they were raised in."

The post was among thousands with hashtags related to Alqunun or the guardianship system that have trended on Twitter in Saudi Arabia since her case exploded into public view this week.

Alqunun fled on Saturday during a family trip to Kuwait, where she was able to board a flight to Thailand without a guardian's permission.

She was stopped by Thai authorities, but refused efforts to send her back to Saudi Arabia, saying she had renounced Islam and feared her family would harm her.

Alqunun said she had a visa for Australia and planned to seek asylum there, but on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada had granted her refugee status.

A Saudi diplomatic official in Thailand told Saudi television that Alqunun's father said she wasn't a victim of violence.

Saudi guardianship laws are generally unpopular in more cosmopolitan Saudi cities such as Riyadh and the Red Sea port of Jeddah.

But they remain an important part of life in more conservative areas, and the government would face intense opposition if it moved to undo the guardianship system.

While some other Muslim countries have male-guardianship traditions, Saudi Arabia goes the furthest in enshrining these customs in law and carrying them out in practice, drawing on its ultraconservative interpretation of Islam.

"This change would overturn social life in the entire kingdom," said Cinzia Bianco, senior analyst in London for Gulf State Analytics, a geopolitical risk consulting firm.

Many people have come out in defense of the guardianship system this week, arguing that it promotes conservative morals and traditional Saudi values.

"If the guardianship is dropped, what more will happen? Go out and see the loose women on the streets with their loud voices," said Abdulhamid Alodeilh in a Twitter post.

Faisal J. Abbas, the editor in chief of the pro-government Saudi newspaper, Arab News, wrote in an op-ed on Thursday that there was little room for guardianship laws amid the social change sweeping Saudi Arabia.

"Male guardianship over women in Saudi Arabia - or anywhere in the world - is wrong and discriminatory, and all forms of this outdated practice should be abolished," he wrote in the essay, which got widespread attention.

He also said Alqunun shouldn't become a poster child for ending guardianship laws, citing her young age.

Until this week, the debate over the Saudi guardianship system had been muted, in part because the government has jailed a host of prominent womens-rights activists, Dow Jones added in a report made available to EFE.

Among the detained is Aziza al-Yousef, a retired professor and a vocal advocate for scrapping male permissions for travel and other matters.

The arrests are part of a broad crackdown on Saudi civil society by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has also targeted business leaders and clerics in his bid to consolidate power and stifle dissent over his disruptive policies.

Without well-connected activists advocating for abolishing guardianship laws, it isn't clear how this week's calls for change could be sustained, said Kristin Diwan, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. "That clearly affects the room for an open debate," she said.

The Saudi government has accused the activists of terrorism and working with hostile foreign governments. No charges have been publicly leveled against them.

Some guardianship opponents had looked with hope to King Salman and his son, Prince Mohammed, when they came to power in 2015.

A movement called "I Am My Own Guardian" sprang up in 2016. Hundreds of women sent telegrams to King Salman that year, asking him to change guardianship laws.

In April 2017, the king made a gesture that was seen as a positive signal, clarifying that government agencies shouldn't require a guardian's permission unless specifically required to do so under the law.

Prince Mohammed, the 33-year-old in line to succeed his father, spearheaded lifting of the ban on women driving and has pushed other popular reforms, such as disempowering a religious police force that often harassed and even jailed women for how they dressed.

But he has been noncommittal about ending guardianship laws, saying it was for Islamic scholars to study.

"Changing guardianship is harder than the driving ban," said Karen E. Young, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Some Saudis this week said the kingdom's laws weren't the real impediment to change, but that the rules come from biases against women ingrained deep in society.

Writing with a hashtag about lifting the "travel ban," a Twitter user named Nahawnd said Prince Mohammed would eventually overcome "this backward society and prevailing mind-set."

By Michael Amon

News history
Spanish soccer league La Liga signs anti racism collaboration

Cairo, Mar 21 (efe-epa).- La Liga has paired up with the United Nations migration agency in Egypt Thursday to help combat racism.

Anne Imhof's "Sex" performance previews at Tate Modern in London

London, Mar 21 (efe-epa).- German artist Anne Imhof on Thursday previewed "Sex," the first chapter of a live performance art trilogy commissioned by the...

The guitolão: a rare Portuguese string instrument of which only 3 exist

By Carlos García

Bardot, denunciada por insultos racistas hacia los habitantes de La Reunión

Paris, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- Former French film star Brigitte Bardot was accused of racism Wednesday over remarks about the people of Réunion Island in a...

British Museum previews Munch's haunting "The Scream" ahead of UK show

London, March 20 (efe-eap).- The British Museum in London on Wednesday previewed an Edvard Munch lithograph print of his iconic "The Scream" series as...

Dear Donald: UK's May pens letter to EU in search of short Brexit delay

London, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom's prime minister has on Wednesday written to the European Union to ask for an extension to the Brexit...

Google fined 1.5bn euro by European Commision over advertising

Brussels, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- American technology giant Google was fined 1.49 billion euro ($1.7 billion) Wednesday by the European Commission for blocking...

Rome Assembly president arrested on alleged corruption charges in Italy

Rome, March 20 (efe-epa).- The president of Rome's City Council, a member of the Five Star Movement which rules in coalition with the far-right Lega party,...

President Donald Trump embraces closer ties with Brazil

Washington, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump said he intended to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally, a move that would deepen the US's...

French expert: Chantilly naked Mona Lisa sketch drafted in da Vinci's studio

Chantilly, France, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- Leonardo Da Vinci's left-handedness was the key to attributing a charcoal sketch known as Mona Lisa's naked sister to...

Man honing knife on Spanish metro in video that went viral was ham cutter

Madrid, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- A man seen sharpening a large knife on the Madrid metro in a video that went viral online was a professional ham cutter going to...

Dublin, Brussels await London's proposals for next moves on Brexit

Dublin, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- The government of the Republic of Ireland and the president of the European Council agreed Tuesday that the next step in the...

Pope rejects resignation of French cardinal convicted of child abuse cover up

Paris, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- A top French cardinal convicted of covering up allegations of child sex abuse by a priest said Tuesday that the Pope has rejected...

German minister says country exhausted by Brexit, urges UK clarifications

Brussels, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- Germany has been exhausted by Brexit negotiations and has urged the United Kingdom to clarify whether it wanted to delay its...

Order, order: what power does the speaker of UK parliament have?

London, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom's prime minister and her cabinet were on Tuesday gathered together to study the next step in the Brexit...

Japan's Olympic chief, focus of bribery probe, to step down

Tokyo, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee said he would step down, two months after French authorities said they were...

Holding back the past, Brexit threatens to open old wounds along Irish border

Derry/Londonderry (Northern Ireland), Mar 19 (efe-epa).- On maps of Ireland, a line cuts across the north of the island like a scar, dividing Northern...

Algerian turmoil threatens deals

Madrid, Mar 19 (EFE).- A contentious political transition in Algeria is creating uncertainty around a number of foreign investment deals in Africa's largest...

Dutch police arrest 2 after deadly shooting

Utrecht, Netherlands, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- The suspected shooter and a second person are in custody after three people were killed and five others wounded...

Trial of man linked to killing that sparked far-right riots in Germany begins

Berlin, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- A Syrian man went on trial Monday over an alleged knife killing that triggered racist street riots the eastern German city of...

Speaker of United Kingdom's House of Commons: no third vote on Brexit deal

London (efe-epa).- The Speaker of the United Kingdom’s House of Commons has Monday blocked a third vote on the same Brexit deal.

Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank shares rise on merger talks

Frankfurt, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- Shares in Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG rose Monday after the German banks said that they had entered formal merger...

UN: Israel's abuse of Palestinian resources is a human rights violation

Geneva, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- The United Nations denounced Israel's ongoing exploitation of Palestinian natural resources and its use of force during protests...

Report: Boeing 737 MAX jet draws US criminal probe

Washington DC, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- Federal prosecutors and Department of Transportation officials are scrutinizing the development of Boeing's 737 MAX...

I agree Welcome to news4europe.eu. We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.