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Saudi Woman Fights Back Against Religious Police

A Saudi Arabian woman who punched a religious police officer who was questioning her for illegal socialization with an unrelated male may face prison time and lashings. The couple, reportedly in their twenties, were walking in an amusement park in the city of Al-Mubarras when they encountered the police officer. According to AOL News, the young man collapsed for unknown reasons while being questioned.

Saudi women's rights activist Wajiha Al-Huwaidar told the Media Line that "To see resistance from a woman means a lot...People are fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years. This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance," reported the Jerusalem Post. She continued, "the media and the Internet have given people a lot of power and the freedom to express their anger...The Hai'a are like a militia, but now whenever they do something itís all over the Internet. This gives them a horrible reputation and gives people power to react."

The legal guardianship system in Saudi Arabia requires that women, both minors and adults, must be accompanied by a male guardian outside the home. If women wish to conduct themselves in public business, work, or to drive, they must obtain permission from or be accompanied by their male guardian, who may be her husband, father, brother, or even a minor son, according to Human Rights Watch. The Saudi Arabian government promised in June 2009 to follow United Nations suggestions to remove this restrictive system, but has not made this change.

In March, another Saudi Arabian woman, Sawsan Salim, was sentenced to 300 lashings and one and a half years in prison for filing harassment complaints about government officials and appearing in court in the northern Qasim region without a male guardian present. Salim woman appeared without a male guardian because her husband, her sole male family member, was in prison at the time. A similar case occurred in March 2009, when Khamisa Sawadi, an elderly Saudi woman, was accused of fraternization with men after two men outside of her family brought her bread. She was sentenced to 40 lashings, 4 months jail time and deportation. In February 2008, an American business woman was arrested for being in the family section of a Starbucks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a male colleague.

Media Resources: Jerusalem Post 5/17/10; AOL News 5/18/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/3/10; Human Rights Watch 3/2/10

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