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Uproar over e-tracking system for Saudi women travelers

Last updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 6:37 PM

Mariam Nihal
Saudi Gazette


JEDDAH — Women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks their cross-border movements, causing huge controversy.

Currently, women in Saudi Arabia cannot travel without their mahrams’ (male guardian) permission.

Many women who spoke to Saudi Gazette expressed concern over this new monitoring system and felt it was a futile activity because it infringes on their freedom of movement.

Mona Mohammed, a 34-year-old housewife, said: “Why not invest in preventing violence against women instead of monitoring their movement?”


Another Saudi woman, 35-year-old designer Basma Shaheen, said: “Who implemented this rule? It’s shameful and very humiliating for Saudi women to be treated like goods or cattle.”

The news about Saudi women being tracked down via SMS generated numerous critical comments and confusion on Twitter.

Dina Samman, a 29-year-old Saudi lawyer, said: “I feel like I am on a leash. My husband can come collect me or drag me away from wherever I am if he wished.

“What happened to respect, trust and most of all human rights?”


She said it was humiliating enough for a woman to seek consent from a man every time she wished to travel. “It is demeaning for women such as my mother or my daughter to be spied upon and for every move they make to be reported.”

Sameera Al-Bari, a 25-year-old Saudi engineering student, said: “What’s next? We should have a barcode imprinted in us so we can easily be scanned.”

The new technology was reportedly discovered after a Saudi man was alerted by immigration authorities through a text message that his wife had gone abroad, while he was with her.

Maisoon Al-Ghamdi, a 32-year-old Saudi businesswoman, said: “It was bad enough that a woman had to ask or sometimes beg and plead with a man to allow her to travel, but now they have actually adopted a service that feels like it is a GPS system for women.”

Mahrams began receiving text messages since a week ago informing them when women under their guardianship have left the country.

Ali Hassan, a 25-year-old Saudi medical student, said: “She is not my pet. I don’t want to know when and where she is going through a secret service.


“We are not CIA nor do we spy on our women. We trust them.”

He said his father was happy with the launch of the new tracking system.


“I think it’s disgusting how men are welcoming this application.


“This is a basic human right every woman should have.

“Saudi women’s right to privacy is being invaded and to be honest it’s embarrassing to read about it. I can’t even imagine what the world thinks of us.”

Majed Abdullah, a 34-year-old Saudi business development manager, told Saudi Gazette that mahrams generally do not mind letting their female dependents travel, and on the whole also do not want to keep tabs on their wives and daughters.

He added: “Yes, okay, for employers and companies maybe it makes sense for them to keep a tab on their employees because of the iqama (residency permit) system.

“Men did not demand this law for women, nor do we want to spy on our women.


“I don’t want women to feel they are under our control or observation because I am pretty sure no man would want that to happen to them. So why would a woman?”

He said he respected the privacy of women in his household and believed in women’s right to freedom of movement.



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