Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — A member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has urged the Ministry of Higher Education to review a condition that states a male guardian must accompany women scholarship students abroad.
Dr. Suhaila Zainul Abideen said the condition was "unpractical and would deprive women of their right to continue higher education," according to Al-Hayat newspaper.
The eighth condition for sending girls abroad under the King Abdullah Scholarship Program is that a mahram (male guardian) must accompany her during her travel and stay in the host country until the completion of her studies.
However, said Abideen, there are some girls who do not have a mahram.
“In the cases of those who have a mahram, their fathers or brothers are often not in a position to accompany their daughters or sisters because it would mean abandoning their jobs or other obligations.
“In such cases, there is no other option in front of these girls other than to discontinue their higher studies and that is because of the mahram condition.”
She said, “Some girls are forced to get married quickly as a last resort. Such marriages most often end up in failure and sometimes lead to incidents of blackmailing.”
According to Abideen, in many other Muslim countries such a condition is not in force. “Girls in those countries find no difficulties in continuing higher education abroad and they are able to protect themselves.”
She also suggested the ministry to be flexible by allowing relatives such as mother, sister and aunt to accompany students or by arranging accommodation for them in foreign cities where a large number of girls are studying.
Dr. Nasser Al-Fouzan, undersecretary at the Higher Education Ministry for the affairs of scholarship students, said Custodian of the Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s decision to extend the scholarship program for another five years shows his keenness in improving the quality of education for younger generations.
“The King always emphasizes the fact that the real investment is in Saudi citizens because he considers human resources development the real axis of development.
“The scholarship program has provided a golden opportunity for Saudi boys and girls to continue their higher studies in the world’s most prestigious universities.”
He said the program has produced highly qualified graduates who can play a vital role in the nation-building process.