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Saudi Arabia runs online database of women to track them, stop them running away (businessinsider.com)
175 points by benryon on Feb 1, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 90 comments



An anecdote.

I know a guy from a small country in that region that begins with Q and sounds like a common word for mucous membrane inflammation. His late father was an imam. He wears the traditional garb when he is home. He is a fairly standard [person from that country].

I asked him why he feels women shouldn't have equal rights to men.

The beginning of his response: "Well, it is medically proven that women are natural carriers of disease…"

That's the culture there.

EDIT: Removed the country name because I'm flying their airline tomorrow.


I recall seeing a video years ago (unable to locate it at the moment) with an imam explaining how science grounds the ruling that a woman's testimony is only worth half of a man's. He presented brain scans of a male brain and a female brain, explaining that men's brains light up in different areas when they speak versus when they recall memory. Women, on the other hand, use the same brain regions for speaking and for recollection. Thus, a woman's memory cannot be reliable, because when she speaks (which women do incessantly, so say the stereotypes), the memory is wiped out.

It is very, very difficult to combat pseudoscience draped with religious authority.


It would be easy if much wealthier nations didn't support the religious authority.


>It is very, very difficult to combat pseudoscience draped with religious authority.

Luckily, that never happens in the Western world.


Of course it does (and the sarcasm isn't lost on me), but nowhere near to the same extent.

At least not these days anyway.


Joel Olstein. It may be different but you can argue it’s just as extreme.


No, I couldn't.

Nobody is being systematically murdered at the command of even America's nuttiest televangelists.


I'd also like to point out that America's nutty televangelists are a uniquely American problem. The rest of the "western world" is not remotely as religious as America.


This is mainly a problem in the US. I can't think of any other western nations that have real problems with religious idiocy; the US seems to be unique in this regard.

Don't blame the entire western world for something stupid that only the US does.


Fair enough, that's true relatively speaking. The rest of the western world justifies its idiocy mostly through nationalistic, ethnic and class bigotry. Although the anti-muslim prejudice there seems an awful lot like the anti-muslim prejudice here.


Do you think people's objections toward Islamic culture are unjustified?

Many muslims are vocal about the need for Islamic reform.

If you believe it is bigoted to be critical of Islam, then you are an apologist for the oppression of women and homosexuals.


>If you believe it is bigoted to be critical of Islam, then you are an apologist for the oppression of women and homosexuals.

Nice strawman and conflation of legitimate issues with illegitimate fear, but no, I was referring to bigotry, not criticism.

There's a difference between criticising Islamic culture and believing Islam is a "religion of evil," that Muslims cannot integrate with Western culture, that their mere presence of Muslims in a community is a threat to Western culture and public safety, etc.


>The rest of the western world justifies its idiocy mostly through nationalistic, ethnic and class bigotry.

And exactly what "idiocy" is that? I see some problems with right-wing extremism in Europe lately, but the same thing is happening in America, and I don't see protests with heavily-armed neo-Nazis happening in Europe the way they are in America (much less with the nation's leader calling them "fine people").

In fact, the rest of the "western world" really doesn't seem to have a lot of problems AFAICT, not the way America does. They have some problems, of course, just like anyone, but the scope and scale seem to pale in comparison, and they seem to be getting a handle on them for the most part, instead of letting them fester or spin out of control.


> "Well, it is medically proven that women are natural carriers of disease…"

Ok, fuck this. Woke up this morning and read the following:

- US is pulling out of the Nuclear treaty with Russia

- there's a huge cavity in Antarctic glacier

- your anecdote

I'm going for a walk, I guess I'm off the internet for today.


I know a website that starts with an H and sounds like it could be associated with criminals. Some guy made an anecdote there, and generalized an entire country based on his anecdote. That's the culture right there.


Would you care to provide your own anecdotes that contradict my conclusions based upon your own experience with that country?

I mean, I’m sure you wouldn’t argue online from a position of complete ignorance, right?


I know a professor who taught there for many years. He tells more stories about the heat than about his students, but his stories don't sound like that. Considering that from the way you've talked, it sounds like you've never been there and only have second hand information, so it seems equally valid to me.

Do you want me to tell you stories of people like that in the US? I've worked with plenty of people who tell me that women are good for nothing except making more children. Should I tell you that the culture in the US is all about looking at women just as childbearers?

True, I've never been to a country that starts with a "Q", but I've met many who have, many who tell differing tales. I have been in a muslim country long enough, I have my own perceptions on these things.


I’ve worked in that country multiple times. It has no comparison to the US. Women have equal rights in the US for a start. It is also not commonplace in the US for men to beat their wives and daughters for not concealing themselves behind traditional garb. I have met young women over there who have told me first-hand how they’ve suffered.

From other comments you’ve made, it appears you live in Turkey. I don’t think your experience applies, given Turkey’s recent political dispute with the Saudis over the Khashoggi murder.

Notably, Turkey is also not a member of the Arab League.


> sounds like a common word for mucous membrane inflammation.

This is driving me nuts -- what is this word?


Cattarh. It's not used much in the US, more of a britishism.


I'd say it's more of a Latinism. It's commonly used in Polish, and probably other languages too.


[flagged]


And you calling legitimate criticism of an oppressive ideology a phobia means you are an apologist for those oppressors.


They should ask themselves why the women want to run away, but i know, i'm just being overly gnarly again.

"Under her father's guardianship, she watched her teen brother spend a $1,600 monthly allowance as he pleased, while she begged for money to buy the most basic products. "I couldn't even buy anything for my period," she said. "It was my brother who paid for it, all the time, and he was younger than me.""

How awful that must be, for her to know that societies in foreign countries dont treat her like that..


> They should ask themselves why the women want to run away

I'm sure they do and the answer is certainly always something that can be blamed on the woman.


This is the same country that led a 2015 United Nations human rights panel.

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/09/28/why-o...


Their criticism of Canada was correct, people just laughed at the person saying it.

Children's history books in the future won't include what people thought of the messenger at the time. Just that an issue came to light and a problem was fixed. So the irony doesn't really have much to say about the capacity to operate under the panel's guidelines.


I don't see anything about that issue in the article. Are you just wandering off or am I missing the segment?


It wasn't mentioned in the article, it is something they did while keeping a representative on that panel.

This thread:

"hey my country does horrible things (that I'm totally exempt from in the upper echelon) but I'm not allowed to research what other countries do on the panel formed specifically to do that"


Blood oil, another reason to get off our hydrocarbon addiction. Without the constant influx of cash, having lost all their mighty power, it will be child’s play to neutralize these sickos and eradicate their morbid culture. (Which, just to be 100% clear, is the specific, very narrowly defined pastoral clan culture of the region.)


Or to push for higher oil production outside the Middle East. The U.S. is now the world's largest oil producer in the world, and has room to expand a fair bit. If we can get Venezuela's production to recover (note: that's not code for an invasion)... And if we can get oil fields all over, outside the ME, developed, then the ME's share of the oil market will dive.


"If we can get Venezuela's production to recover (note: that's not code for an invasion)..."

Too late; I can hear the drones taking off already.


US actually produces the most oil of any country now. I'd like to see someone do the math and see if it would be cheaper to leave the middle east and save money on wars and just subsidize our own oil production to make up the difference for any price increase consumers might see. Of course that won't happen because war is a industry now

What's also amazing to me is seeing this culture defended by the left, when if most muslims were given power in Europe they would strip away most rights for women and homosexuals that the left also fought for


It looks like you've been using HN primarily for ideological battle. That's against both the rules and spirit of this site, and we ban accounts that do it, so would you please stop doing it?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


>What's also amazing to me is seeing this culture defended by the left

You're going to need a citation for that. Projecting such a large claim against such a large heterogeneous blob of people with absolutely zero evidence to back it up should not be acceptable on HN


It's amusing and somewhat annoying to see people attempt to categorize all Muslims as wanting to destroy the rights of women in the US while the rights of women in the US are under very real siege by Christian fundamentalists tearing apart bits and pieces for things like reproductive rights.

The left isn't afraid of Muslims in the US because not only are they usually more progressive than their fundamentalist counterparts but also because they're a minority population with very little political power.

It's a rather disengenous argument. I see very little fear or animosity pointed towards the groups that are actively in power and trying to tear things down versus the scapegoat being blamed for the actions of another country.


[flagged]


That just isn't true. Ilhan Omar voted for it and it died in the state Senate and she specifically condemned the practice.

http://checkyourfact.com/2018/11/29/fact-check-ilhan-omar-vo...


[flagged]


As far as I can tell it was sent to the Senate in May of 2017, which was controlled by the Republican Party. Please consider doing some research of your own.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/90th_Minnesota_Legislature


They didn't pass the bill because it was redundant. (Remember, it passed the House 128-4; there's no bipartisan divide on this issue.)

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/11/26/lawmakers-plan-fres...

> Under current state law, parents who arrange or knowingly allow the procedure on a daughter can be charged with the crime of aiding and abetting the crime of female genital mutilation or with child neglect or endangerment, according to a report by the nonpartisan Minnesota House Research Department, which noted that both of those offenses are felonies.

Side note: It appears the MN Senate was controlled by the Republicans in 2017/2018 when the bill was up for a vote, not the Democrats as you assert. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/90th_Minnesota_Legislature

You should ask yourself where you got this flagrantly false information from, and why you were primed to believe it.


[flagged]


We've banned this account for using HN for ideological battle and ignoring our request to stop.

Religious flamewar is particularly unwelcome here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


They do that for example, by disolving a claim with intelectual dishonesty, expecting effort of proof for a group that shows - beside cheap words - near zero effort to back away from bad actors and bad principles/traditions.

Like if I where to claim that not all facism is racistic, because facism was historically a very heterogenous blob of people with absolutly zero evidence to back up that they all where as racistic as the nazis. Then i would be wrong.

To some ideologies, there is no right to repair, because the basic concept subverts human rights and democracy.


> if it would be cheaper to leave the middle east and save money on wars

Cheaper for the US as a whole perhaps (even probably), but the military-industrial complex would make less money.


I sometimes think, there is some deep supressed longing for dominance in the extreme left, if you look at what they choose to follow given a choice. Its always the most brutal dictator (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot), the most Macho of Men (Che Guevarra etc.) - its like the moment someone speaks the right left words- all thoughts on ideology are forgotten and the most primal of instincts may reign as free as they do, cherished on the extreme right wing.


I like to think both parties are extreme authoritarian, just different flavors - paternal vs. maternal. Dominance and submission are two sides of the same dysfunctional coin.


Please don't use HN for ideological battle.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


It’s blood oil because the US/UK want it to be. It’s beneficial for the west to have a small tribe control the natural resources than a democracy, which might be more difficult to “deal” with.


There have been a few high profile cases of women leaving and trying to get asylum lately, but there's a weird case of two Saudi sisters who were found dead after they had tried to claim asylum.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/saudi-sisters-whose-bod...

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-crime-sisters-sa...

"""" Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 23, who had previously been living in Virginia, were found along the rocky Manhattan shore of the Hudson River with duct tape around their waist and ankles. A New York Police Department official has said they likely entered the water alive and were said to have preferred suicide over returning to Saudi Arabia.

Their mother told detectives the day before the bodies were discovered that the Saudi Embassy in Washington had ordered the family to leave the United States because the daughters had applied for political asylum """"


Maybe Apple should revoke the certificate for the iOS app shown in the article.


This is actually a really good idea!

A headline like "Apple facilitates subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia" might have a chance of making that happen. If Cisco helped build the Great Firewall, they'd be excoriated here on HN. This seems similar.


If?? Cisco did contribute technology to Golden Shield project! http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2015/03/china%E2%80%99s-go...


I cannot understand how the feminist movement and women’s rights and welfare organisations aren’t in all out war with Saudi Arabia.

The only theory I can come up with is that most feminists believe in freedom of religion as well as women’s freedom and the conflict between the two induces a sort of moral paralysis.


I don't know what "all out war" is supposed to look like, but how do you know they aren't?

Have you done research into what feminists believe, or if there is any feminist activism in that direction?

Because I'm certain that a lot of them are vehemently opposed to the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia, including feminists in Saudi Arabia.


If there are any initiatives vex in that direction, all I can say is their publicity activities are unimpressive to say the least. Have you heard of any? I mean sure, go and find some now we’re talking about it, but before?

Actually even if you can find some by going and looking, I am interested.


There are some protests in Australia a few weeks ago to let a Saudi woman in http://time.com/5498790/australia-topless-protest-saudi-runa...

There's the more minor controversy of people criticising Mariah Carey for having a concert there https://spy.nzherald.co.nz/celebrity/mariah-carey-slammed-fo...

But the bulk of the work for Saudi Arabia is being done by Saudi activists (which is unsurprising) https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2017/10/07/worl...

I think the reason there aren't more is that protests are pretty much always about a local issue (which is true of all protests, it's why HN cares a lot about privacy in the US and EU but doesn't agitate as much about it in places like the Middle East or China). I think you're confusing lack of large scale protests and thinking it's okay, to use HN userbase as an example I know people who have protested various US privacy laws who haven't been to a protest about the Great Firewall. That clearly doesn't mean they don't think it's a human rights issue.


This isn't a "women's rights" issue. This is a _human_ rights issue.


Thats a fair point.


Control over finances, movement, and who someone can talk to are textbook signs of abuse. It's crazy to see it engrained even at a governmental level.


It’s probably no coincidence that domestic abuse is so rampant there as well, not that living as someone else’s property isn’t already abusive.


The West particularly the US, if it wants to restore its image as a proponent of freedom and democracy and counter the growing geopolitical influence of China at global stage, will have to reconsider its relationship with KSA. There is no way in which West can acclaim its moral policing stature in the global arena if KSA is allowed to continue barbaric customs and practices as rules of law. West has made severe human rights abuse allegations against China. Meanwhile KSA literally chops off heads in public places with a fucking sword, stones women to death in public places for adultery, treats women as second class citizens by compelling them to always be in custody of a male and many other barbaric laws and yet the entire West calls KSA its ally. This kind of double standards makes people question the West's sincerity when dealing with human rights abuse. It makes people think that human rights is just a propaganda tool that the West props up when-ever it wants a regime change and the West doesn't really care about human rights. West already lost its war of ideas in Syria where governments from Brussels to Washington couldn't muster up public support to oust a ruler who was gassing children. People just asked "well if you are so for human rights, then why dont you take action against KSA?." The establishment couldn't muster up a convincing answer to this question and couldn't rally its electorate for a war.

Also KSA's cozy relationship with West and how KSA makes US fight its war signals to other countries that as long as you have pockets big enough to buy politicians, lobbyists, bankers etc, US will be your ally even if pedophilia is legal and practiced in the country. Sickening and damn shame.


I am going to go home tonight and tell my wife she is forbidden from leaving the house all weekend. I will talk to everyone in a week after i recover from the injuries i am bound to sustain from such a comment.

Joking aside, it is sad, in the US we still have so many sex inequality issues, it is so difficult to fathom countries THIS far behind us in that regard.


Saudi-Arabia, together with slave-holding Qatar, the Arab Emirates and all the other countries that feed off Western oil money but completely ignore any basic human rights standards, should be sanctioned into oblivion.

If that fails, why is literally the entire tech world doing business with them? Why are their internet uplinks still active, why do Western companies trade with them and why has no one in the SV a major problem with Saudi investment funds?

We as techies are as complicit in enabling these abusers as our governments are.


The citizens of the US and UK have voted time and time again for politicians that support these regimes, as long as they keep buying weapons and help support all the jobs at Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics and now the tech companies.


Yeah, same for us Germans. Leopard tanks and G3/G36 rifles are just too profitable to not export into a civil war region (which is actually forbidden by German law)...


All the politicians UK and US citizens get to choose between support these regimes.


> Why are their internet uplinks still active

Access to information about the rest of the world is a huge help. As the article highlights social media is providing information women need to escape.

While I agree it's despicable that businesses work with these countries access to information is one of the few ways to undermine these terrible regimes.


What do all the rich young Saudis live off? Flaundering their wealth on Instagram. Taking that publicity away from them would be a starter!

Just like with children: those who misbehave get punished. If the Western world wants Saudi-Arabia and friends to grow up it cannot let them continue unchecked.


from many stories it sounds like fathers, brothers, etc. not just submit to the will and traditions of the society - it seems that they really feel about their female relatives as something like a property and are really cruel toward them. I kind of wonder how a natural biological strong feeling of kinship toward your family members is getting that override to such an extent here.


The history of patriarchy shows that kinship rarely trumps the desire for dominance and control.


I guess they are afraid to end up with a dozen catladies instead of grandchildren. For a traditional society, something like the west must be looking like a particular disgusting Nurgle cult.


what is this "natural biologcial strong" feeling of kinship you speak of?

I have no such towards my family or extended family, and it never came up as an issue in either native Ukraine or currently Isreal


In fact, I seem to care less and less as to what they are up to year to year, so that propriety thing is not also in play.


> and Interpol had already come calling to her flatmate

Is Interpol involved here because it's a possible international missing persons case? Or was it already a "criminal" investigation based on a warrant issued by Saudi Arabia?


This is the part that I was really shocked to see. International law clearly protects the right to leave one's country freely and relocate to any country why one may be lawfully present, as well as the right to receive asylum from oppressive governments.


Sure, but they're not going to say she's wanted for leaving the country. They'll flag her as a missing person, or for the theft described in the story:

> Creeping barefoot out of the bedroom, al-Mohaimeed gathered her family's credit cards, keys, passports, and, crucially, their phones. This would slow them down, she thought, when they tried to follow her.


Sure but the Interpol acts in the name of the local authorities. They either treated this as a missing persons case or issued a warrant for her arrest. Either way the timeline in the article suggests something on the order of days. I expect the the incredibly quick reaction time on the part of the Saudi authorities. But the Interpol reacting so fast is truly a wonder. I happen to have it on good authority that it takes them longer than that just to get the car out of the parking lot (crippling bureaucracy sometimes).

So was this intervention prioritized for some reason or is the timeline in the article just misleading?


Technically the girl is (was at the time) a minor/underage:

>Shahad al-Mohaimeed was 17 when she ran away.

so it is possible that they had a case about a minor that escaped her family (or that was kidnapped, etc.).


All saudi women should get out of the country and solve the problem. No women, no new generation, and end of said practice.


All the slaves in Qatar should just do the same. That would solve the slavery problem. And while we're at it, sex trafficking victims should just stop being trafficked. That would solve the human trafficking problem.

Or maybe people could just stop treating other people as property. Interesting that wasn't your suggested solution. Perhaps because it's not that easy?

Your comment (though said in jest - I hope) is dismissive of the very real and very dangerous consequences Saudi women face in trying to exercise their most basic of human rights. You're putting the responsibility of "escaping" on the victims. Don't you think they've thought of that? Many have risked everything to do just that.

What does your comment add to the conversation? Nothing of value.


But that's the point of the database-- to make it harder to do just that.


Saudi Arabia is one of the best arguments against moral relativism.


I wonder if somewhere out there in space some weird looking alien just typed "Earth is one of the best arguments against moral relativism".


I sure hope so.


Me too.

Though now I'm wondering if such a civilization existed if it wouldn't be part of their moral imperative to educate other cultures about their morality, or if being sufficiently moral assumes that other entities need the ability to explore morality on their own.


Only normative moral relativism. Just because the universe is indifferent to Saudi Arabia doesn't mean we have to be.


That's not moral relativism, that's epistemic anthropocentrism (i.e. good and bad and all value judgements in general are made by humans exclusively using human terms of meaning and human perceptions).


Is it? They consider their actions morally justified, we don't.

Seems like moral relativism to me.


Sounds like a good opportunity for some hacktivism to me. If you wanted to reduce chances of detection you could leave the web portal functional but attack the SMS infrastructure, causing certain texts to appear to have been rejected by carrier or similar. Or even distribute some malicious Android apps to the Arabic market requesting SMS permissions and silently intercepting these texts.


With software systems that are being strategically used for abuse in guise of its declared purpose, I wonder if there are underground hacker groups or individuals who are using their skills and resources to help quell such abuses.


If you want to know what all those airplane passenger data sharing agreements are.


Riiight. There must be a Borat (of KZ) joke here somewhere...


Do you know why I tolerate that extremely distasteful shit? The "Borat" meme?

That's because someone thought it was a small thing, then made fun of it, then persisted. I actually think that no other type of language can reach the people that are in that mode, and pull them in to what I'd call "get your head out your ass mode"




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