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Expat wanderer

MERS Virus Found to be Widespread

Thank you, John Mueller, for this fascinating article from Science NOW:

Middle Eastern Virus More Widespread Than Thought

28 February 2014 12:45 pm

 

Trail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia CommonsTrail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.

It’s called Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, after the region where almost all the patients have been reported. But the name may turn out to be a misnomer. A new study has found the virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting that Africa, too, harbors the pathogen. That means MERS may sicken more humans than previously thought—and perhaps be more likely to trigger a pandemic.

MERS has sickened 183 people and killed 80, most of them in Saudi Arabia. A couple of cases have occurred in countries outside the region, such as France and the United Kingdom, but those clusters all started with a patient who had traveled to the Middle East before falling ill.

Scientists have uncovered more and more evidence implicating camels in the spread of the disease. They found that a large percentage of camels in the Middle East have antibodies against MERS in their blood, while other animals, such as goats and sheep, do not. Researchers have also isolated MERS virus RNA from nose swabs of camels in Qatar, and earlier this week, they showed that the virus has circulated in Saudi Arabian camels for at least 2 decades.

Malik Peiris, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues expanded the search to Africa. In a paper published last year, they showed that camels in Egypt carried antibodies against MERS. For the new study, they took samples from four abattoirs around Egypt; again they found antibodies against MERS in the blood of 48 out of 52 camels they tested. But the most interesting results came from taking nose swabs from 110 camels: They found MERS RNA in four animals that had been shipped in from Sudan and Ethiopia.

Peiris cautions that it is unclear whether the infected camels picked up the virus in Sudan and Ethiopia or on their final journey in Egypt. Abattoirs could help spread MERS just like live poultry markets do for influenza, he says. “You cannot point the finger exactly at where those viruses came from,” he says. “But I would be very surprised if you do not find the virus in large parts of Africa.”

If so, that changes the picture of MERS considerably. No human MERS cases have been reported from Egypt or anywhere else in Africa, but if camels are infected, they may well occur, says Marion Koopmans, an infectious disease researcher at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “It would be important to look systematically into that,” she writes in an e-mail. “Health authorities really need to test patients with severe pneumonia all across Africa for MERS,” Peiris says.

The researchers were able to sequence the virus of one of the camels almost completely, and it is more than 99% identical with viruses found in people. “I would be very surprised if this virus cannot infect humans,” says Christian Drosten, a virologist at the University of Bonn in Germany. But the virus also shows a few intriguing differences from known camel samples, he says. “We have to analyze this carefully in the next few days, but it looks like this sequence broadens the viral repertoire found in camels,” he says. If the viruses found in camels show more genetic variation than those isolated from humans, that is further strong evidence that camels are infecting humans and not the other way around.

Anthony Mounts, the point person for MERS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, says that it is very likely that human MERS cases occur in Africa. “Wherever we find [infected] camels, there is a good chance we’ll find [human] cases if we look closely,” he says. And humans may be exposed to camels in Africa much more often than in the Middle East: There were about 260,000 camels in Saudi Arabia in 2012, but almost a million in Ethiopia and 4.8 million in Sudan, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The more human cases there are, the higher the risk that the virus will one day learn how to become easily transmissible between people, which could set off a pandemic.

The researchers also looked at the blood of 179 people working at the camel abattoirs for antibodies against MERS virus, but found none. That shows that the virus is only rarely successful in infecting human beings, Peiris says. “What we need to find out now is the reason for these rare transmissions.”

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Saudis Protest Female Death While Paramedics Barred from Campus

Thank you, John Mueller, for forwarding this high interest topic:
Abdullah Al-Shihri And Aya Batrawy, Associated Press | February 6, 2014 | Last Updated:Feb 6 3:24 PM ET

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Thousands of Saudis vented their anger online over a report Thursday that staff at a Riyadh university had barred male paramedics from entering a women’s-only campus to assist a student who had suffered a heart attack and later died.
The Okaz newspaper said administrators at the King Saud University impeded efforts by the paramedics to save the student’s life because of rules banning men from being onsite. According to the paper, the incident took place on Wednesday and the university staff took an hour before allowing the paramedics in.
However, the university’s rector, Badran Al-Omar, denied the report, saying there was no hesitation in letting the paramedics in. He said the university did all it could to save the life of the student, who was identified as Amna Bawazeer.

February 8, 2014 Posted by | Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Safety, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues | , | Leave a comment

Study Shows Muslim Nations Differ on How Women Should Dress

Digg started sending me articles, I don’t know why, but every now and then something turns up truly interesting. This is a Pew Research Center Study found in Slate Online Magazine:

Screen shot 2014-01-10 at 8.33.21 AM

Charted: How People in Seven Muslim Countries Believe Women Should Dress

By Joshua Keating

As the chart above, created by the Pew Research Center, goes, there’s quite a bit of variation over what constitutes proper dress for women in the Islamic world. The data for the chart come from the Middle Eastern Values Survey conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. (Several hundred people comprising what the researchers describe as a nationally representative sample in terms of education, religion, and social class were polled in each country. The gender breakdown was close to 50–50 in each of them.)

As you’ll see, the majority overall said that a woman should completely cover her hair but not her face. The majority in conservative Saudi Arabia favored the face-covering niqab, while relatively liberal Lebanon and Turkey had the highest support for no covering at all. (Hijabs are still prohibited for women in a number of jobs in Turkey.)

Overall, Tunisia had the highest number of respondents (56 percent) saying it is “up to a woman to dress whichever way she wants.” Only 14 percent of Egyptians agreed. Interestingly, given that it has the most stringent legal dress codes of any country sampled, 47 percent of Saudis said women should be able to dress how they wish.

January 10, 2014 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Tunisia, Turkey, Values, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi Women Working in Shops

This weeks New Yorker, with a delightful cartoon of Pope Francis on the cover, making snow angels (Isn’t it great to see a powerful man having so much fun doing his job?)

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. . . there is also a truly wonderful article, sympathetic and well written, about Saudi women being allowed to work in select shops. New Yorker only allows me to print an few lines from the article, but I loved how it captured the delight these women take in having a little bit of life outside the home to call their own. It also covers the dilemma of dealing with the religious police, the Muttawa, who are in a fit because now women will be in contact with MEN and who knows what might happen?

I had not read anything in the papers – our papers rarely cover smaller details of life in the Middle East. We were there when men were in every shop, selling underwear, selling abayas, and not a woman to be seen. This is a major change, done so so quietly, and women who need more space to breathe are finding a little bit of that space.

Not every woman wants to work outside the home, but many are bored and restless. When they talk about working, they talk about the friendships they form with other women, the pride they take in having a purpose to their daily life, and the increased respect with which they are treated by family members – all good things. The article is sensitively and sympathetically written.

zoepf_saudiwomen0001-1

LETTER FROM RIYADH SHOPGIRLS: The art of selling lingerie.
BY KATHERINE ZOEPF
DECEMBER 23, 2013

A women’s revolution has begun in Saudi Arabia, although it may not be immediately evident. This fall, only a few dozen women got behind the wheel to demand the right to drive. Every female Saudi still has a male guardian—usually a father or husband—and few openly question the need for one. Adult women must have their guardians’ permission to study, to travel, and to marry, which effectively renders them legal minors. It took a decree from King Abdullah to put tens of thousands of them into the workforce. For the first time, they are interacting daily with men who are not family members, as cashiers in supermarkets and as salesclerks selling abayas and cosmetics and underwear.

One afternoon in late October, at the Sahara Mall, in central Riyadh, the Asr prayer was just ending. The lights were still dimmed in the mall’s marble corridor, but the Nayomi lingerie store had been unlocked. The rattle of steel and aluminum could be heard as security grilles were raised over nearby storefronts. Twenty-seven-year-old Nermin adjusted a box of perfume on a tiered display near the entrance, then turned to greet six saleswomen as they filed out of a storeroom, preparing to resume their shift. Nermin started working at Nayomi eighteen months ago, as a salesclerk herself. She was warm and engaging with customers, and was recently promoted to a position in which she oversees hiring and staff training for Nayomi stores across four Saudi provinces. All the employees wore long black abayas and niqabs, which revealed nothing but their eyes. They positioned themselves among the racks of bras, underpants, nightgowns, and foundation garments—black-cloaked figures moving against a backdrop of purples, reds, and innumerable shades of pink.

Nermin is one of the Nayomi chain’s longest-serving female employees. She was hired nearly a year after King Abdullah issued a decree, in June of 2011, that women were to replace all men working in lingerie shops. Early in 2012, on a visit to the Nayomi store in a mall near her house with her younger sister, Ruby, Nermin noticed a poster advertising positions for saleswomen. The sisters had never considered working, since there were virtually no jobs for women without a college degree or special skills. Nermin and Ruby mostly spent their days watching television, exercising, and surfing the Internet. In a blisteringly hot city with few parks, the mall was one of the only places to go for a walk. They filled out applications on the spot, and their family encouraged the idea. “I was surprised to find that I like to work,” Nermin said. Ruby, who got a job at the same store, is now the manager there. She wore its key on a yellow lanyard around her neck; pink-trimmed platform sneakers were visible beneath the hem of her abaya. After graduating from high school, she had spent four years feeling increasingly trapped at home, she said. “Nayomi gave me the chance to go on with life.” . . .

December 21, 2013 Posted by | Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Shopping, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Most MERS Cases Undetected, report shows

Interesting, Qatar announced today their fourth case – this article says they have had eight confirmed cases and one Tunisian who visited Qatar and came down with MERS. From the Gulf Times:

 

Most Mers cases going undetected, study says

Researchers estimate that for each case that has been found, five to 10 may have been missed

  • Gulf News Report
  • Published: 21:32 November 16, 2013

  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • The Mers coronavirus typically causes severe respiratory problems.

Dubai: A new analysis of Mers case data suggests a large number of infections are going undetected, with the researchers estimating that for each case that has been found, five to 10 may have been missed.

The scientific paper, from European researchers, further suggests that transmission of the Mers virus is occurring at a rate close to the threshold where it would be considered able to pass from person to person in a sustained manner. In fact, the authors say based on the available evidence they cannot rule out the possibility that person-to-person spread is the main mode of transmission of the virus at this point. The other option, they say, is that the virus is spreading via a combination of animal-to-person and then person-to-person transfer.

“We conclude that a slow growing epidemic is underway, but current epidemiological data do not allow us to determine whether transmission is self-sustaining in man,” they write in the article, published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The scientists are from Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh and the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The work was done with funding from Britain’s Medical Research Council, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other agencies.

To date there have been roughly 155 confirmed MERS cases and at least 65 of those infections have ended in death. All the cases trace back to infections in a handful of countries on the Arabian Peninsula: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

On Wednesday, Kuwait reported its second case Mers coronavirus for a man who just returned from abroad, the health ministry said.

In a statement cited by the official KUNA agency, the ministry said the new case was for a 52-year-old Kuwaiti national who was in a stable condition. Media reports said the patient had just returned from a visit to neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The announcement came hours after Kuwait reported its first case of the Mers virus for a 47-year-old Kuwaiti man who was in critical condition.

Last weekend, Omani officials widened health checks following the country’s first death blamed on Mers. Officials looked for any sign of the virus in people who came in contact with a dead 68-year-old man.

Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, said that while publicly available data are spotty, calculations based on what is known support the argument that only a small proportion of cases are coming to light.

“At the very least there probably have been double that number of infections,” Ferguson said in an interview.

“But it’s considerably more likely in my view that we’ve had maybe five to 10 times more human infections than that. And symptomatic human infections, I would say.”

He stressed that he and his co-authors are not suggesting that the Mers-affected countries are hiding cases, just that the way they are looking for them is not capturing the full scope of the outbreak.

Experts have previously expressed concern that surveillance systems that look only for Mers among people who seek hospital care will only catch the sickest of cases. And in at least one affected country, Saudi Arabia, the criteria for who gets tested for Mers may be less inclusive still.

Dr. Anthony Mounts, the World Health Organisation’s leading expert on Mers, said the agency has been told Saudi health officials are focusing their testing on people with Mers-like symptoms who are gravely ill.

“I know that their surveillance strategy is focused on intensive care patients,” Mounts said in an interview. “That’s the focus of their surveillance strategy.”

Mounts agrees that many Mers cases are probably being missed. But he noted that some other affected countries are taking a different testing approach. For instance, Qatar has tested over 3,000 specimens over the past six months, looking for Mers in people who seek medical help for influenza-like illness, and all people diagnosed with pneumonia.

“They really are testing a lot of people and they’re not seeing this,” he said.

Eight Qataris have been diagnosed with MERS since the virus hit the global public health radar in September 2012. As well a man from Tunisia who contracted the virus is believed to have been infected on a visit to Qatar.

Because of the scarcity of publicly available data, Ferguson and his colleagues used some different approaches to try to estimate the state of the outbreak. He acknowledged that their calculations are estimates, and said of the analysis “it’s not definitive … but I still think it’s informative at least.”

“I would say we’re doing the best we can with the data available to try and address a couple of key questions,” he said. “We would certainly be in a better position if there was fuller [case] reporting.”

A commentary by Canadian epidemiologists lauded the team for the techniques they used to reach their conclusions. Dr. David Fisman and Ashleigh Tuite, who are with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana Faculty of Public Health, also hinted that the often-seen instinct to withhold information during infectious disease outbreaks may be futile in the era of computational biology.

“The ability to draw inferences about diseases from non-traditional data sources will hopefully both provide alternate means of characterising epidemics and diminish the temptation towards non-transparency in traditional public health authorities,” they wrote.

One of the questions Ferguson and his co-authors tried to answer relates to whether the virus is spreading person to person at this point or whether what is being seen are infections from an animal source that is igniting limited spread in people.

To do that, they tried to calculate what is known as the virus’s reproductive number — the number of people, on average, an infected person would pass the virus on to. For a virus to sustain itself in people, each person needs to infect at least one other person, a reproductive number of 1.0 or greater.

They could not come to a definitive conclusion, saying with what is known, either scenario is possible. But they said the evidence suggests the reproductive number is near 1.0.

— with inputs from agencies

November 24, 2013 Posted by | Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Work Related Issues | , | Leave a comment

MERS Found in Saudi Arabian Camel

 

 From AOL/Huffpost/AP News:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Saudi Health Ministry says it has discovered a deadly virus in a camel in Jiddah province, on the western coast of Saudi Arabia.

The ministry’s statement released Monday is considered an important development in the search for the origin the deadly illness. There have been more than 60 deaths from the virus known as Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, with all but a handful of the fatalities in Saudi Arabia.

The ministry said a sample from the camel was tested near the home of a patient infected with the virus.

An international research team in August found the mysterious virus that is related to SARS in a bat in Saudi Arabia. They suspected it was perhaps another animal that was spreading the virus directly to humans.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Environment, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Saudi Arabia | , | Leave a comment

Kuwaiti Woman Arrested Driving in Saudi Arabia

From today’s Kuwait Times:

Kuwaiti woman caught driving in Saudi Arabia

KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti woman was arrested in Saudi Arabia after she was caught driving in the kingdom where ultraconservative laws ban women from taking the wheel. According to a Khafji police report, the woman was caught driving a Chevrolet Epica on the ‘Sitteen Road’ in front of a hotel in the area located near the border with Kuwait, while a Kuwaiti man was in the passenger’s seat. The woman told the officers that the man was her father, adding that he is diabetic and cannot drive and that she had to take him to the hospital for treatment. The woman remains in custody pending investigations.

Saudi authorities have warned women of legal measures if they defy a long-standing driving ban in the kingdom. At least 16 women were stopped by police last Saturday and were fined and forced along with their male guardians to pledge to obey the kingdom’s laws, as more than 60 women said they defied the ban.

A growing number of men are quietly helping steer the campaign, risking their jobs and social condemnation in the conservative kingdom. Some of the men have even been questioned by authorities, and one was detained by a branch of the Saudi Interior Ministry – a move that sent a chill through some of the activists working to put women behind the wheel. In the run-up to last weekend’s protest, men played a key role in helping wives, sisters and female friends to enjoy what they believe is a fundamental right. Since the campaign was launched in September, they have produced videos of women driving and put them on social networks. They have helped protect the female drivers by forming packs of two or three cars to surround them and ward off potential harassment. And some have simply ridden as passengers with the women as they run their daily errands.

By A Saleh

 
I love it that this writer specified that this movement to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia – where there is no law forbidding women to drive – is supported by husbands, brothers, fathers who want them to be able to drive. Most of the people discussing it in the US think the men don’t want the women to drive. I laugh, and say “they DO drive!” They drive all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, only in Saudi Arabia they have to disguise themselves as men, or drive out in the deserts. Their brothers, husbands and fathers teach them to drive. Time is on their side, their day is coming. Let’s hope women driving means fewer 12 and 13 year old boys behind the wheels, driving their Mums.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Saudi Arabia, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Happy Islamic New Year

My good friend and commenter, Daggero, left this comment for us yesterday announcing the new Islamic year:

 

For your information yesterday we entered the Islamic year 1435 Hijri ( hijri = immigration ) which marks the year the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, emigrated after 13 years of calling people to Islam from Mecca to Medina, ( where he is burried in his Mosque , Masjid an Nabawi, the second holliest mosque in Islam after the Mecca )

Al-Masjid-an-Nabawi

So total Islam time from begining to now is 1448 years, and on this auspicious occasion i wish you , AdventureMan and your family and the little ones a happy and a blessed New Islamic year.

 

 

We wish you the same, Daggero, and I smiled as I read that you discussed the topic we were discussing with your daughter on the drive to school in the morning. I remember those days so well, as young people begin to draw off into their own lives and the time we spend with them in cars can be so precious. Happy New Year to you and your family.

 

We had a friend from Libya whose family name meant “from Madina;” before we had ever lived in any Middle East country, he had told us a little about Madina, and what a beautiful city it is. The mosque is very beautiful. I think the tradition is that green was the prophet Mohammed’s favorite color?

 

Happy New Year, too, to all our Moslem friends.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia | , , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi Women Drive, No Problem

For your delight of the day, please go to YouTube and watch this hilarious Saudi video, No Woman, No Drive! Click on the blue type above :-)

 

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From The Guardian:

Dozens of Saudi Arabian women drive cars on day

of protest against ban

Activists say at least 60 joined call to allow female drivers – making it country’s biggest ever demonstration against the ban

More than 60 Saudi women got behind the wheels of their cars as part of a protest against a ban on women driving in the kingdom, activists have claimed.

A Saudi professor and campaigner, Aziza Youssef, said the activists have received 13 videos and another 50 phone messages from women showing or claiming they had driven, the Associated Press reported.

She said it had not been not possible to verify all of the messages. But, if the numbers are accurate, they would make Saturday’s demonstration the biggest the country has ever seen against the ban.

Despite warnings by police and ultraconservatives in Saudi Arabia, there have been no reports from those who claimed to have driven of being arrested or ticketed by police.

A video clip of a protest by May al-Sawyan, a 32-year-old economics researcher and mother of two, was uploaded on the YouTube channel of the October 26 driving for women group, along with several other videos of women purportedly driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh, al-Ahsa and Jeddah. It was not possible to verify when they were filmed. Another video to feature on YouTube was the spoof No Woman, No Drive.

“I am very happy and proud that there was no reaction against me,” she told AP. “There were some cars that drove by. They were surprised, but it was just a glance. It is fine. They are not used to seeing women driving here.”

Sawyan said she had obtained a driver’s licence from abroad. She said she was prepared for the risk of detention if caught but added that she was far enough from a police car that she was not spotted.

“I just took a small loop. I didn’t drive for a long way, but it was fine. I went to the grocery store,” she said.

Her husband and family waited at home and called her when she arrived at the shop to check on her, she said. She drove with a local female television reporter in the car. They were both without male relatives in the vehicle.

“I know of several women who drove earlier today. We will post videos later,” one of the campaign organisers told Reuters.

The Associated Press reported that a security official said authorities did not arrest or fine any female drivers on Saturday.

Youssef said she and four other prominent women activists received phone calls this week from a top official with close links to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, warning them not to drive on Saturday, the day the campaign set for women’s driving.

She also said that “two suspicious cars” have been following her everywhere all day. “I don’t know from which party they are from. They are not in a government car,” she said.

Activists said they have 16,600 signatures on an online petition calling for change. Efforts to publicise the issue have been described as the best-organised social campaign ever seen in Saudi Arabia, where Twitter has millions of users and is used to circulate information about the monarchy and official corruption.

Previous attempts to promote change fizzled out in arrests for public order offences and demoralisation. In 2011, the activist Manal al-Sharif made a YouTube video urging women to drive their own cars, and was imprisoned for more than a week. But the signs are far more positive now.

Three female members of the shura (advisory) council – among 30 appointed by the 90-year-old King Abdullah – recommended this month that the ban be rescinded, though no debate has yet taken place.

Latifa al-Shaalan, Haya al-Mani and Muna al-Mashit urged the council to “recognise the rights of women to drive a car in accordance with the principles of sharia and traffic laws”.

The three – praised by supporters for “stirring the stagnant water” – framed their argument with careful references to religious edicts banning women from being in the company of an unrelated male driver. Other ideas designed to reassure critics are appointing female traffic police and driving instructors. Cost is another big factor, with families having to employ chauffeurs, as is convenience.

Though no specific Saudi law bans women from driving, women are not issued licenses. They mostly rely on drivers or male relatives to move around.

Powerful clerics who hold far-reaching influence over the monarchy enforce the driving ban, warning that breaking it will spread “licentiousness.” A prominent cleric caused a stir when he said last month that medical studies show that driving a car harms a woman’s ovaries.

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Interconnected, Saudi Arabia, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | 3 Comments

Saudi Cleric: Driving Hurts Womens’ Ovaries

From today’s Kuwait Times:

RIYADH: A Saudi cleric sparked a wave of mockery online when he warned women that driving would affect their ovaries and bring “clinical disorders” upon their children. The warning came ahead of an October 26 initiative to defy a longstanding driving ban on women in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

“Physiological science” has found that driving “automatically affects the ovaries and pushes up the pelvis,” Sheikh Saleh Al-Luhaydan warned women in remarks to local news website Sabq.org. “This is why we find that children born to most women who continuously drive suffer from clinical disorders of varying degrees,” he said. His comments prompted criticism on Twitter, which has become a rare platform for Saudis to voice their opinions in the absolute monarchy. “What a mentality we have. People went to space and you still ban women from driving. Idiots,” said one comment.

Luhaydan, a member of the senior Ulema (Muslim scholars) Commission and former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, said that “evidence from the Holy Quran and Sunna (the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) completely prohibit (women’s driving) on moral and social background.”

An online petition titled “Oct 26th, driving for women” amassed nearly 12,000 signatures, while access to it was blocked in the kingdom yesterday. Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are banned from driving. Activists declared a day of defiance against the ban on June 17, 2011, but few women answered the call to drive. Some of those who did were stopped by police and forced to sign a pledge not to take to the wheel again.

Saudi Arabia imposes other restrictions on women, including a requirement to cover themselves from head to toe when in public. The 2011 call, which spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and severely punished after demonstrating in cars. – AFP

September 30, 2013 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | 10 Comments

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