Your Wife Has Just Left the Country

Saudi Arabia Implements SMSTracking System

By??Nov. 24, 2012

?Saudi women board a taxi in Riyadh 14 Ju
HASSAN AMMAR / AFP / GETTY IMAGES?Saudi women have few travel choices: they either must take a taxi or have a male companion drive. But a new campaign encourages women to flout the ban.

Saudi Arabia has long been the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive. Now, there appears to be a new development in controlling the movements of its female population: the Kingdom has reportedly introduced an electronic tracking system alerting male guardians when a woman has left the country.
Map of the territory and area covered by prese...
Map of the territory and area covered by present-day Saudi Arabia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reports emerged of the system last week when?Manal al-Sherif, a women?s rights campaigner who has urged women to defy the driving ban, was alerted by a husband who received a message from the immigration authorities advising him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh. He happened to be traveling with her.
(MORE😕IKEA Edits Women Out of Saudi Arabian Catalog)
Women are treated as legal minors in the Saudi guardianship system, requiring permission from their male guardian if they want to work or study. Women who want to travel outside the country need their male guardian to sign what is known as a ?yellow sheet? at the airport or border.
Badriya al-Bishr a columnist critical of the Kingdom?s conservative interpretation of Islamic law,?said to the AFP?that women were being held under a ?state of slavery?,?adding?that ?this is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned.?
The system notifying male guardians that their dependents?which includes their wife, children and foreign workers sponsored by them?had left the country appears to have been in place for a couple of years now.?Ahmed Al Omran, a Saudi blogger, explains that?it appears that this service, which in the past was an opt-out service, is now reaching those who had previously registered their details with the Ministry of Interior.
?The problem is not that there is now an electronic system that sends an SMS when women travel,??writes Omran. ?The problem is that the government is enforcing rules of male guardianships even on the rest of us who don?t believe in such rules.?
There are signs that the Kingdom is slowly changing its approach to the rights of women. Last year King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run in the 2015 municipal elections. What impact that will have on the guardianship system however is yet to be determined.
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Censorship in Pakistan

Economist

Nov 25th 2011, 13:04 by L.M.
AN OFTEN overlooked perk of being a country with a large population and relatively low wages is the capacity to employ people to carry out silly tasks. In India, for example, some people spend their days pasting white stickers onto maps of Kashmir printed in foreign publications (such as?The Economist). In neighbouring Pakistan, the regulatory body for telecommunications dreamed up an equally unlikely, if altogether more entertaining, assignment for its staff: to compile a list of ?undesired words? that could be used to block offensive text messages. In a remarkable show of efficiency (to say nothing of creativity), the agency managed to find?1,100 words and phrases in English and nearly?600 in Urdu. (Admittedly they may have padded it out a bit?how else to explain the presence of ?robber?, ?oui? or ?k mart? in a list that otherwise places rather more emphasis on sexual adventurism?)
Last week, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority?s (PTA) memo and accompanying list of the words sent to mobile-phone service providers were leaked on the internet. Pakistanis were aghast and amused in equal measure. Previous bans have?targeted Facebook,?Rolling Stone magazine?s website and the use of encrypted networks. These met with limited opposition. But the directive to block text messages containing certain words was seen as an attack on free speech.
The official reason for the ban was ?to control the menace of spam in the society?. Far more likely, the authorities finally grew tired of rude anti-government jokes that circulate widely via text message. Many feature the president, Asif Ali Zardari, in a starring role. (A tame example: ?The post office issued new stamps with Zardari?s face on them but they had to be withdrawn because the public found them too confusing: it was impossible to tell which side to spit on.?) Texting is perhaps the most effective means of mass communication in Pakistan: two of every three Pakistanis have a mobile phone and the cost of sending an SMS is among the cheapest in the world. Following public uproar, damning editorials and the threat of legal action from NGOs, the authority sheepishly announced that ?implementation of previous PTA instructions have been withheld? after it ?received input from customers, government and other quarters on this issue?.
The government?s inability to take a joke isn?t restricted to text messages. In an interview with the state broadcaster on November 21st, the UN?s ?world television day?, the information minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, stressed the need for a code of conduct to help broadcast media through an ?evolutionary phase?. There is little doubt that Pakistan?s news channels could do with some restraint, especially when it comes to coverage of terrorist attacks, which tends towards the gory. But critics fear that an enforced code of conduct would use obscenity as an excuse to target the hugely popular political satire programmes that make fun of the nation?s ruling classes. ?It?s anti-government stuff, impersonations of Zardari and company?they don?t leave anyone alone. They make all kinds of jokes, some of them quite lewd,? said Murtaza Razvi, a senior editor at?Dawn, a leading English-language newspaper.
Pakistan?s broadcasting rules were liberalised under Pervez Musharraf soon after he took power in a military coup in 1999, and the number of television channels quickly grew from a single state broadcaster to nearly a hundred channels. The government would do well to draw a lesson from the experience of Mr Musharraf, who tried to clamp down on press freedom in 2007 and found himself out of office soon after. Mr Zardari may not enjoy being the butt of jokes every night but it certainly beats having angry?protesters on the streets of Islamabad.