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Saudi woman held for solo protest march

(AFP)
Filed on August 5, 2006

DUBAI — A Saudi women’s rights activist said yesterday she was detained for several hours by police after she carried a placard demanding equal rights for women in a solo march on a causeway linking Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.

“I walked alone carrying a placard urging King Abdullah to give Saudi women full citizenship rights,” Wajiha al-Huwaider, 45, told AFP by telephone from the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran.

Huwaider said she had timed her action with the first anniversary of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s accession to the throne of oil-rich Saudi Arabia on August 1 last year.

“There has been an improvement (in women’s rights) under King Abdullah, but it has been very slow,” she said.

Huwaider, who is based in Bahrain and commutes daily to her work as an educational analyst with oil giant Saudi Aramco in Dhahran, said she came by taxi from Bahrain to the Saudi side of the King Fahd causeway early Friday and walked raising the placard.

She said she was arrested by police and taken to a police station, where she was interrogated and asked to bring a male guardian “since they (authorities) don’t recognize that a woman can take responsibility for her actions.”

Huwaider said her brother came and signed a pledge that she would not repeat her action. She was released after around seven hours in detention.

Huwaider, who is pressing for women to have equal rights with men in Islamic courts and government departments, said she had been banned from writing columns in newspapers for three years because of her activism.

A slow process of reform has been under way in conservative Muslim Saudi Arabia, but women remain subject to a host of restrictions.


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