Saudi Arabia: Saudi Women not Allowed to Visit Foreign Embassies

Saudi Gazette
Security officers at the gates of Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter (DQ) are turning back Saudi females who are not accompanied by their male guardians.
"Saudi women are not allowed in foreign embassies unless they are accompanied by their male guardians," a Saudi security guard told a female Saudi Gazette reporter. "We received new regulations from the Ministry of Interior to turn back any female Saudis who are going to foreign embassies without their legal male guardians."
Attempts to contact the Ministry of Interior to verify the guard's claim were unsuccessful.

Even Saudi women who are going to embassies to apply for visas or to work must be accompanied by their legal male guardians, said the guard.

Embassies contacted by the Saudi Gazette said they were unaware of the regulations.

Sources at the DQ Security told the Saudi Gazette that this new regulation likely came after an incident in which Saudi women attended a function at a foreign embassy. The new regulation has irritated many Saudi women who have to go to foreign embassies to apply for visas or to conduct business.

A Saudi Gazette reporter was invited by a foreign embassy to attend a reception introducing the new regional information resource officer. The invitation was sent to both female and male Saudi journalists. Only the male journalists were allowed in the DQ without hassle, said an embassy official. "All female journalists were refused entry at the gate. However, we sent out our embassy car to receive the female journalist at the gate and that was the only way they were allowed in," the official said.

"I have work to do. I cover the embassies for my publication, but now I can't even do my job," said one journalist who was also refused entry into the DQ on the same grounds. The Saudi Gazette reporter had previously covered press conferences and functions at numerous embassies without any problem. "Sometimes I get stopped at the gate if I'm not carrying my ID or invitation but usually when I show them my Press ID, I am let through," said the reporter.

Frequently, Saudi women face trouble entering the Quarter. "I have been turned back a couple of times for no reason. Other times the security guards basically say that because I am a women I won't be allowed in," said one Saudi woman. "This might be another trick DQ security guards are using to limit the number of Saudi women entering the DQ."

The Saudi Gazette requested to see the new regulations sent to the DQ security forces, but the request was denied.

By: Suzan Zawawi

05 September 2007