2010 / 5 / 7
Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
Director’s Comment: As documented in the attached article the Saudi Ministry of Education and the Saudi government’s religious establishment are deadlocked in discussions as to whether rescue workers can or cannot enter girls’ schools in cases of disaster without prior permission from religious and other authorities. They are also deadlocked over what government agency should be contacted for permission to save girls’ lives when disaster strikes. One would hope that the Saudi authorities would have learned a lesson after a tragic event occurred on March 15, 2002 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1874471.stm) when a dilapidated girls’ school caught fire with 800 girls locked inside.
Heart-wrenchingly, the lives of 15 aspiring young women were snuffed out and scores of others were injured because the Saudi government’s religious police refused to let emergency rescuers enter the school. In fact, eyewitnesses saw the religious police engaged in fist fights with rescuers as the latter attempted to enter the burning school to save students’ lives. The reason given for letting young Saudi women burn alive was the Saudi-Wahhabi policy of gender segregation and insistence in cloaking women in black garments from head to toe, which the girls were not at the time. As empowered by the Saudi government, the religious police insisted that it was their duty to let the girls die rather than allow their faces to be seen by non-related male rescue workers.
It’s difficult to understand the mindset of the Saudi ruling men. How could there be opposition to saving helpless children’s lives? Monkeys and porcupines run to save their babies during brush fires. Wild gorillas come to the rescue of injured and helpless human children when they fall into their fortified cages. Are Saudi girls’ lives less precious than those of animals? The Saudi government should look the grieving parents in their eyes and answer this question. Eight years later, the Saudi authorities are still deadlocked on this issue.