By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The treatment of women in Saudi Arabia has long been a concern of many human rights activists. Each woman is assigned to a relative male guardian who basically controls where and if a woman can travel, whether she can go to university, or work. Women are also required to wear an abaya (full length, loose fitting cloak) in public, and often wear niqabs (facial veil) as well.
One rationale for wearing a niqab is to hide the beauty of the woman’s face as to not tempt other males. Saudi Arabia recognizes polygamy as legal and permitted by Sharia law. That ultimately means that a man can have dominion over a whole flock of women. These women are often made to wear niqabs so that no man is tempted to lead one of a man’s many wives astray from the nest.
Get out of town . . . Seriously, get out of town
Despite the male dominated controls aimed at preventing any possibility of the apparent second class from committing infidelities, there are some external factors that are generally uncontrolled for. One of such factors is the irresistible impact a dashing young United Arab Emirates man can have on the minds and bodies of Saudi women.
That is why three Emirati men were recently kicked out of a festival in Saudi Arabia and deported back to Abu Dhabi. The mutawwa, Saudi religious police, deemed that the three men, including actor Omar Borkan al-Gala, were “too handsome” to stay in the country because their looks may cause women to be attracted and fall for them.
Previously, I have seen Middle Eastern regimes punish individuals for peacefully congregating to protest in violation of a freedom to express and assemble. I have seen similar punishments for criticisms of regimes over the internet in violation of a freedom of expression. Women have also been detained for attempting to enter or leave Saudi Arabia without a male guardian in violation of a freedom of movement.
Never before though have I seen a person be punished for simply being too good looking. Discrimination based on one’s appearance, generally because of race or gender, is perhaps the most insidious type of discrimination. This specific discrimination, while not quite as insidious, is still nonetheless a problem, although perhaps not the worst problem to have.
Many wonder, some seriously and some jokingly, why the authorities did not just order the three men to wear facial veils themselves, instead of forcing them to leave the country.
Others are calling their deportations the most jealous, insecure move an authoritarian monarchy could potentially make.
This also marks the first time someone was told that it should be a crime to have such a face, that it was meant as a compliment, and literally considered a crime.
For further information, please see:
JD Journal – Omar Borkan Al Gala Deported by Saudi Arabian Religious Police for Being ‘Too Handsome’ – 26 April 2013
New York Daily News – Was This Hottie Deported from Saudi Arabia for Being ‘too Handsome’? – 25 April 2013
Time – Saudi Arabia Reportedly Deports men for Being ‘Too Handsome’ – 17 April 2013
Arabian Business – UAE men ‘too Handsome’ for Saudi Festival – 16 April 2013