Saudi men enjoying lattes in a Starbucks in Riyadh. I remember when Starbucks was a little hole in the wall in the Pike Place Market.
A 37-year-old American businesswoman, married and a mother of three, was arrested last week for meeting for business purposes with a male colleague to whom she was not related. Their meeting was being held in a “family” designated area of a Starbucks in Riyadh, where men and women who are unrelated are segregated. The woman works for an investment firm. The man she was conferencing with, a Syrian national and a financial analyst, was also arrested and remains in custody. The woman was released when her husband intervened, but before that happened, the woman was strip-searched, hauled before a judge, who told her she was guilty of terrible “sin” and would go to hell, and was forced to sign a “confession”.
The woman and her male colleague had gone to the Starbucks because the power was out at their offices, but internet connections were available at Starbucks.
What is most disturbing to me is the response of the U.S. Embassy!
The newspaper (The Times of London) said the woman had received a visit from officials at the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia. A U.S. official told The Times that it was being treated as “an internal Saudi matter” and refused to comment on her case.
So, what’s a little strip-search, arrest, and terrorism of an American citizen, anyway, she’ll get over it. It’s our oil suppliers’ feelings we are most concerned about! I would certainly not suggest American women take jobs in Saudi Arabia if they have other options.