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Pre-2008 Posts

American Business Woman Arrested, Strip Searched in Saudi Arabia for Having Coffee with Male Colleagues at Starbucks


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.


PM’s World has some interesting commentary.


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9 thoughts on “American Business Woman Arrested, Strip Searched in Saudi Arabia for Having Coffee with Male Colleagues at Starbucks

  1. My immediate thought was, it’s just the flip side of what they are doing to us here.

    Maybe not even the flip side.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | February 12, 2008, 9:41 pm
  2. Oil uber alles, I guess. But these things need more publicity – !

    Posted by profacero | February 13, 2008, 3:18 am
  3. But, the Saudis are such greee-at allies of ours!


    Posted by ceejay1968 | February 14, 2008, 4:36 am
  4. I find this article highly highly biased
    on a lot of bases
    It’s posted on a feminist website so obviously only the negative aspects are included. I’m sure theres tons more to the story (as well as the Iranian one you had posted earlier) that was not included
    Not only might there be elements missing, but there are certain cultural and religious laws that are different in the middle east than they are here and claiming this is debauchery is stating that every country and nation has to abide by the same cultural practices as the western world
    It’s news like this that makes the Arab world look horrible and racism against Arabs to grow in Canada and the U.S
    I’ve been to the Middle East and I know for a FACT that they are not savages that would strip search and arrest anyone for something as simple as being in a coffee shop.

    Posted by F | February 14, 2008, 6:01 am
  5. What is most disturbing to me is the response of the U.S. Embassy!

    Me too, but you know that if it had done anything different, large segments of the left (including some feminists) would be howling over how the U.S. hegemony can’t impose its values on a foreign country, and how the woman was asking for it by defying Islamic law (or that interpretation of it) in Saudi Arabia anyway.

    Posted by Serafina | February 14, 2008, 3:14 pm
  6. Well, just for you, Serafina, I unspammed the comment above yours, number 4, to show you the heights, lengths, depths and breadths to which people will go to excuse strip-searching, arresting, and extorting a confession out of a woman who is going about her work in the work place, in the “family” section of a Starbucks.

    Hey, F, nobody said anybody was a savage. The fact is, the woman was arrested because she was doing her work with a colleague to whom she was not related or married. There is no excuse for this, I do not care what the “missing elements” might be, or whether there were differing “cultural and religious laws.” Those differing cultural and religious laws are to be kept severely off the strip-searched, jailed, extorted bodies of American businesswomen.

    People are not racist against against *anyone* because feminists like me report abuses and terrorism of women. People are racists because they are racists. Because they are unevolved. Because they have no compassion, no empathy, no concern for other people. Because they are entitled. Because they are ignorant. Because they have led very isolated lives and don’t know better. Becaues they need to feel better than other people. Because they feel small and scared and impotent and thinking they are better than seems to relieve those feelings, briefly. Because they are incapable of putting themselves in the other persons situation.

    I will not stop denouncing the terrorizing of women because I fear some racist might find my denunciations to be a handy weapon in his racist arsenal. Racists are going to be racists whether I am silent, or whether I speak up and tell the truth. Hence, you better believe, I will be telling the truth.

    And that’s the last comment of its kind that I will be approving. But it was such a nice illustration of the point you made there, Serafina, I figured why not.


    Posted by womensspace | February 14, 2008, 6:01 pm
  7. Wow, I remembered having read about this – didn’t realize it was back in 02!! How time flies.


    Activists say that the companies’ refusal to desegregate their Saudi Arabia stores proves they are far more concerned with profits than with basic human rights. And Dunkin’ Donuts, reportedly, has set an example for the other businesses by refusing to go along with Saudi segregation.

    “McDonald’s and Starbucks claim to be sensitive to local customs and laws, but they choose to ignore universal human rights laws in favor of the laws of profit,” said NOW Executive Vice President Karen Johnson. She added that late last year, Saudi Arabia became a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and acknowledged international criticism of its human rights practices. “We need more than lip service. We need an end to gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia.”

    NOW urges activists to raise their voices and demand that U.S. companies stop supporting gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia. Remind McDonald’s, Starbucks and Pizza Hut of their moral responsibility to incorporate human rights principles into their business practices. Contact McDonald’s at 630-623-3000 or fax 630-623-5004; Pizza Hut at 800-948-8488 or fax 972-338-7780; Starbucks at 206-447-1575, ext. 82900 or fax 206-447-0828.

    Posted by funnie | February 15, 2008, 2:17 pm
  8. It’s like Google caving in to the Chinese in censoring what their search engine can bring up.

    That comment from “F” is disturbing. Are we really to be tolerant of other cultures, to see things through a lens of moral relativism, when women are abused? Not me!

    Posted by ceejay1968 | February 17, 2008, 7:24 am
  9. In response to #4, I don’t know how long it has been since you have been in the middle east, what part of the middle east you were in, or who you traveled with, all of which may have insulated you from the realities of what goes on towards women in certain areas of the middle east.

    This particular woman, like you, also believed the people of Saudi Arabia were not savages who would arrest and strip search a woman for sitting with a businessman she was not related to. Just two weeks before, she had told Presidient Bush’s younger brother that Riyadh did not deserve their bad reputation about attitudes towards women, and that she had never been harassed. She found out she was wrong. By the way, it was the religious police who arrested her.

    You evidently do not know about the young woman, a few years ago, in Afgahnastan, who walked down the street with her 10 year old cousin, a boy. She, also, was arrested by the religious police for being in public with a male she was not married to. Her sentance, which was carried out, was to be raped by all of the members of the tribunal who judged her. Lest you think there is more to this story as well, even the Afgahnastan government felt this was injustice and eventually awarded her a monetary settlement for what had happened to her.

    What about the young girl, recently, who was stoned to death by her family, in public, with police and other onlookers doing nothing? The whole event was recorded on video. Her offense was to fall in love with the wrong person.

    This is only a couple of examples out of many. And you think they wouldn’t arrest and strip search a woman for being in public with a male???

    There are those in any country who abuse power. In some countries, when the abuse is against women, or against certain ethnic groups, it is much easier for them to get away with it. There used to be a time when they wouldn’t have dared to touch an American but, sadly, those days are gone. Our government no longer stands up for its citizens.

    Posted by Pam | February 18, 2008, 3:17 am

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