Woman Jailed For Drinking Coffee With Man; Can That Happen Here?

I spend a great deal of time discussing issues women face in our country.  But I often have to remind myself that the struggles we face in the United States — be it the gap in wages in the workplace, the struggle to have equal reproductive freedoms regardless of the state we reside in, or the constant commercialization of sexism and sexualization of our young girls, is all a result of the opportunities that we have here that aren’t available in other countries. 

This recent story out of Saudi Arabia is a frightening reminder of how life could be for women if we resided under a system of religious law meant to fully subjugate women:

Her ordeal began with a routine visit to the new Riyadh offices of her finance company, where she is a managing partner.

The electricity temporarily cut out, so Yara and her colleagues — who are all men — went to a nearby Starbucks to use its wireless internet.

She sat in a curtained booth with her business partner in the café’s “family” area, the only seats where men and women are allowed to mix.

For Yara, it was a matter of convenience. But in Saudi Arabia, public contact between unrelated men and women is strictly prohibited.

“Some men came up to us with very long beards and white dresses. They asked ‘Why are you here together?’. I explained about the power being out in our office. They got very angry and told me what I was doing was a great sin,” recalled Yara, who wears an abaya and headscarf, like most Saudi women.

The men were from Saudi Arabia’s Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a police force of several thousand men charged with enforcing dress codes, sex segregation and the observance of prayers.

Yara, whose parents are Jordanian and grew up in Salt Lake City, once believed that life in Saudi Arabia was becoming more liberal. But on Monday the religious police took her mobile phone, pushed her into a cab and drove her to Malaz prison in Riyadh. She was interrogated, strip-searched and forced to sign and fingerprint a series of confessions pleading guilty to her “crime”.

“They took me into a filthy bathroom, full of water and dirt. They made me take off my clothes and squat and they threw my clothes in this slush and made me put them back on,” she said. Eventually she was taken before a judge.

“He said ‘You are sinful and you are going to burn in hell’. I told him I was sorry. I was very submissive. I had given up. I felt hopeless,” she said.

The woman, who is trying to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, was able to get released through the help of her husband, who had important political contacts to assist.  But, she say, many women jailed with her were not so fortunate.

We console ourselves with the idea that this is a far away country with a different system than our own.  But it becomes more alarming when leaders in countries closer to home are pushing for women to remain silent in local matters and to “submit in all things to their husbands,” as this vicar in England advocates to his congregation.

[The vicar] told his congregation at St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks, Kent, that the behaviour of modern women was to blame for Britain’s high divorce rate.

He said: “We know marriage is not working. We only need to look at figures – one in four children have divorced parents.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands.”

The views of Mr MacLeay and his curate are understood to have prompted dozens of women parishioners to cancel their direct debit subscriptions to St Nicholas’s.

One disenchanted female parishioner said she was “disgusted” by the sermon.

“How can they talk that way in the 21st century?” she said. “No wonder the Church is losing touch if this is the kind of gobbledegook they want us to believe it.

“I will not be going back to that church and will have to seriously consider my faith if this is the nonsense they are spouting now.”

Another woman, who also asked to remain anonymous, said: “We’re supposed to let out husbands talk for us and remain silent?

“What kind of medieval sermon is that? We are not in the 15th Century. I have already cancelled by direct debit to the church.”

The rector was unavailable for comment.

Mr Oden said: “I did not set out to unnecessarily offend people, but I stand by what God has said in his word, The Bible. “I am passionate about helping people.”

Still, England is a long way away from us.  It’s not as if there was anyone in our country, say, people close to power, trying to influence our country into forcing women into roles of subservience, is there?

Behind closed doors, [The Fellowship] has been known to offer spiritual guidance for its members, who gather for prayer at a row house on Washington, D.C.’s C Street that is funded by the society.

But the secretive organization has come into the spotlight for its role in the affairs of members Mark Sanford and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., where they reportedly became entangled in their members’ private lives.


The male-dominated group preaches subservience, according to [author Jeff] Sharlet, and often counsels members’ wives to stay in relationships at a high price.

“As Christians are to Christ, so women are to men — you have to submit to him,” Sharlet said. “That’s the conservative evangelical world they’re in. … They’ll counsel you and help you through this, but your job is to be there for your husband, especially if he’s in a position of power.”

A secretive organization that works closely with people in power politically, advocating for women to become subservient to their husbands in all things?  How far removed is that from arresting a woman for having coffee in public with a man who isn’t her husband?



Tina Scislow
Tina Scislow8 years ago

When will men begin to respect women? Then again, when will we make ourselves worthy of respect or realise that we always have been? These laws are rediculous. I believe that men need to be taught to think with their hearts and their heads and not always with a particular part of their anatomies. I do understand that our minds work differently.....but come on! How about having a "clean" soul, a "clean" mind and a "clean" heart as well as a "clean" way of looking at things.
I strongly believe that men who have learnt how to control their instints are more of a man, are much more masculin than those who give way to their instincts. This is what I have tried to teach my two sons.

Luise P.
Luise P.9 years ago

Hard to say which more depressing , the news item about a woman being arrested for having coffee with her co-workers, or the comment from a Saudi man who states that he considers such an arrest to be an expression of "Saudi freedom". How very Orwellian of him.....And how very sad for the woman involved, and all the women of Saudi Arabia.
This is not what Mohammed intended, no matter what the imams preach.

Thamer Al-Shairtan

It is truly unfortunate what happened to Yara, but it is quite a commonly known rule especially in this part of the world (Arabian Gulf), that a women can not be alone with a man who is not a direct relative to her (father, brother, husband or son)..

To most of you it is just like what the article says "Jailed for having coffee with a man", but to most of us here what she did was quite offensive and as GM I said, she was in a country with strict rules and laws and she knew the consequences of crossing them. Many of you said that women in this country she be free and have freedom like you have there but if you asked any woman if she would like to have same freedom you have therein her country she will mostly say "No, I want to make my own freedom that suits me, my religion and my society". That is your freedom that took you years and decades to get to what it is nowadays, so let us make our own freedom..

E. A.
E A9 years ago

Beverly 'lacking in the manhood department"??
Is that from personal experience?
The sense of power comes only from someones groin? Do you have a problem with Arab men or just men in general?

Beverley A.
Beverley A9 years ago

Men of Arab nations dominate and exploit their womenfolk- it's the only way they can feel powerful as they are completely lacking in the manhood department. If countries were ruled by matriarchies, there would be no wars, no rape, no cruelty to animals or people. Men are the problem !!

misty r.
misty r9 years ago

That's what happens when sick control freaks get some power weather they write a book that people take literally or they make stupid cruel laws. Women are human and deserve more respect then dogs get. GM!
Maybe you feel that it is ok to treat your female loved one's like crap?

They have been many corrupt laws,religions,customs etc... for centuries and people have fought back.

misty r.
misty r9 years ago

You might be right in 1 way but did it ever acure to you that these women are being abused and they want things to change for them??

They are human beings and deserve to be treated better. OUT WITH THE OLD WAYS IN WITH THE NEW! THe only reason that they are stupid laws like that is because some sick control freak had power and wrote a book.

misty r.
misty r9 years ago

It could most diffinatly happen here . Just get though to the most impressionable (our children) in school teach it as a social norm NON_RELIGIOUS and in a few years the pregudise will be hard-wired in society brains and that will become a legitamate crime.

Elena Ella
Elena Ella9 years ago

Very informative.

Elena Ella
Elena Ella9 years ago

Thank you for the article!