American woman in Saudi Arabia arrested at Starbucks

by Infidelesto on February 6, 2008 · 13 comments

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The religious police in Saudi Arabia are at it again, this time arresting an American businesswoman for sitting with a man at Starbucks.

A 37-year-old American businesswoman and married mother of three is seeking justice after she was thrown in jail by Saudi Arabia’s religious police for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.

Yara, who does not want her last name published for fear of retribution, was bruised and crying when she was freed from a day in prison after she was strip-searched, threatened and forced to sign false confessions by the Kingdom’s “Mutaween” police.

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  • Me

    There seems to be some differences in the stories written online about this starbucks arrest. I would like to first say that I am an american women who is 28 yrs old. When anyone goes to anohter country for travel or to live they have to follow the rules. We as americans want everyone who lives here in the USA to follow our rules right? Anyways about this story. I have found that some newspapers online say shes a saudi women who is 40 yrs old married with 3 kids others say american women who is 37 yrs old married with kids. Not everyone in Saudi Arabia like this “Muttawa” or religous police. Alot of the Saudis there want the Muttawas “rights” taken away from them. These police if you will, treat everyone like this regardless of nationality. A friend of mine, who is from Saudi and is a Shia muslim told me a story about how these “police” stopped him and his friend because it was prayer time and they werent praying. The Shia pray at different then Sunni muslims do, anyways, these “police” made the men go to a Sunni place to pray. My friend told me, why arent these “police” praying at prayer time. I have heard saudis call the muttawa monsters who dont even follow their own rules they try to enforce. If the law there says women and men can not mix unless they are with husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, then thats needs to be followed. I dont agree with the treatment of this lady wether shes american, saudi, or any other culture. I also read somewhere that Saudi did change the law that these “police” are not supposed to take anyone without a regular office with them. These “police” are the radical muslims who interpret things the way they want and not they way it is supposed to be. It is really sad to hear all these stories about beatings, stoneing, arrest, and death. I hope that Saudi Arabia will change this whole mess with these “police” and give people more rights that the deserve. I’ve included some info I found and the website where I got it from. Thanks for giving me the chance to talk about this article.

    http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1012.html
    STANDARDS OF CONDUCT AND RELIGIOUS POLICE: Islam is the official religion of the country and pervades all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia . Public display of non-Islamic religious articles such as crosses and Bibles is not permitted. Travel to Makkah ( Mecca ) and Medina , the cities where the two holiest mosques of Islam are located, is forbidden to non-Muslims.

    The norms for public behavior in Saudi Arabia are extremely conservative, and religious police, known as Mutawwa, are charged with enforcing these standards. Mutawwa are required to carry special identification and usually are accompanied by uniformed police; however, in some cases they have detained persons even without police presence. To ensure that conservative standards of conduct are observed, the Saudi religious police have accosted or arrested foreigners, including U.S. citizens, for improper dress or other alleged infractions, such as consumption of alcohol or association by a female with a male to whom she is not related. While most incidents have resulted only in inconvenience or embarrassment, the potential exists for an individual to be physically harmed or deported. U.S. citizens who are involved in an incident with the Mutawwa should report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah or Dhahran.
    The Saudi Embassy in Washington advises women traveling to Saudi Arabia to dress in a conservative fashion, wearing ankle-length dresses with long sleeves, and not to wear trousers in public. In many areas of Saudi Arabia, particularly Riyadh and the central part of the Kingdom, Mutawwa pressure women to wear a full-length black covering known as an Abaya, and to cover their heads. Most women in these areas therefore wear an Abaya and carry a headscarf to avoid being accosted. Women who appear to be of Arab or Asian origin, especially those presumed to be Muslims, face a greater risk of being confronted.

    Some Mutawwa try to enforce the rule that men and women who are beyond childhood years may not mingle in public unless they are family or close relatives. Mutawwa may ask to see proof that a couple is married or related. Women who are arrested for socializing with a man who is not a relative may be charged with prostitution. Some restaurants, particularly fast-food outlets, have refused to serve women who are not accompanied by a close male relative. In addition, many restaurants no longer have a “family section” in which women are permitted to eat. These restrictions are not always posted, and in some cases women violating this policy have been arrested. This is more common in Riyadh and the more conservative central Nejd region.

    In public, dancing, playing music and showing movies are forbidden.

    • Joshua

      Foreigners are all aware about the Law in Saudi Arabia but sometimes they impliment more than the limit. Sometimes the Muttawwas abused the rights given to them by the law. They arrests some foreigners without any reason! Slapping of face with huge numbers is their favorite punishment to the violator before they transfer to police. Let the Saudi Law decides the right punishment againts the offenders not those Muttawwas. Is it also in Saudi Law that Muttawwas allowed to slap faces of violators once catched? I agree with the Law that women are not allowed to be with men if not husband or relatives but i really dont know if there is Law in Saudi Arabia prohibiting Saudi man together with filipino man in one car. Filipinos were afraid to be with saudi's in one car even to co-workers to avoid to be questioned by the police or muttawwas. A lot of stories in this situation and the final verdict is charged with prostitution just because filipino man was with saudi man in one car doing nothing. REDICULOUS IMPLIMENTION OF THE LAW AND ABUSIVE OF THE RIGHTS GIVEN TO THEM.

  • Alison

    I stopped going to Starbucks after I read about this incident. This was based on a response I received from Starbucks that they have to respect the cultures of the places that they operate Starbucks stores. I’m not comfortable with Starbucks being selective about which countries human rights records they want to respect. I’m sure it’s in the name of $$$. Fair trade coffee, but not fair rights for women. I can’t enjoy a cup of coffee in their American cafes with the knowledge that a Saudi women does not have the same right to do the same. Starbucks is condoning this behavior by continuing to operate in Saudi Arabia.

  • julius

    Starbucks is another sell out global,Explotive,greedy,Company who has no concern about local economies example,Arabic coffe,Jamaican,Mayan,These corporate prostitutes invade and intrude on centuries old tea and coffee houses that are not only important to the cultures but have History and a Spirit,Like Domino pizza,Mcdonalds,K.F.C. I refuse to eat at them in foriegn countries,and here in the U.S.A. Shame on them.They dont belong there.Its just like if I was to ride my camel to work.Yankee go home and keep our jobs here.As in Rome do as the romans and you wont get in trouble.May God (Allah be with you all.)

  • simon1

    … thanks but I don’t want Allah with me

    • diddly poo

      Allah is the arabic word for God, just like Yahweh is the hebrew word for God…. it's not a different entity in itself… one God…3 different LANGUAGES…. if you're atheist or not a follower of one of the Abrahamic religions than your response applies….just thought you'd like to know….

      • Sidb

        The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob (Yahweh) is not the same God as Allah.  Allah was a tribal god known as the God of War/ God of the Moon. 

  • simon1

    … and I won’t be going to starbucks again, not because they are intruding on old tea houses, but because they are prepared to have anything to do with Saudi Arabia. And as for yankee go home, I think things would be a lot more harmonious if Moslems went home

  • jennyjen

    First off, I don’t drink coffee so Starbucks has never gained a dollar from me, I don’t plan on picking up the habit seeing as I have enough habits to fund. Secondly, I’m glad this woman is willing to stay and fight. It’s not like she was giving blow jobs, she was with her colleagues conducting business. She was even sporting the traditional Islamic cover up. There was no need in her being carted off like a sex offender roaming the playground.
    And I really hope the comment left by “Me” is somewhat truthful. If the Saudi citizens are fed up with this radical police squad then maybe something can be done to stop them.  Until then, I can’t believe I’m saying this, I gotta agree with Simon1- things would be more harmonious if Muslims went home.

  • Allah

    The religious police are perverts. They just wanted to strip so they could see her naked. They should all be tried and hanged.

  • Joshua

    Foreigners are all aware about the Law in Saudi Arabia but sometimes they impliment more than the limit. Sometimes the Muttawwas abused the rights given to them by the law. They arrests some foreigners without any reason! Slapping of face with huge numbers is their favorite punishment to the violator before they transfer to police. Let the Saudi Law decides the right punishment againts the offenders not those Muttawwas. Is it also in Saudi Law that Muttawwas allowed to slap faces of violators once catched? I agree with the Law that women are not allowed to be with men if not husband or relatives but i really dont know if there is Law in Saudi Arabia prohibiting Saudi man together with filipino man in one car. Filipinos were afraid to be with saudi's in one car even to co-workers to avoid to be questioned by the police or muttawwas. A lot of stories in this situation and the final verdict is charged with prostitution just because filipino man was with saudi man in one car doing nothing. REDICULOUS IMPLIMENTION OF THE LAW AND ABUSIVE OF THE RIGHTS GIVEN TO THEM.

  • scarlettkick

    The Muttawwas are pricks with a badge who abuse their power in the sake of a twisted sense of what religion is. They are not religious men by a long shot. Most of them are going straight to hell, but they know that.

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