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Call to end special treatment of women at Saudi security checkpoints

Usually women are given special treatment and are unlikely to be searched, but this approach should be reconsidered and women should be searched just like men

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A Saudi man and his wife had transported the explosive belt used by the suicide bomber who blew up the mosque inside the Special Forces compound in Saudi Arabia last August.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the man’s wife hid the belt under her feet, which confirmed that deviant groups were using women to carry out terrorist acts because they knew security officers were unlikely to frisk women.

Usually women are given special treatment and are unlikely to be searched, but this approach should be reconsidered and women should be searched just like men at any checkpoint if they arouse a security officer’s suspicion, according to security experts interviewed by Al-Riyadh Arabic daily recently.

Donning an abaya or hijab does not mean that women should be exempted from body searches, said Professor Yousuf Al-Rameeh, a criminologist.

“It seems that we have overlooked the fact that women also can be terrorists and focused more on enhancing the patriotic values in men. We should not forget that women are mothers who can influence the behavior of their children. After all, they are the ones that take care of children and spend most of the time with them. If a man becomes a terrorist, he will harm himself. But in case of women, children will be influenced,” he said.

Al-Rameeh said women should be frisked and searched by female security officers or by a detector device. Because Saudi Arabia is a prime target for terrorists, women should not be treated differently from men when it comes to security issues, he added.

Criminologist Midwah Al-Midwah believes that frisking women will not be degrading to them in any way if necessary and proper security precautions are taken.

He called for female security officers to be appointed at all checkpoints and said this will also contribute to reducing unemployment among women.

“Both men and women can commit crimes. Terrorists today do not carry daggers and heavy weapons, and this is not a conventional war. Women, in fact, can commit sophisticated crimes better than men,” he said.

To protect the privacy of women, each checkpoint should have a special facility equipped with search and frisking devices specifically for women. Such steps will safeguard national security and prevent terrorists from using women to achieve their goals.

The director of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance in Al-Ahsa, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hashim, said women should be treated like men if it is proven they are involved in crimes, and that this means they should be searched and punished if they violate laws.

“Women should be frisked and searched at checkpoints and if essential even male security guards can carry this out because national security comes first. If a woman does not respect herself and becomes a tool in the hands of terrorists, she should be subjected to frisking and searching,” he said.

Al-Hashim called for women to be searched when entering a mosque or begging for money, noting that those women could hide weapons and other objects under their abayas.

He said female beggars should not be shown any sympathy and should be treated with reservation. He insisted that Shariah permits male security guards to search women at checkpoints if there were no female guards to carry out the task.

This article was first published by the Saudi Gazette on March 19, 2016.