Friday, June 25, 2010

Supporters of women’s rights will hold a protest Saturday to denounce gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia.

“This may be like the pied piper for Islamic feminists,” said Fatima Thompson, a Muslim convert and a board member for the D.C. chapter of the Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), which is organizing the event. “They have created all these various organizations to promote women’s rights, so hopefully this will be a means to get us all together.”

The MPV, which is an “inclusive community” rooted in social justice, will hold the protest in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy. Protesters will rally at 1:30 p.m. for the release of foreign nationals being held captive in the kingdom, including Canadian-born Nathalie Morin and her three young children.

Ms. Morin married a Saudi man whom she met in Montreal when she was 17. The couple’s relationship soured after they moved to Saudi Arabia. Ms. Morin has fallen victim to what activists say “conjugal violence” and confinement. She has been detained since 2005 and cannot leave the country without the authorization of her husband, which he will not allow.

Ms. Morin has been detained since 2005 and cannot leave the country without authorization of her male guardian, which he will not allow.

There will be a number of Islamic feminists attending the protest, including American writer and activist Aisha Schwartz as well as Wajeha al-Huwaider, a Saudi journalist who cannot publish her written work in Saudi Arabia.

The protests coincide with the G-20 summit in Toronto this weekend, where Saudi Arabia is among the participating nations. Activists hope the protest rally will receive attention at the summit.

Ms. Thompson said the male guardianship system of Saudi Arabia is a violation of women’s rights, and the protest will spotlight the growing problem.

MPV plans to send President Obama a letter next week, urging him to demand the release of foreign nationals detained in Saudi Arabia.

“We want an end to the apartheid, the release of Nathalie Morin and the release of all foreign nationals held under the male guardianship system,” Ms. Thompson said. “If we can somehow work together … this is what I hope to get out of this protest.”

The Saudi Arabian Embassy could not be reached for comment.

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