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Saudi women unveil opinions online

More women are blogging in the Kingdom, getting the attention of censors and their conservative counterparts.

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In this country where women are forced to completely cover themselves in public, are barred from driving, and need permission to travel abroad, it's small wonder many are embracing the freedom of anonymity on the Internet.

As Internet usage continues to climb here, so do the numbers of women who have started Web logs, or blogs, to express themselves in ways they might never do in public.

"I love blogging because it helps me to express myself and I like to write in English," says Farah Aziz, a translation student at King Saud University in Riyadh who started blogging in January 2005.

The content of Ms. Aziz's blog (http://farahssowaleef.blogspot.com), which chronicles the life of a college student, would probably do little to cause alarm among government censors. But other women bloggers are drawing the attention of the state as well conservative male bloggers who have taken to policing the Internet for bloggers acting in ways that they perceive as inappropriate according to Islam.

Saudi Eve, who regularly writes about her love life and religion, and who declined to be identified by her real name because of the sensitivity of the issue, woke up on June 2 to find that her blog (http://eveksa.blogspot.com) had been blocked.

"Back and blocked," she wrote on her blog on June 2. "I'm temporarily back in Saudi only to find that 'Saudi Eve is officially blocked in Saudi.' "

The closure of her site signals the beginning of a cyber battle between liberal Saudi bloggers and their more conservative counterparts.

Blogging under the name Green Tea (http://www.g-tea.com/), Riyadh law student Mohammed al-Mossaed recently formed a conservative group of Saudi bloggers called the Official Community of Saudi Arabian Bloggers (OCSAB). "I am not responsible for the blocking of any website," says Mr. Mossaed. "OCSAB also has nothing to do with it. Maybe [Saudi Eve] broke [the state's] rules by sometimes talking about God and sex."

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