05/02/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi women had more rights at the time of the Romans than today

This is shown by a book written by a female scholar and published in Great Britain. At that time, they are able to run businesses; while today, at a discussion of work for women in Riyadh, all of the women were in another room.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - Arab women had more rights at the time of the Romans than they have today.  At that time, in fact, their capacity to conduct their own economic affairs was recognised, which is not true in Saudi Arabia today.  This is maintained by a female Saudi scholar, Hatoon al-Fassi, in a book entitled "Women In Pre-Islamic Arabia", published by British Archaeological Reports.

Barred from teaching at King Saud University in 2001, the scholar has examined the situation of Nabataea, a kingdom that at the beginning of the Christian era included parts of modern-day Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and had its capital in Petra.  Here, Fassi maintains, women were able to conduct business, without even the form of "protection" required by Greek tradition in these matters.  In her opinion, it is precisely because of the lack of understanding on the part of Islamic scholars of the influences of Greco-Roman legislation on sharia that the limited rights and freedoms for women have arisen.

"We now live the worst status imaginable": this statement from Fawziya al-Oyouni, a women's rights activist, is reported in the review of the book on Middle East Online, which highlights how, when religious authorities, ministers, and businessmen met last month in Riyadh to discuss work for women, there were no women visible, because they were confined to another room, and the men were able only to hear them.

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