The most dangerous thing at Saudi Starbucks is not the caffeine — if you are a woman at least. An American businesswoman named Yara (she is withholding her last name) was arrested, strip searched and forced to sign a false confession after she was captured in the act of sitting with a male at a Starbucks in Riyadh.
Ironically, Yara had just been at the Starbucks with Neil Bush, President George W. Bush’s younger brother and CEO of the education software company Ignite! and even boasted about Saudi justice. She is a managing partner at a Saudi financial company, but it did not help her when she was spotted by the Saudi “Mutaween” police.
The 37-year-old mother of three was wearing an abaya and a headscarf, but she violated the rule of women sitting with non-family males. Because Starbucks has WiFi, it is popular for such business meetings. She had just opened her laptop when the police swooped in.
“Some men came up to us with very long beards and white dresses. They asked, ‘Why are you here together?’ I explained about the power being out in our office. They got very angry and told me what I was doing was a great sin,” Yara recalled.
The men were from Saudi Arabia’s Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a 10,000-strong police force charged with enforcing dress codes, sex segregation and the observance of prayer times.
Yara said they grabbed her mobile phone and pushed her into a taxi bound for Riyadh’s main prison. There she was interrogated, strip-searched and forced to sign and fingerprint confessions of guilt.
Later, she was made to stand before a judge who condemned her behavior, telling her she would “burn in hell.”
She said she spent hours in a filthy prison cell with dozens of other women who had been arrested by the religious police, before her husband used his political connections to secure her release.
This is only the latest outrage to come to the toward from the Kingdom, which imposes religious tenets as law — often abusing the rights of women. Click here
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