Saudi Businesswoman Lands in Riyadh Jail – For Having Coffee with Male Colleague at Starbucks
An Electricity Outage in the Office
"A Saudi mother of three, who works as a business partner and financial consultant for a reputable company in Jeddah, didn’t expect a trip to the capital to open the company’s new branch office to get her thrown behind bars by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
"Yara, a petite 40-year-old woman, was in tears yesterday after she narrated to Arab News her encounter with a commission member that ended in high drama.
"Yara, who has been married for 27 years, said she spent several hours in the women’s section of Riyadh’s Malaz Prison, was strip-searched, ordered to sign a confession that she was in a state of khulwa (a state of seclusion with an unrelated man) and for hours prevented from contacting her husband in Jeddah.
"Her crime? Having a cup of coffee with a colleague in a Starbucks.
"Yara said she arrived in the capital yesterday morning from Jeddah to check on the company’s new office.
"’The minute I came into the office my colleagues told me that we have an issue with the electricity company and that we do not have power but that it would be back on in half an hour,’ she said."
In Trouble with the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice
"As they were waiting, they decided to go to the ground floor of the building to have a cup of coffee in the family section of Starbucks. Family sections are the only places where men and women can sit together in establishments in Saudi Arabia. Officially, these sections are for families only, but in practical terms these sections – usually in international chains like Starbucks – become the only places where unrelated men and women can be comfortable that they won’t be harassed by commission members.
"But yesterday Yara and her colleague found themselves in trouble with the commission. One moment they were sitting together discussing brand equity and sovereign wealth funds; the next moment she found herself in commission custody.
"Shortly after they took their coffee and Yara opened her laptop, a member of the commission approached the two and demanded the man step outside.
"Then (the commission member) came to me and said: ‘You need to come with us. This man is not a relative,’ she said."
"I Am the Government" – You Must Come With Us
"When she told the commission member that she wanted to contact her husband by phone, he refused.
"’I am the government,’ Yara quoted him as saying. He then ordered her to come with him.
No word on whether she drove there on her own. Read the rest at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).