Apr 1, 2002
Fifteen girls died and more than 50 others were injured in a school fire in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on March 11. Eyewitnesses said that some of the victims were crushed to death as they tried to go through the school gate which was locked. Girls’ schools lock their gates in Saudi Arabia to ensure “full segregation of the sexes,” which is the law in that country.
When students did manage to get out of the school the “religious police” intervened to beat young girls and to force them back into the burning building. Why? Because they were not wearing their veils and not covered from head to toe with their religious garments.
During the school fire, the religious police also fought rescue workers to keep them from helping the students – because firemen and paramedics were men, and, therefore, not “allowed” to approach women!
The religious police – known as the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”– are ever present in Saudi Arabia to enforce Islamic law. They control through terror, and they take the right upon themselves to decide who has transgressed the law, and therefore who is to live and who is to die.
In Saudi Arabia, they harass women in the streets and enforce the strict dress codes as well as sex segregation laws. They often beat women who refuse to obey their orders.
Saudi authorities rushed to protect their beloved “promoters of virtue.” But their attempt to defend these thugs only proved their guilt. The interior minister, for example, said that the religious police were only there to make sure that the girls were not subjected to any “mistreatment” outside the school – which they sure were, by not letting them out!
If this barbaric incident had happened in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, we would certainly see endless reports about it in the U.S. media. Happening in Saudi Arabia, however, it was largely ignored by the media. Just like the U.S. media have remained silent about the fact that the Taliban’s oppressive policies against women were carbon copies of those from Saudi Arabia, one of the Taliban’s main sponsors.
Saudi Arabia does not allow women to drive, work, vote, appear in public by themselves or without being covered head to toe. The Bush administration, this “liberator of Afghan women,” and administrations before it not only haven’t subjected the Saudi rulers to the slightest criticism, they have praised them as “good friends and allies.” And the U.S. has consistently used them as middlemen to sponsor other backward, oppressive forces such as they once did with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, and as they now do with the Afghan warlords.
The tragic school fire in Saudi Arabia not only indicts that country’s medieval regime, it also shows the blatant hypocrisy of those who claim to be the torch bearers of “freedom and democracy” in today’s world.