ARAB NEWS (Saudi) 28 July ’08:”Stalemate on ‘mahram’ condition
SUBJECT:King Abdullah scholarships to study abroad require females be
accompanied by male guardian at all times.
RIYADH: Manal Al-Quais, a 23-year-old Saudi, won a scholarship from the King
Abdullah Scholarship Program to study nursing in Canada. There’s only one
problem: She can’t find a close male relative to go with her for the entire
duration of the study . . .The Higher Education Ministry will not lift
the requirement that these students bring a guardian (a close male relative
or husband) in order to study abroad, while the governmental Human Rights
Commission (HRC) disagrees . …In a recommendation sent to the Council of
Ministers, the HRC argues that the permission of a guardian should suffice,
just as it is done for allowing women to travel unaccompanied.
… Higher Education Ministry will stick to the existing policy. Saudi women
who go abroad to study at their own expense are exempt from this
“Any woman student whose guardian leaves the country where she studies will
immediately lose financial support,” said Abdullah Al-Moussa, general
supervisor of scholarships at the Ministry of Higher Education.. . . The
way the government ensures that Saudi women receiving these scholarships
follow the requirements is simple: They don’t give the allowance money to
the woman, but rather directly to the (male) guardian whose passport is
submitted along with the prospective student during the application process.
“The complaints (on the policy of requiring “mahrams”(male guardians) to
accompany these young women) also come from parents,” said Al-Harithy(HRC).
“They object to the rules that prevent their daughters from studying abroad
when they have given their full approval for them to do so.”. . .With
approximately 30 percent of these scholarships going to women … there are
many families who can’t afford to send a male relative with them, or the
male relatives have their own lives and responsibilities that prevent them
from being able to take this time off.
According to media reports, the problem has even led some women to seek out
marriages of convenience with men willing to become “temporary husbands” and
therefore guardians of these women during their stay abroad.. . .