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SAUDI ARABIA: Woman opens fire on religious police officers

May 20, 2010 |  9:22 am

3051973752AP 

In an unprecedented outburst toward Saudi Arabia's religious police, a married woman shot at several officers in a patrol car after she was caught in an "illegal seclusion" with another man in the province of Ha'il on Tuesday.

"She shot at the officers to distract them and allow the man to escape instant detention," said Sheik Mutlak al Nabet, a spokesman for the religious police in Ha'il. He added that the unnamed woman's husband has filed an official report, asking for his wife to be punished and stripped of her Saudi nationality.

Saudi law forbids women to socialize with unrelated men or walk in public without a male guardian, other than her husband, father or brother. Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, known as the religious police, are tasked with segregating the sexes.

Saudi media report that the woman is Syria-born and recently obtained Saudi citizenship after living for years in the kingdom. Her male compatriot is still at large. The incident occurred only few days after the Saudi daily newspaper, Okaz, reported that a religious cop was taken to hospital with bruises after being punched by a woman in her 20s in the city of Al Mubarrazz.

The paper wrote that the young lady got violent with the officer after he asked her and man she was with at a public park to verify their relationship. Despite the possibility of facing imprisonment or lashing, the woman's fisticuffs was hailed by Saudi human rights activist Wajiha Huwaidar.

"People are so fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years," she said. "This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance."

The religious police, who patrol shopping malls to make sure women are fully veiled, are reviled in much of the nation. King Abdullah has attempted in recent years to weaken their grip in an overall effort to soften the nation's fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam.  

 -- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Saudi women are obliged to put on religiously proper clothing in the streets. Credit: Associated Press

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