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Saudi Arabia was ranked as the Middle East’s best country for women. This is how people reacted

The ranking has drawn shock, scorn and sarcasm, as many online recall human rights abuses and discrimination in the kingdom
The ranking has caused many people to react on social media (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has been ranked as the Middle East’s best country for women, coming at 89th position globally, in a report released by a New York-based online business magazine.

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The article by CEO World, which has been widely shared, has drawn a range of reactions, many of which express surprise at the ranking.

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The report states that various factors are considered in the ranking, such as gender equality, the percentage of legislative seats held by women, sense of security, income equality, human rights, women's empowerment, inclusion in society, education and paid work.

The magazine ranks Sweden as the best country in the world for women and the Central African Republic as the worst, coming in at 156th place, based on a survey of 256,700 women around the world.

Oman was ranked as the second-best country in the Middle East for women, coming in at 91st position globally.

Many social media users have used the article to shed light on the number of female human rights activists who have been detained in the kingdom in recent years.

saudi human rights

Many prominent female activists remain behind bars in Saudi Arabia, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Nouf Abdelaziz, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Hatoon al-Fassi, Samar Badawi, Nassema al-Sadah, and Amal al-Harbi.

The report has left social media users guessing whether the ranking was a joke, with many people responding to the article with sarcastic comments.

saudi human rights

Saudi Arabia has come under considerable scrutiny from human rights organisations in recent years, particularly following the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen, which has been accused of carrying out unlawful air strikes and blockades.

saudi human rights

Saudi Arabia recognised the right of women to drive in 2017, finally issuing licences to women in 2018, making it the last country in the world to do so.

However, the move came amidst an intense crackdown on activists who campaigned for the change.

saudi human rights

Earlier this year, a Black Saudi female artist faced prosecution after posting a video of herself rapping about being from Mecca, which authorities claimed was “offensive” to the customs and traditions of the holy city.

The incident has caused many to question the Saudi government's tolerance of women expressing themselves in the kingdom.

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Human Rights Watch has previously called out Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women in the kingdom, citing the discriminatory male guardianship system which remains in place, despite reforms made in 2019 amid calls to abolish it altogether. 

Under this system, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian to marry, access healthcare, work or be discharged from prison. The reforms made it easier for women to obtain passports for travel without permission.

In recent years, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has attempted to implement a number of social reforms in Saudi Arabia, including creating an entertainment industry in the conservative kingdom. 

This has included inviting globally renowned artists like Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj to perform there - a first for the kingdom. Minaj, however, pulled out citing her support for the rights of women and the LGBT community.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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