Mixing Banned at Saudi Banks

Few weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine who works in the HQ of the Saudi Hollandi Bank when he told me that squads of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have been raiding his workplace lately. He said the commission were not happy about the mixed work environment there and demanded that the bank segregate men from women. At that time I thought the bank would ignore the commission’s calls because a) it is none of their business, and b) banks HQ’s have been mixed work places for years.

What do I know? Not a very long time after that incident, we read that an “unwritten” order to ban mixing of men and women was given to all banks. The order also demanded banks to allocate separate gates and elevators for women only. None of the local papers here reports the news, and AlArabiya.net which broke the story first do not mention who issued the order. So, as you can see, here we have an order that is unwritten and unattributed, and SAMA, which regulate banking in the country, is declining to comment. Female bank employees said the decision would negatively affect their careers.

I’m not shocked, that’s for sure, I have seen enough lunacy taking place in this land, but I got some questions: How on earth the banks are willing to comply to some unwritten order? How those affected by this can object to it? Why this applies to banks and other private sector businesses but not to Saudi Aramco, which is supposedly owned by the government? Can NSHR say and/or do something about this?

So much for promoting gender equality and empowering women

29 thoughts on “Mixing Banned at Saudi Banks

  1. First of all I want to give you some props for your awesome, well written blog…there is nothing like a first hand account form an avg Jane. IMHO.

    Anyway the reason I write, is believe it or not because of a cartoon called “American Dad”, this one episode (called Stan of Arabia btw) shows the family moving to Saudi and they go thru all the so-called stereotypes, for example, there is a martial arts fight scene between the wife of the American dad and his new Saudi wife about who gets to be thee first wife.
    Anyhow, from what I read about Saudi Arabia not only from your blog, but also from the news and conversations the cartoon is not too far from the truth.
    Some people posting comments (its on youtube) about it were very very abusive, denying fervently that in Saudi Arabia women had few rights and the usual tripe about Americans being ignorant and that we’re going to rot in hell.

    So, what’s the deal Saudi Jeans? according to your experiences, what kind of freedoms do women have in Saudi? Can they be completely detached from a male identity and live a normal life? Can they change religions, if Islam is not their cup of tea anymore?

    I’m asking you these questions, because in the wonderful world of the internet so many (as Im sure you know) people are denying the fact that so many women suffer and are treated as second class citizens.

    Take care of yourself and keep up the good job


  2. I know my last comment really didnt have to do anything w/ this article, but I had to get in touch somehow. (I know that souds a bit creepy, sorry :0p)

    Btw, this segregation mandate is ridiculous, but Im “Western” so what the hell do I know, right?

  3. it’s a big shame ..
    I hope it’s just an over inflated story and that it’s not true .. or shall i say i wish.
    I thought saudis are growing to accept and understand the mixed environment now specially in a professional setting and as far as I know there hasn’t been any big problems with Women working in banks, correct me if I’m wrong.

    this is some really sad news I hope it will change soon

  4. No wonder. It is always the same. When everybody is talking about change in Saudi Arabia reality shows its powerful face once and again.
    I am really sad to hear these news.

  5. TS, you should have used another way to contact me on this because I don’t respond to off-topic comments and usually I delete them. There are violations on human rights here and women are denied some of their rights, but not all women here view themselves as oppressed. But the picture is not completely black and luckily we have been moving forward in the past 2 or 3 years.

    SE, there are some problems with people who do not adhere to a professional work conduct and there could be some incidents of sexual harassment, but segregation is not the proper solution. The answer is education and raising awareness, and then if someone violated the rules then punishment should be serious so no one dares to repeat the offense.

  6. So why exactly do we get pissed when the west calls Saudi Arabai a backward country? I mean, if this is not going backward, I don’t know what is!!

    Men and Women mix together in Mecca on the most impostant day of the year.

  7. In general I’m very distrustful of the “scoops” made by Al Arabiya as they’ve been wrong again and again. However this story does have a ring of truth to it. Another thought that occured to me is that perhaps this is a rumor that has been issued to “test the waters”. Similar to what happened some time ago when the news of women being banned from praying in the courtyard of Makkah’s Holy Mosque, only to be dismissed as “rumor” after *weeks* of intense debate (yeah … just a false rumor … right).

  8. Great Blog, interesting to read a saudi’s own balanced perspective of his country after sifting through all the blah blogs that expats write about saudi. I feel confident for a progressive enlightened kingdom of Saudi with people like you, well done and be strong in your commitement to the truth.

  9. It is my belief that the issue of man and woman will never be solved full stop. It is universal, and both genders will never reach the end of the tunnel in regards to resolving their issues.

    However, a country can make their issue stand on the top of the list or a secondary one. I think we, in Saudi, are doing a great job of making their issue very crucial, and a: MUST SOLVE BY TONIGHT priority. Simply, there is no way around discussing their relationship to each other, and that on its own makes me wonder whether the government is purposefuly climaxing the situation by careful measures in order to use peoples’ voices as its own mouthpiece.

    Think about it, the conservative voices are mostly aging. They are a generation that suffers from isolation, war of ideologies, confusion of tradition with religion with personality disorders. In the isolation they grew in, it was magically possible to identify themselves and the outside world however way they like, and their word is final!

    The young generation on the other hand has grown with a large disconnect from tradition, sheikh “amens”, and thinking the world starts from Saudi and ends in it. A large number of youth who were readily aware of the outside world were sent on scholarship to experience the outside in a much deeper sense. They have already been exposed to multimedia, and can still convey their experiences to their friends backhome. They see multiple truths about everything and everybody on all channels of news, and politics. Then, comes a rule of banning “male female encounter” in banks?

    I mean, come on!

    Isn’t this just the perfect tease for the vast majority? Especially the young and outspoken?

  10. I don’t know why you always like to raid the commission of the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, didn’t you see what they did recently? check out this link

    or you just trying to follow their mistakes?

    you may don’t have any problem if you sister keeps working beside men, but unfortunately in this country there are jealous men who have their valuable values which came from their religion

    so please try to find more important topics to write about.

  11. Mlson, this post is not about the commission; it is about segregation in banks HQ’s. But as usual, the commission sympathizers tend to see things in a distorted way (and btw, your link is blocked). If I were just trying to follow their mistakes I would not simply point to this issue but rather to their recent involvement in the death to two men. If you don’t find my posts important, and I never said they were, then don’t waste your precious time reading and leaving comments on them, and please find yourself something else to read on this huge thing called the Web.

  12. walad
    where have u beeeeen?
    min zmaaaaaaaaaan 3nnk!!
    lol a3rf ino malu d55l fel post bss min zmaaaaaaaan 3nk!!!!

    bss 7bait agool hiiii o bss :)

  13. You should understand one thing about the CPVPV and the mindset of its staff. Their decisions are always reached in a non-structural way. Instead of having a broad view or strategy about their desired society, then, go from there to build detailed objectives or tactics, they simply go the other way round. So it’s pretty stressful to view their actions from the perspective of consistency because they are not!

    Unwritten orders to various Saudi entities are a common practice often done by the CPVPV. Although many of those entities know that they don’t need to comply with these nonobligatory orders from a legal point of view, they are forced to do anyways. Otherwise, they know that the CPVPV will make their lives a total hell.

    I believe that members of the royal family have contributed to this phenomenon by not drawing the line between what are the CPVPV’s areas of authority and what are not. They are more concerned with their public image since some citizens don’t separate between the CPVPV and Islam and, continuously, view any attack on the CPVPV as an attack on their religion.

    When the CPVPV was first incepted in 1980, the CPVPV’s areas of authority were confined to malls and stores, while today its specialties extend to cover the various aspects of the Saudi citizen life including, of course, raiding on banks!

    I just want to add one last comment. As far as I know, Islam has nothing against mixed gender environments. In a matter of fact, we see this “mix” every single day in malls, hospitals and restaurants. What is banned, from my understanding, is for a man to be alone with an alien woman without the presence of anyone else.

  14. The issue of segregations of females is minor as compared to issue of racial discrimination against South Asians. Saudi’s have it in their genes to discriminate against the middle class South Asians who, in my freaking honest, opinion have saved the ass of this country by migrating here in search of jobs and this initiated a growth boom. If this discrimination is not stopped it will lead to major crisis in the Arabian Peninsula, sooner or later. People, who once revered this country, are now trying to escape this country, not due to religious frenzy or lunacy, but due to their racial discrimination. I think I could not make it clear. Be it Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, each and every citizen of South Asia is in trouble, obviously except those in upper high class who have connections.

  15. Mlson,

    you toutch the root cause of the whole issue. the issue can be summerized as what you said

    “in this country there are jealous men who have their valuable values which came from their religion”

    i also want to that we (arabs and muslims) are hot blood. we can’t stand see our women besides other mens, even if those men are “angles” kind.

    my above “speech” doesn’t conflict with our aim for development for our country in all fields no matter for men or women, but with keeping in line with our valuable values. belive me we can do that!!

  16. i’m not shocked about the “”unwritten”” order thing !! The last thing in the world that “they” need now is OPENING another door for the liberals!!
    and about the ladies who said that “the decision will affect their careers negatively”!! is working with men makes them more creative and active?? i think this blabing doesn’t make any sense.

  17. Assalamualaikum. Wow elevator for women only. That would be fun. Is this not empowering women or what, top CEOs get their own elevator they’re empowered. Women get it & we’re the exact opposite? Ha ha…

    Anyway maybe Saudis know better the situation – I never had no mixing thing so I don’t know. Umm Adam seems to be doing fine in Saudi, so… Female converts in Saudi seems fascinating.

  18. According to todays ARABNEWS all bank HQ are to introduce segregated wrking environemtns for men and women, backwards yet again!

  19. Segregated environments are good. If Saudis did not have money to make everything separate for men and women then it would make sense to have a mixed work environment where excessive opposite sexes intermingling would not occur. But, since these ol Arabs got all the money from their oil, why not create completely segregated environment, following the Hadith of the Prophet. Its just a silly excuse made by women that in segregated environment we wont progress! It just points to another fact that the mentality of these women is such that they wont progress because they depend on men and thus want to intermingle with men. Enough with my philosophical dissection of the argument.
    In short, segregation of sexes is the best thing that could happen in this world.

  20. @ Paddy! how is it backward? What if I say that the mixing of the sexes is backward? Then? Notions, words, meanings, ethics, change over time. Nothing is absolute. Your comment was based on illogical thinking. How is segregation backward? Is not then executing Saddam Hussain by hanging backward? He could have been killed with that ‘Lethal Injection’. You little US loving pranks.

  21. Hmmm. Viscous, could you please refer me to the specific hadiith you have in mind? I mean, I can find a hadiith for anything if I set my mind to it. So don’t ever appeal to a hadiith unless you can give a specific, clear hadiith to explain yourself.

    And also, it better not have centuries of tafsiir and ijtihaad and istihsaan and istihsaal on top of it…please. Let it be a clear hadiit.

    Oh yeah, and check it your linkage (isnaad) please. Make sure that if you are going to screw up the working conditions of thousands of men and women today in KSA that you are absolutely sure that your isnaad is air tight.

    Waiting for your response, ayuha al mu3allim.

    Abu Daoud al harbi

  22. @ Abu Daud: How am I screwing the working conditions? Its Saudis, yes Saudi white-collar elephants who are screwing the life of thousands of immigrants. 3 of my relatives have NOT been fired but have been forced to resign from the banks where they have been working for 15-20 years! I am not just speaking for them, I am speaking for all of my South Asia brothers. I saw one video on youtube where some stupid typical saudi youngsters disgrace a Bengali’s respect by taking off his traditional dress called ‘lunghi’. You can search yourself by typing Saudi Pranks on youtube.
    My relatives have been forced to resign under the name of ‘saudization’. Foreigners helped this country reach where it is now and now they are firing the same ppl.

    Its inherent in the genes of Saudi’s that they will do mischief. Thats my personal experience after living in different cities of Saudi Arabia. From Riyadh to Al-Qasim. Same mischeivous mentality of these youngsters. If women are allowed to come on streets as workers then only God can save this country. Instead of progressing, whatever remains of this place will also go down.

    In my 18 years of life there, I have come across very very few mentally developed Saudi’s who know how to respect humanity.

    Now, here are you, trying to fight for removal of segregation, just to satisfy your lust to work with women. Rights of women can be given to them even by maintaining segregation. You guys are using ‘discrimination of women’ as a tool to remove segregation. You might say that segregation is discriminatory for women. No, most of the women would not want males to stare at their bosoms or bodies at workplace and would want their own space if it possible. Obviously, it is possible in a oil-producing country like KSA.
    Soon a time will come when you will say that women should remove Hijab because it interferes with their progress. Certainly rights of women should be given to them BUT this does not mean that segregation should be removed. This does not mean that women should pray side by side with men in the mosques. This does not mean that women should be allowed to drive in KSA because it will only lead to more accidents. These so called saudi youths will try to follow women, showing ‘stunts’ trying to impress them. In the end who will die? The normal lower middle class South Asian walking on the side of the road.


  23. Certainly, I would not have anything against women driving in KSA if the government ensures that it will do justice in punishing each human soul that commits act of indecency and kills someone in car accident while showing some ‘stunts’ to the opposite sex.

  24. viscous, you are going way off-topic. This post has nothing to do with discrimination against South Asians. Please stay on-topic or your comments will be deleted.

  25. I work in SABB and I would like to clear one thing, CPVPV did not – and can not – squad the banks and they are not allowd to enter any building belong to the banks, what they have done is they raised the issue of mixing to SAMA, they have also threatined sama that they will sue sama for breaking the “Ismalic Shariaa”, and sama squads the banks HQ and ordered the banks to ban the mixing.

  26. Thank you Viscous,

    But you didn’t give me a hadiith or answer any of my other questions. To be honest I’m just tired of hearing “it’s the sharii3a.” Whose sharii3a? Based on which collection of hadiith? How reliable is it?

    I see what you mean though about traddition. Trust me when I say I do think tradition is important and should be respected. But let us admit that ultimately we must worship God, not the sharii3a or culture or ahadiith or what have you.

    Salaam wa na3ma.

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