Saudi Arabia: Without a male escort, women ineligible for study scholarships abroad Print E-mail

 April 10, 2007




Saudi women hunt for husbands to win scholarships

RIYADH --  Thirteen Saudi women are looking to get married in a hurry so that they can qualify for a university scholarship to study outside the conservative Muslim kingdom, The Arab News reported Tuesday.

The Saudi-based daily said that the women wanted a mesfaar marriage - derived from the Arabic word for travel - specifically to able to apply for a state-funded scholarship program.

Women in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, cannot travel abroad without the written consent of a male guardian such as their husband, father, or brother.

To be eligible for the scholarship, Saudi women must be married or accompanied.

The group of women said that their close male relatives could not live with them abroad for the duration of their studies if they won the scholarship, the paper reported.

"After learning about the requirements that women students need to have a male guardian in order to go abroad, some friends and I decided to get married," a woman identified only as Zuleykha told the paper. "We announced that we were hoping to marry quickly in order to meet the deadline for our scholarship applications," she added.

Schoolteacher Safiya Ahmed said that she understood why some women decided to have mesfaar marriages.

"They help women students continue their education. The level of education in the kingdom is not exactly perfect," she said. "There are certain specialist fields that cannot be studied here so people end up going abroad."

Women in Saudi Arabia, which enforces a strict version of Islamic or Sharia law, are also not permitted to drive and are forced to cover from head to toe in public.