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The New Arab

Saudi university 'illegally' checking female students' phones for messages from boys

Saudi Arabia recently lifted a block on Whatsapp calls [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 October, 2017

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A Saudi university spokesperson has denied the comments of a new female dean, who had said her department went through female students' phones 'for their safety'.

Female students are being forced to show their phones at a Saudi university to prove they are not texting young men, listening to music, or watching films, a university dean told a Saudi TV programme.

Young women face temporary suspension and other punishments if they do not comply with the rule at the al-Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, Moothi al-Debyan told the show.

The rule follows last week's landmark ruling by Education Minister Ahmad al-Issa to allow young women to bring their phones to school for the first time.

However, women found with music or films on their phones at universities face suspension and a phone-call home to their parents, Okaz reported.

The Saudi newspaper quoted Moothi al-Debyan, the new female dean, who confirmed her department looked through students' messaging apps.

"We do this to protect the girls and ensure their safety," Debyan said.

According to one legal expert, however, it is illegal to search anyone's belongings without a search warrant.

And despite a number of students reporting having had their phones checked, the university has since denied the practice.

University spokesperson, Ahmad al-Rakban, told MBC the dean's comments were taken out of context and the university did not actually check students' phones unless through the proper security route.

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