Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi Interior Ministry has sought to clarify incorrect information, following reports that 13 women were arrested during a raid on 19 terrorist cells, which Riyadh announced it had taken into custody last Friday.
Regarding the actual number of women who were arrested, Major General Mansour al-Turki, the Ministry of Interior spokesman, said: “The statement was clear in indicating that only one woman was amongst those arrested”. He added that there was no evidence of what is being referred to as female membership in terrorist cells. Major al-Turki confirmed that elements of al-Qaeda aim to use the ‘image of women’ more than they employ women themselves. This terrorist organization is seeking to manipulate the social status of women in Saudi society, without considering the potential consequences of such actions. Al-Turki added: “Elements of this deviant group take advantage of the appearance and status of women, rather than employing them in their activities. As for cases of women hiding al-Qaeda members, this does not necessarily mean that the women knew what these men were up to, including those who were tasked with hiding them. We have seen this scenario in the fight against terrorism, as well as against drugs and crime”.
A security spokesman speaking on behalf of the Interior Ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat that the role of women in al-Qaeda’s activities is limited to three areas: Firstly, the collection of donations, secondly spreading extremist ideology, and thirdly sheltering its members, having been fooled into thinking they are relatives. This information comes from cases dealt with by security services in Saudi Arabia.
These comments came following a statement issued by the Saudi Interior Ministry on Friday, announcing the arrest of around 149 individuals involved in deviant activities linked to terrorist cells. Amongst these individuals, one woman was arrested, as one of several people charged with using the internet to broadcast extremist propaganda. Major General Mansour al-Turki described the number of women with proven involvement in terrorist organizations as “very limited”. He pointed out that the Interior Ministry was keen to issue official data in all cases dealt with by Saudi security services, as a means of guaranteeing all figures, with regards to the numbers of women who have been arrested, and the reasons that led to their arrest. The majority of women who have been arrested in connection with terrorist organizations were married or widowed, with the exception of just one woman, who was unmarried.
As for the punishments that could be dealt to any woman with confirmed links with al-Qaeda, an Interior Ministry security spokesman said that punishments would be decided by the judiciary, which does not distinguish between men and women. However, he went on to say: “The security authorities are keen to release women, after their bail has been paid, and their subsequent whereabouts guaranteed, until investigations are completed, and the validity of the accusation is determined. He indicated that the woman who was arrested on suspicion of broadcasting extremism over the internet, amidst the latest discovery of terrorist cells last Friday, was handed over to her relatives after a review of her case.
From the first edition of ‘Voice of Jihad’ in 2003, a publication affiliated with al-Qaeda, until it ceased production following successive security raids, the female voice has been almost non-existent in the organization. This is with the exception of the magazine “al-Khansa”, which was run by “Umm Osama” (an Egyptian national). This magazine, until it ceased production, consistently called for women to support the Mujahideen in their missions, but only in terms of cooking for them, and providing material support. This [lack of a female voice] is why women in al-Qaeda appear on some websites under false names, and do not reveal who they are until their husbands are captured or killed.