Several years ago while administrating an international online chat program a woman in Saudi Arabia came to me in tears.
She was afraid she was about to be kicked off the program for a transgression (she wasn't but she didn't know that) and was extremely distraught.
I thought, why would anyone be so upset over being kicked off a chat program? But as I learned her story, I understood.
She told me she was was forced to marry her cousin and she'd been physically abused.
She claimed she couldn't leave the house without his permission. Could have no male friends. And few women friends.
Basically she was a prisoner in her own house.
And she told me how he had hurt her. She even defied the norms of cultural modesty to show me cigarette burns on her body.
So to her, the chat program I was administering was more than just a technology. For her it was freedom. It permitted her to go on line when her husband wasn't home and make friends around the world. It was her lifeline.
I, of course, assured her she was not in danger of being banned from the program. And there was no further contact from her after this brief encounter. Still, whenever the issue of women's rights comes up in Saudi Arabia, I think of her.
That's why I'm thinking of her today. And writing about her. As a story is breaking from Thailand. About an 18-year-old Saudi woman who, as of this posting, is barricaded in her hotel room. Refusing to leave. Because she doesn't want to go back to Saudi Arabia.
The subjugation of women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is nothing new. As recently as this past October 19 Filipinas working in Saudi Arabia were arrested for violating Sharia Law by attending a Halloween party.
Also in October, a Kenyan woman working in Saudi Arabia managed to release a video in which she tearfully pleads for rescue from the servitude and abuse she says she is suffering at the hands of her employers.
And about a month later, some charities claimed that women human right's activists were tortured in a Saudi prison.