I wish I had better news to report about Nazia Quazi, the 24-year-old Canadian woman who is trapped in Saudi Arabia because her father, an Indian citizen who lives in Riyadh, refuses to give her permission to leave. (You can read my column about her case here.)

Human Rights Watch has been advocating for her, and that is a mighty force on her side. Here’s their writeup of her case. But so far, the Canadian government has held back from intervening forcefully with the Saudis.

Why can’t Nazia just get on a plane and leave, as she would be able to do as a foreigner in just about any other country in the world? Although she is not a Saudi, Nazia falls under the misogynist laws of that country, in which a woman, no matter her age, is a legal minor, whose every move requires permission from a male relative, her mahram. Without her mahram’s go-ahead, a woman cannot , for example, work, travel, sign contracts, go to school, marry, or even be treated in a hospital. Nazia’s case is further complicated by the fact that her father confiscated all her documents, and without her knowledge, converted her tourist visa into a permanent one,with himself as sponsor. Under the Saudi system, that means he has to sign off on her departure.

Little by little, the media is picking up on Nazia’s story. On March 8, International Women’s Day, CBC’s Connect with Mark Kelley featured a terrific interview with Shahla Khan Salter of Muslims for Progressive Values Ottawa. Watch it here and then leave a comment here.

As Shahla makes clear, Nazia’s story is not about Islam or “Muslim values” or multiculturalism or a clash of civilizations or any of those other buzz words floating around. There are plenty of Muslims who support women’s rights. Nazia’s story is about men’s control of women, an unbelievably oppressive government, and Canada’s shameful failure to help one of its own citizens.

What can you do? If you’re Canadian, get involved in the HRW campaign. If you’re not, you can still write a polite note to the Foreign Secretary to express your concern and urge prompt action:

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Email: Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca

Also, you can write the Saudi ambassador to the US:

Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue
Washington, DC 20037

And to the Saudi Ambassador to Canada:

Mr. Asaad Al-Zuhair
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
99 Bank Street Suite 901, ,br/> Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1P 6B9

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