An image of a conference in Saudi Arabia on the topic of “women in society” – with not a single female present - has gone viral.
The picture features row upon row of men in traditional keffiyeh and white thobes. A single Westerner in a flannel shirt is the only person breaking up an otherwise uniform sea of what appear to be Arab men.
The conference on the subject of 'women in society' was notable for its lack of women
The conference was reportedly held at the University of Qassim and was apparently attended by representatives of 15 countries.
Much is being made of absurdity and hypocrisy of the image, but when you consider Saudi Arabia is a country where women are not permitted to drive, it seems less so.
Religious police in the Gulf Kingdom which is governed by Sharia Law only recently lifted a ban on females riding motorbikes and bicycles – as long as they wear the full-length veil and are accompanied by a male relative.
It is illegal for Saudi women to travel abroad without male accompaniment. They may only do so if their guardian agrees by signing a document know as a 'yellow sheet' at an airport or border crossing.
— Belinda Goldsmith (@BeeGoldsmith) February 4, 2015
— Andy Woolnough (@AndyWo) February 4, 2015
A flock of qualified voices "Saudi Arabia Holds All Male Women’s Rights Conference" http://t.co/n5tWQ0PI0F
— Farah Andrews (@FarahAndrews) February 4, 2015
In November 2012 it emerged women were being electronically monitored with authorities using SMS to track them and inform their husbands of their whereabouts.
And it was only in 2011 that women were given the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections in 2015.
There are no laws restricting the use of Muslim veils. But a London judge this week ordered a defendant on trial for witness intimidation to remove her niqab when testifying, so that he and the jury could see her as she answered questions. Judge Peter Murphy also called on the government to draft a law making it illegal for witnesses to cover their faces in court. A Muslim woman and girl sit in the shade in Burgess Park during an Eid celebration fun fair on August 8, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
In April 2011, France became the first European nation to ban the public use of veils, both face-covering niqabs and full-body burqas. A 2004 law also bans Muslim hijab headscarves and other prominent religious symbols from being worn in state schools, but does not apply in universities. A police woman carries out an identity check of a 'wife' wearing a full-face veil of French owner of a chain of butcher’s and grocery shops, Lies Hebbadj (C), outside the court of justice where she was to appear because she violated France's niqab ban, on November 21, 2011 in the French western city of Nantes. (FRANK PERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
Belgium followed France in banning the wearing of niqabs and burqas in public in July 2011. Stephanie Djato, a woman who was arrested yesterday for wearing a niqab and assaulting a police officer, in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek (Molenbeek-Saint-Jean), and a spokesman for the radical Islamist organization 'Sharia4Belgium' show a Niqab veil during a press conference, in Brussels, on June 1, 2012. (NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/Getty Images)
Since the 1970s Italian law has forbidden the covering of the face in public. Governments have repeatedly discussed extending the provision to impose special penalties on Muslim face coverings, but such laws are not enforced nationally. A young boy looks at a board on April 30, 2012 in Varallo, mentioning that the Burqa, Niqab and Burqini are not allowed in this city since January 2010, by communal decision. (OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Has no national law restricting the wearing of Muslim veils, but the federal constitutional court in 2003 ruled that state governments could impose such restrictions on school teachers. Half of Germany's 16 state governments today outlaw the wearing of both headscarves and veils by teachers. In 2011, Hesse became the first German state to forbid all civil servants to wear Muslim headscarves or veils. A veiled woman takes a photo of the Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in Munich, Southern Germany, on July 14, 2012. (PETER KNEFFEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Since 2010 more than a dozen cities passed laws outlawing the wearing of niqabs and burqas in public. But Spain's Supreme Court in February 2013 threw out these ordinances as unconstitutional. A woman wearing a hijab walks past Spanish police following a raid on a house of suspected members of an radical Islamic group in Malaga, southern Spain, 19 December 2005. (JOSE LUIS ROCA/AFP/Getty Images)
The country's previous center-right coalition had planned to ban the public donning of niqabs and burqas, but that bill was shelved in 2012 when the government collapsed and was replaced by left-wing rivals. A woman wearing a full-face veil known as niqab, pushes a baby stroller on snow-covered streets in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Monday Jan. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
In 2011 the government made it illegal for women to wear face-covering garments at citizenship ceremonies, because the judge must be able to see each person's face reciting their oath. In 2012 the Supreme Court issued a rare split decision on whether women could cover their faces on the witness stand; four judges said it depended on the circumstances, two said witnesses should never cover their face, and one said a Muslim witness should never be ordered to remove her veil. The provincial government of French-speaking Quebec this year has proposed a law that would outlaw all religious regalia – including Muslim scarves and veils, turbans, Jewish skullcaps and Christian crucifixes – from state buildings. Demonstrators take part in a protest against Quebec's proposed "values charter" in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on Saturday Sept. 14, 2013. The separatist Parti Quebecois government said the proposed law would forbid government workers from wearing religious headwear such as hijabs, turbans, and kippas and will be introduced for debate later in the year. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
America has no laws restricting the use of veils or headscarves because it conflicts with constitutional rights to freedom of speech. In 2009 President Barack Obama said in a Cairo speech directed at a Muslim audience that Western nations should "avoid dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear" because it reflected innate hostility to Islam. Women dressed in American flag burkas walk through the crowd during a rally on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building on September 12, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
Islamic-style headscarves and full robes are banned in schools and in government offices. A similar ban for university students was relaxed. Turkish demonstrators supporting ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi chant slogans during a pro-Morsi demonstration on July 14, 2013 in Istanbul. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Headscarves and full veils are banned from public buildings and schools. After the longtime president was ousted in a popular revolt in 2011, some Islamist protesters have demanded that the rules be relaxed. In this Jan.18, 2012 file photo, the four ultraconservative hunger striking women students of the Manouba Arts and Humanities raise one finger to mean "There is only one god" in an apartment outside the university, near Tunis, as classes and exams at Manouba University's humanities department have been put on hold by a sit-in demanding students be allowed to attend class in the conservative face veil, known as the Niqab. (AP Photo/Amine Landoulsi, File)
In 2011, Syrian President Bashar Assad reversed a decision that bans teachers from wearing the niqab. The move was seen as an attempt to appease religious conservatives in the Sunni majority as he faced down the uprising challenging his authoritarian rule. The government had banned the veil in July 2010. A female rebel fighter patrols a street in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on May 12, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images)