10/25/2011 09:16 EDT | Updated 12/25/2011 05:12 EST

Care About Women's Rights? Support Ethical Oil


In an article a few weeks ago, so-called "social justice organizer" Maryam Drangi is bothered by the fact that is doing something that women's rights organizations in Canada are failing to do: stand up for the rights of oppressed women in conflict oil regimes Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Last month we ran an ad educating Canadian consumers about the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia and the role played by Saudi oil exports in enabling this atrocious oppression. Women in this oil-rich kingdom aren't allowed the drive, aren't allowed to have a job without the permission of their 'master,' and their testimony in court is worth only half that of a man's. Saudi women can't leave the house into the desert heat unless they're fully covered head to toe in thick drapes of fabric. Women in Saudi Arabia can be stoned to death for the 'crime' of adultery, which means burying up to their shoulders and then having rocks thrown at them till they die from head injuries.

Being raped is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a Saudi woman since it often leads to punishment of the victim. In 2007 a Saudi rape victim was brutally sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail. It's no wonder that Saudi Arabia was even recently named one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman by a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey.

Saudi Arabia isn't the only conflict oil regime where being woman is practically a crime. In Iran, an actress named Marzieh Vafamehr was recently sentenced to 90 lashes for the alleged crime of playing a role in a film that the Iranian regime didn't like.

How does the treatment of women in these conflict oil regimes compare to Canada? Well, it is hardly worth the comparison. The most powerful politician in Alberta is a woman: newly-minted Premier Alison Redford. The mayor of Fort McMurray is a woman named Melissa Blake and there are lots of women working in lucrative trades in Fort McMurray. In Canada, women are doctors, lawyers, leaders and entrepreneurs. The majority of university graduates in Canada are women.

Let's face it, Canada is without a doubt one of the best places in the world to be a woman. To dispute this, like Drangi does, is not only ludicrous but it is also a slap in the face to the many women who suffer very real and bloody gender based oppression and abuse in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a woman, I feel fortunate to live in a place like Canada, where my rights are respected and I am free to work and live in a democratic, peaceful environment.

So where are the women's rights groups and human rights advocates speaking out against the terrible oppression of women in Saudi Arabia and Iran? And where were they when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia tried to censor our Ad that exposed the sad plight of Saudi women? They're busy protesting ethical oil from Canada, like the organization Canadian Voices of Women for Peace.

Every barrel of conflict oil from places like Saudi Arabia and Iran goes to fund medieval, bloody regimes that oppress women and treat them like property. Care about women's rights and social justice? Then support ethical oil from places like Canada, where the highest standards of human rights and equality are upheld.