"Oh, no you don't, you pants-wearing infidel."
OK, so those might not have been the exact words that Sudanese authorities used when they stopped a Sudanese woman from traveling abroad at the invitation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday. But Lubna Hussein was prevented from leaving the country, and wearing trousers was the reason.
In fact, Ms. Hussein faces 40 lashes if convicted in a month's time for dressing indecently (read: wearing pants that were deemed too tight).
Yes, you read that correctly. Forty lashes. For wearing trousers. That's a no-go zone for Arab Sudanese women living under Omar al-Bashir's Islamist regime, even if the prohibition is sporadically imposed. It's un-Islamic and degrading.
Hussein was arrested, along with 18 other women, on July 3 at a Khartoum restaurant after police burst in and checked women for their clothing.
Christian women from the country's south can wear pants, as can foreigners living in Sudan.
In fact, Hussein even had immunity from that law because of her job in the media department of United Nations Mission in Sudan. But she resigned from the UN job, indicating that she wants her trial to become a test case for women's rights in Sudan.
That's enough to anger the powers that be. But when you also try to travel abroad and tell the world your story, well, you're just asking to be blacklisted. And, according to Hussein, that's exactly what happened.
She said an airport official told her that her name had been put on a blacklist last Friday, the day she was invited to France by Mr. Sarkozy.
But she's not staying quiet.
"If the intent is to prevent me from speaking or censor my words ... they are then naive, because I can speak on the phone, through satellite, anytime," Hussein told the Associated Press news agency.
Here's hoping that remains the case, for her sake. Sudanese authorities don't mess around.
The Monitor knows that well.
How our reporter got the boot
Our contributor in Khartoum, Heba Aly, was summarily kicked out of the country a few months ago. Sudan says it was for immigration violations. But Ms. Aly says it was her investigating of Sudan's arms manufacturing industry that prompted agents from Sudan's national security agency to call her in for a hastily convened meeting at a restaurant in Sudan's capital.
"I was never given any written expulsion order, despite my repeated requests," says Aly, who had been detained twice before during her year in Sudan. "I was simply harassed, and was counseled by someone in government that if I did not leave, I would be arrested. I was followed, intimidated into leaving the country, and escorted by national security all the way onto the tarmac to board the airplane. The reason they gave me was that I was asking about arms. But they told me the line they would use publicly was that I didn't have my work papers."