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Monday, 17 April, 2000, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Internet clampdown in Mecca
Saudi Internet graphic
Internet use has boomed in Saudi Arabia
The authorities in Mecca, in western Saudi Arabia, have shut down a women-only internet cafe for reasons of public morality.

The cafe, near Mecca University, was closed last week after a complaint was filed in court alleging that the cafe had been used for "immoral purposes", according to the English-language Arab News.

"What was uncovered was against both our religion and our traditions," said Brigadier Yousuf Matter of the civil police.

Great Mosque, Mecca
Mecca has a large Saudi and international student population

He gave no details as to what offence had actually been committed.

Internet use in Saudi Arabia has boomed in recent years, and internet cafes have become a popular place for young people to meet.

Brigadier Matter said that the court had also given him permission to close other internet cafes in the city.

The cafe was popular with postgraduates in the modern Aziziah suburb.

Restrictions

Mecca, Islam's holiest city, has a large Saudi and international student population that attends the university.

A regular customer at the cafe, Fowzayah Maqbool, said that the cafe had been misused, but did not elaborate.

"Now all of us have been barred from using the cafe," she said.

There are 100,000 registered internet users in Saudi Arabia.

Public internet access, through cafes and universities, is heavily restricted in terms of which websites can be viewed.

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