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SAUDI ARABIA: Claiming Our Right to Drive

The group criticizes local media reports for spreading false stories of members being arrested and interrogated. They released a statement saying, “Such attempts by the press are aiming to scare public away from the idea. Little do they know our women fear none but Allah.”

Women driving openly in the streets will break barriers of fear that have prevented us from seeking rights in our society. The guardian law in Saudi Arabia states that a woman cannot obtain a passport, report a birth or death, or open a bank account alone. She must seek permission from her male guardian, who may even be her own son.

I remember how surreal it felt when I was asked for my dad's permission when I applied for a local university: In my family, we inform each other and seek each other’s permission for things—I don’t see the need for my father's official signature.

Along with the driving ban and guardian laws, Saudi women are seeking to reform laws that disadvantage us in the workplace. Recently the government announced new plans expected to create at least 70,000 new jobs for Saudi women; the Shura Council issued a well-timed statement saying women can participate in future, unscheduled municipal elections; and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud issued a decree that men will no longer work in lingerie shops, which could help create thousands of jobs for local women. Until the decree, women had to buy undergarments exclusively from men, often facing harassment. The moment has finally come when we no longer have to be embarrassed to buy our bras. But I am only cautiously optimistic. Women were given permission to work as cashiers in supermarkets only last year. Then, a few months ago, that permission was revoked. I will only believe in my country’s reform when I can see it and touch it.

Shifting Gears

My father taught me the basics of driving, and I continued studying on my own because I believed the wait would be over by the time I turned 19. I am now 21 and still waiting for the government to issue local licenses and open driving schools for women.

If I could drive, I would take my father to clinics and pharmacies to keep him from having to drive while in pain from bladder and kidney stones. I would drive my mom to work so she won’t have to spend half her salary on hired drivers. I would drive my sisters around so they won’t have to wait for their husbands. I would travel with my female friends to explore the natural beauty of my country.

Instead of filling women’s minds with fear of rape and harassment, and men’s minds with rage, scholars and policy makers should be promoting Saudi values of peace and security. Instead of warning women against violating the ban on driving, the interior ministry should be warning men against committing violence against women. Why do we always talk about foreign values taking over our country instead of propagating our own values when we most need them?

Saudi Arabia plays a vital economic and religious role that influences the perceptions of the world's one and a half billion Muslims. We are the only Muslim country that bans women from driving. I hope we will one day become unique for a different reason—for setting the example of women's rights and social development for other Arab and Muslim countries.

Comments

Sophie's picture

I feel you

When I heard this news in one of our local radio stations in Kenya, I simply went quiet, I could not comment since I could not start to comprehend! It is a pity that in this era women continue being subordinated sometimes to very deep extents. Keep up the struggle.

Sophie Ngugi
Child of the Universe -www.sophiengugi.blogspot.com

Farona's picture

Your support is precious !

I understand how outlandish it might sound. But my country is full of contrasts and contradictions. We have struggled for long - and still struggling. For many this is a non-issue, they say there are more important issues. But the right to mobility of women affects a lot of issue, I find all the issues affecting women are inter-related to this.

Appreciate your comments ! ;- )

Potter's picture

Drive on!

I've eagerly followed the news stories about the driving campaign in Saudi Arabia. One commentator noted that this was not a one day event, but the begininng of an on-going movement. I'm hopeful that momentum will build, that the movement will find success and be an impetus to open more doors for Saudi women. It is encouraging, (and inspiring) to see women organizing take on this issue, taking the wheel and speaking out boldly. Thank you so much for your article. Please keep posting updates!!!

Farona's picture

It’s definitely not a one-day

It’s definitely not a one-day event. More women have driven – more arrested. Women were not arrested on 17th but some were arrested the following days. The gov and the police must stop criminalizing the issue. Legally, the issue falls into grey area – so let it be! By arresting women they turn the whole thing into a crime, infesting fears. If they can’t make it a legal crime, they just declaring it a moral crime!

faadumo's picture

when i seen this news its

when i seen this news its very reality i en caurage women to study driver

Farona's picture

Yes, sister women must learn

Yes, sister women must learn to drive. But there are not local driving schools for women. Men can bribe and get a license even if have not passed the test, underage boys drive without license – no one thinks that’s a crime while women even learning to drive is seen as illegal. It’s a tragic.

usha kc's picture

Dear Farona thank you for

Dear Farona thank you for sharing this news. driveing by women is only the moral cirme!!! but till when we women shuld be such a criminal !!! go and fight for injustice. my best wishes to all of you Sister.
I salute all of your courage to fight against this shabbiness.

Farona's picture

Thanks Usha sis. Voices of

Thanks Usha sis. Voices of support from women across the world is what makes me smile and energetic. We are no longer sitting silently. Years of absurdity must come to an end. It might sound strange but yes, half of the country’s population is not allowed to drive. Local men trust foreign men with their women but do not have the courage and empathy to trust their women with a car.

Infact am hearing this for this 1st time ever in my life, that some women were stricted to do certain things (social) in a country like saudi arabia. I pity women a lot. Discrimination here are and there. Women are only used as instrument of domestic works and sexual pleasure. I agreed with the saudi arabian men, that women are made to be treasured, pampered and love but not to the extent of depriving them of some basic rights. It is a known fact that driving is a task on its own. Lets look at it from another angle, if a child suddenly develop temperature and need medical attention immediately, and no man to drive, dat means the mother cannot take the child to the nearest medical centre to save the child or a women in labour. ouch! truely we are in a men's world but this cant happen in my country.

"Local men trust foreign men with their women but do not have the courage and empathy to trust their women with a car" very gullible. a man that has been driving his family to and fro from age 22 up to age 55 and above, am sorry for such a man.

Its definitely not a-one-day affair, but the saudi arabians women must put a stop to it.

zoneziwoh's picture

Inspiring

This is inspiring dear sister. Reading through your story gives me hope abt women's struggle for equality.
I am very proud of the Saudi women. Actions should be our strength, hence.

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

facebook: Zoneziwoh

twitter: @ZoFem

Starland's picture

You go girl!

Besides the questions as to why women must be "less than" citizens of any country, I celebrate your efforts to step forward and climb into the drivers seat! I ride with you!

K-lee 3709

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

phasy's picture

Keep up

Keep up all the women acitivists other women who are struggling for their rights.
You will soon get whatever that you want.

Nezed's picture

What rubbish? All Saudi

What rubbish? All Saudi Arabian woman who wants to drive, must drive! Driving is not gift that the men folk can hand over to the women at their own whim and caprices... If we want it, we shall have it. One voice... Keep driving!

I do not aim for Perfection; Just excellence!

Osai's picture

Women Can Drive

Hello Farona,
Thanks for sharing. It is unbelievable in this day and age that a simple life skill like driving is restricted to men.

Please sign the petition to urge the Saudi King to pass the law/order/etc to enable women drive in Saudi Arabia: http://www.change.org/petitions/king-abdullah-grant-saudi-women-the-righ...

Thanks.

Best wishes,
Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

daisy's picture

Don't look back.

This news was really news for me. Even Driving? i thought to myself; How much denial and exclusion can women be subjected to. I am with you all the way.............DRIVE ALL THE WAY! Just wandering, don't women have a right to drive too just as the men do?

Valéria Barbosa da Silva's picture

Open paths.

Farona dear, your story inspires me. In my country, Brazil is a greater freedom, women run. I still do not drive because of not having a car or resources for the course. I have to keep my family and mother.

I'm 54 years and reading your story I felt that I must take the direction of my life and create the courage to start driving a vehicle.

Congratulations on your strength and that the women of your country will soon have released the right to move around the way you get better.

Brotherly hugs.
Valéria Barbosa

megha's picture

GO AHEAD YOU WILL CERTAINLY WIN

I am definitely sure that women will be allowed to drive in saudi arabia soon. It sounds quite ridiculous as well as funny because if women can carry children, manage their household as well as jobs and everything else then why not cars and other automobiles.

megha

Starland's picture

Keep on driving!

though far away, I will be with you in spirit while you are driving. I'll get in my car and drive with you!

K-lee

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

Huma's picture

HI Farona!

I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and it was so frustrating having to wait for my dad to drive me anywhere. I was utterly dependant and couldn't go anywhere on my own.

I respect these women for their guts and bravery! You have to stand up against injustice, and that takes courage. These women have courage, and I'm so proud of them.

It's not just about driving a car. It's about a woman's independence. Restricting us on the basis of gender is ridiculous!!

Thanks for sharing!
Stay strong,
Huma

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