Victory For Women In Saudi Arabia – They Can Now Drive But …

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Nov 08 2014
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Good news – women are now allowed to drive (*tongue-in-cheek*). Of course we’re talking about the only country in the world that previously does not allow them to do so – Saudi Arabia. In a surprise move, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has recommended the country’s government lift the long-standing ban on women drivers, but the new perk comes with terms and conditions.


The permission is only for women above 30-years-old, and they cannot wear makeup behind the wheel. Additionally, they must be off the road by 8 p.m. Interestingly, the Shura Council’s recommendations were made in a secret, closed session held in the past month. It was reportedly the new flexibility had not been made public yet, but the good news has found its way to the public.

Saudi Arabia Women Drivers - Inside Car

While women below 30 are still barred from the road, those above 30 would be allowed to drive from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday through Wednesday and noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Thursday and Friday are the weekend. Nevertheless, they would need permission from a male relative – either a husband, father or brother. Within cities, they can drive without a male guardian in the car, but outside of cities, a male is required to be present.


Prior to the new proposition, women depend on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping, otherwise they have to pay US$300 to US$400 a month for a driver. The driving ban, which has been enforced for as long as one can remember, has long been supported by the kingdom’s ultraconservative Muslim clerics who claim “licentiousness” will spread if women are allowed to drive.

Saudi Arabia Women Drivers - Protester with Signboard

The 150-member Shura Council is appointed by the king, and for the first time, King Abdullah has appointed as many as 30 women members. The council said a “female traffic department” will have to be created so that a woman officer would deal with female drivers if their cars broke down or faced assaults. It recommended the female traffic officers be under the supervision of the “religious agencies.”


But what drove the Shura Council to such a decision, considering the stone-aged mentality of the kingdom? In the past, protests against the ban have been met with heavy penalties. For example, when the first major protest occurred in 1990, around 50 women took to the streets in cars. They were jailed for a day, had their passports confiscated and lost their jobs.

Saudi Arabia Women Drivers - Cartoon

In June 2011, about 40 women got behind the wheel in a protest sparked when a woman was arrested after posting a video of herself driving. One woman was later arrested and sentenced to 10 lashes, a penalty the king overturned. The latest campaign against the ban came last month when female activists drove around their neighbourhoods and posted video clips on social networking sites.


Saudi Arabia has no written law barring women from driving – only fatwas, or religious edicts, by senior clerics. So what gives that such a powerful Shura Council suddenly lost its tooth? In reality, the infamous Arab Spring – demonstrations, protests, riots, civil wars or whatever you wish to call it – that began on Dec 2010 is not dead yet. It had just taken a quiet rest, but the conservatives in the kingdom knew it could trigger another wave of uprising, if the government continues to suppress and oppress the young and educated.

Saudi Arabia Women Drivers - King Abdullah

Today, young and extremely brave Saudi women are driven more than ever to change their society. Like it or not, technology in the forms of smartphone and social media have change the mindset of netizens, no matter how ultra-conservative the kingdom is. Gone were the days when religious edicts were taken as if they were instruction from the God. You can only do so much to punish the women drivers, when the number of “rebels” were small in number.


However, when it hit the tipping point, it could attract tens of thousands of women to the street. And what would King Abdullah expect the police or the power hungry stone-aged Shura Council members do? Issue another fatwa telling the authorities to pepper spray and teargas the kingdom’s women? The government of Saudi Arabia has more to lose than the rebellious women, in case of an uprising.

Saudi Arabia Women Drivers - We Can Do It

Besides, what the women wanted are the rights to drive, a small request (or rather demand) which makes perfect sense at the current age. Hence, instead of showing off their egos and power, the Shura Council’s decision in allowing the Saudi women to drive, after centuries of discrimination, couldn’t come at a better time. Liberalism should be allowed according to the changes in time.


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A lot of people are claiming to represent God on earth. The condemn others in God’s name. They kill others in God’s name. They seize the property of those they kill in God’s name. They enjoy the property of those they kill in God’s name. They wake up, brushing their teeth thanking their God. They bathe thanking their God. They eat food thanking God. They enjoy themselves thanking God. They go to sleep thanking their God. Indeed God is great! Praise the Lord.

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