Saudi Arabia, New Petition for Women driving

There is news that women in Saudi Arabia might be getting permission to drive soon.
Again.
A petition signed by 128 people has been lodged with the country’s consultative council, the Sharia Council. Sheik Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Shaikh, the council chairman, is set to discuss the proposal, according to the Gulf news.

However, one of the signatories to the petition, a Saudi journalist, Jamal Banoun said: ”It is strange that the Shoura Council has not received our petition. The matter could not have been hidden from the council as it has been reported in the media. I do not find an explanation to this strange situation except that the council desires to distance itself from the petition’s subject matter.
According to the Chairman of the Human Rights and Petitions Committee at the Shoura Council, Ibrahim Al-Shuddi, his committee has so far not received any petition on the issue. He added that the petition could have reached the council’s chairman and, if so, he will forward it to the committee in a few days. The petition mentions the fact that many Saudi women have already acquired international driving licenses and drive when abroad. There can be no justification for not allowing them to drive in their
own country.

Also, Bedouin women in the remoter areas of Saudi Arabia drive cars and trucks and have always done
so.

The petition also recommends women’s driving schools, women’s sections at Police Stations to deal with traffic violations committed by women, and campaigns to encourage motorists to respect women drivers.
The petitioners suggest “prison terms” and “high fines” to be instituted for any males who harass or annoy women as they drive.
That last bit is not unimportant: at this moment Saudi men will follow and harass any woman driving a car.
Some daring women dress up as men in order to drive their cars, for not only will women who drive be arrested, but they will be unmercifully hounded down and their lives endangered by Saudi men.

How a group of Saudi men can hunt down and harass a woman they consider fair game with no regard for her health or even her life, was seen on a you tube video last year. It showed what happened when an unfortunate woman was spotted driving a quad in the desert.

In an effort to find out for himself how Saudi men would react to a woman driving a male journalist, Saad Al Salim, decided to don the abaya and niqab (face veil) and drive his car through the streets of Riyadh. And although he considered himself lucky not to be arrested by the police or the dreaded Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, at the end of his three day experiment he found it a ”bitter experience”.
In his own words:
“I was not caught but it was a bitter experience from the beginning…as I started driving, my car came under attack by rocks and sharp objects,” he said. “These attacks did not stop as I drove from one area to another…at the end, I decided to take the gown off and drive back to office.”

On the second day he was harassed again:
“Seconds after I drove into the famous Tahlia street, many young men gathered around my car and started to harass me…some of them uttered obscene words and this prompted me to take the gown off immediately, causing a shock to the passers-by and the male drivers, who then pulled away peacefully.”

On the third day he drove his car outside the city, but was tailed by other cars immediately.
“I pushed down the accelerator but they kept tailing me and it was becoming more challenging and exciting…it was clear that all of them were determined to catch up with my car and know who I am,”
Salim said. In the end, I could not go on as the situation was becoming dangerous…so I took off my gown and waved for the drivers who suddenly stopped waving for me and put away their mobile phones which they were using to take a shot of me… After what happened on the third day, I decided to stop wearing a
female gown and drive in the streets…I just wanted to test public reaction to seeing women drive a car and how the society will accept this…I think what happened during these three days sums up the situation clearly.”

It certainly does.

So the male journalist couldn’t manage to keep on his female disguise for one day, every one of the three days he tried driving as a woman he was forced to abandon his abaya and niqab within a short time.
And he gave up trying anymore after three days!
In the light of this journalists experiences with the reactions of Saudi men towards a woman behind the wheel, is it probable that women can drive in Saudi Arabia? Even if the authorities would allow it?

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47 Responses

  1. How would the “Re-education of Saudi men” program work, exactly? Textbook classes? Lectures? Public whippings?

  2. It wouldn’t work

  3. Institutionalized Non-sectarian constitution and codified rule of law to protect people from each other and from the abuse of power by the state (ruling family) are the only way to guarantee all citizens their human and divine rights.

    Why is this not done? Because everyone will be treated equally under the rule of law which means the royals will be equal to the rest.

  4. This is very interesting. The title of your article really attracted me to read this… I didn’t know they were unable to drive. I’m very interested and will follow up on this… Thanks for sharing.

  5. In 1980, we Americans at the American Ladies of Jeddah were told that we would be driving in a matter of weeks.

    Like wearing seat belts and not littering on the streets, women will drive safely and peacefully when men are punished for their harassment. Just look at their sister countries of Dubai and Bahrain. Women taxi drivers do not have any problems there. WHY? Because of laws that protect them.

    The men that would complain the most here in Saudi would be the current drivers from Pakistan as they would be the first to go.

  6. You need to have number 2 and 3 put in place at the same time. You don’t need to re-educated Saudi men you need to have strict laws about behavior and those laws need to be enforced.

  7. It all depends on how many women take to the roads i guess, This journo was alone and hence preyed upon, usually the lotahrios run scared if the see a large group of women capable of causing trouble.

    SO if one fine day 25% of the traffic was women, what willthey do chase all of them, and if women help each other and drive a bit aggresively, i’m sure they’d lay off quickly, Plus there are a bunch of decent men in saudi who won’t stand for this nonsense..
    This guy makes it sound like tht place is filled with women humgry men… it’s actually just like any other 3rd world country, and once they see more women driving nd crashing into them they’ll go about minding their business.

  8. I feel that men and even some women may make problems initially because it may seem strange to them and they are not used to it. So in the beginning, female drivers will face problems. However as the commuinity get used to seeing women drive, the novelty will eventually wear off and it will be a common sight. We have to be brave enough to go through that teething phase.

    I guess women are always met with these kind if reactions from men – first women pilot, first one in parliament, first female austronaut, first woman tv presenter … etc… I think men just have to accept and get used to the fact that as long as women are within the boundaries of Islam, they should be given the same priviliges given to them. And of course women (and even men) should not abuse these priviliges.

  9. I have a problem with the term ”privilege”
    These aren’t ”privileges” they are our basic rights. In the broader sense, besides driving, human rights.

    Your human rights aren’t privileges, nobody has the ”right” to ”give” you these privileges (or take them away), they are ours, and they are ours by right.

    Only when a dictatorial suppressive ruler/religion comes along these rights, which should be our inalienable property, do they suddenly become ”privileges” which can be denied or granted.
    That is very wrong in every way.

    Even giving them a name like ”human rights”, having to put up a list specifying them, shows how sick the world really is. It should never have been necessary to do so.
    But as it is, we should also make very clear that human rights are not a privilege to be granted by a benificial tyrant.
    They are ours.
    Taking them away is a crime. Whoever takes our human rights away is bad.

  10. deleted by administrator

  11. Actually driving is a privilege. In most all countries, one must take a test to show proficiency after reaching a minimum age. With enough traffic violations, the privilege is revoked and must be earned back after paying fines.
    With that said, here in Saudi, the issue of women driving , or not, is about power and control and the men do not want to give that up. If the women in Saudi want to basic rights and respect, they will have to stand as one and take them back. The men nor the government will give them back.

  12. The driving license is a different thing from the right to be ”allowed” to try and get one in the first place. As well as the right to use your license to drive if you have one. That is or should not, be a privilege.

  13. Or ride a bycicle, or be out at all.

  14. I fail to see how harassing women drivers is within the bounds of Islam.

  15. I think the only answer to the poll is “All of the above”!

  16. I do not understand, why women want to drive here if they have a driver available? in’t it safer to seat and relax instead of paying attention to the road and drivers around? I prefer someone else takes the responcibility… I never drove in my life, I lived in US for 15 years and never drove. had no problem moving around – public transportation is good in US, here – taxis are good… So, why bother…

  17. @lada,
    You havn’t lived in Mi have you, if you don’t drive i see no possible way of getting to and from work/ kids to school/groceries etc., and Taxis are exhorbitant. Even if walking is an option the winters are brutal..

    and you’re right if i have a driver i wouldn’t try driving either, but what if you don’t and still want to live a reasonable life, or what if you don’t want to fork over your entire pay to the driver … No one will force women who don’t want to drive to drive 🙂

  18. Wendy, I agree! All of the above!

    Lada, And what about the women who cannot afford a driver? Or whose family cannot afford a driver?
    And what about the fact that many of these imported drivers are atrociously bad drivers? The women they drive being often way more capable drivers than the drivers? Isn’t that stupid?
    And who would want to be driven by an ignoramus, or even a stranger all the time? I would not.
    And if saudi is anything like America in set-up you are screwed without a car.
    Like Radha said.

    And what about the simple, sheer joy of driving?
    If you have never driven a car before you will not be able to understand how great it is to have a car! To drive a car! Your own car!

    I don’t think I can actually express in words how much I love my car! How grateful I am for owning a really great car! What a great feeling of freedom and possibilities you get when driving your car!
    I really love and adore my car!

    Some of my happiest hours, when I am not painting or riding my horse, are when behind the wheel in my lovely car, a full tank, an empty highway in moonlight, My cd-player playing my favorite music, and DRIVE!!!!!

    And I always drive towards a certain destination, but I could, if I wanted to, go somewhere else.. I could drive to Paris! Or Madrid! or Vienna! Or Moscow!
    Of course I can’t really, I have work and obligations, but somewhere in my mind is that lovely idea…
    I could just go on….

    And I am convinced that it is exactly because a car gives you this great feeling of freedom and independence which spurs the weak spineless cowardly Saudi men to take it away from ”their birds”.

  19. @Lada,
    Why is it safer if someone else drives? Is “someone else” a better, safer driver than a woman? You don’t have to be driving to die or be maimed or killed.
    So no. It isn’t safer.

    Also, if you have spent any amount of time in Saudi at all, you surely realize that only a small minority of women have drivers? So what are the rest of them to do?

    You may prefer someone else to take responsibility. And if your family supports you not growing up that’s fine. No one would be FORCED to drive. But why not let others drive?

  20. What exactly would you re-educate Saudi men about…that women are living breathing human beings that deserve to move about with a sense of safety and autonomy without SAUDI MEN endangering their lives or at the very least make women feel as if they are deserving of the treatment they get because God “cursed” them by being female in the first place?

    If I were a woman in Saudi…I would desire to drive of course…but not sure I would ever put my life in the hands of men who give it absolutely no value (car chases etc).

    If the fines etc are met the same way in Saudi as in Bahrain…then that will not be an effective deterrent…because Bahraini’s will not pay a fine or bill if not hard pressed to do so. A lot of them have astronomical electric bills believing the govt owes them free electricity anyhow…no amount of pressure and turning off the power makes them pay. The King just gets involved and tells the power company to turn it back on….soooo?

  21. I drive in Saudi within the confines of my compound. Many ladies do, Saudi’s and non-Saudi’s alike. I really do wish that women could drive in Saudi, it would really simplify life (taking the kids to school, doctor/dental appointments, going out to the malls, groceries or out to lunch). Like many have said, it is the freedom and convienance of driving that is so great.

  22. @ Radha
    I am from Magadan, Russia and lived in Alaska and know what winter looks like. Believe me, having a car and driving yourself does not help when it snowes heavily, or black ice on the road.
    @ Aafke Art
    Yeah, those who can not afford a driver, probably would not be able to afford a car either…
    @ Sandy
    I am in Riyadh for 2 years now. Believe me, it is better here when someone else drives. At least I feel safer for me and my child.

  23. Aafke, It is also our basic right to defend ourself but not all can walk around with guns. There are certain rules. Driving also has certain rules. Women should be given the same privileges as men within those same rules.

    I love driving too, especially when it is raining!

  24. @ Lada,
    first of all, u dont need to understand why some women want to drive as we r all different..
    in my opinion, this article is more about giving a right for women to drive but not driving itself as long as each women can decide later whether to drive or not..dont u agree that women deserve to be given right to acquired driving licenses and drive if they want to?
    ‘in’t it safer to seat and relax instead of paying attention to the road and drivers around?’
    in this case, why not to ban driving for men as well, allowing each person to be droven by a driver only?

  25. Lada, To be safer when somebody else drives is completely dependent on the parties involved. As you cannot drive at all you would be safer with another person to drive you.
    But I am an excelled and very experienced driver, and of course I would not be safer with some testosterone burdened male idot driving my car.

    A cheaper make second hand car would be affordable while a driver is not. We have been told often enough by those in the know that it is really only a small segment of Saudi society who can actually afford drivers.
    If a woman teacher has to fork over almost her whole income just for a driver then you have to conclude that driving herself would be infinitely cheaper.

    If you are really living in Riyad, then, considering your lifestyle, as your comments imply, your experiences are so limited you can have virtually no knowledge of the place where you live.
    Your comments bear that out as well.
    Btw, I wonder you choose for your identity here the brand of the cheapest, cruddiest car ever made.

    Sarah, you don’t need a gun to defend yourself, Simple martial arts training will get you a long way. There are several styles, like hapkido, especially designed for women and they are very effective.
    Against men.
    Unless men are very intelligent cool and well trained (very rare) they are easy to cope with for a well trained woman.
    An early start in martial arts training will do a woman 100 times more good than a mahram ever will.

    As far as driving, I agree, you should have traffic rules, but that should not include ”no women”.

  26. PS, I have already written about, and published the final solution to the problems of safe driving and men here:
    http://clouddragon.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/the-testicle-tension-tester/

    The device in question would ensure road safety in Saudi Arabia and the country would also grind to a complete halt if women were not allowed to drive.

  27. @ Aafke-Art
    My experiences here are not limited to those of yours…
    We can afford things you can only dream of… Having 1200 sq.m villa in Sulaymaniah, BMW 760Li, brand new Volvo XC 90 and a driver for me are just some of those little things…
    I love this lifestyle and my husband makes sure that I do not have to get up early in the morning to go to”prove” myself to the society or to whoever thinks it is not enough for a woman to take care of her family, husband and children.
    Regarding women here driving – it may not happen evere, because such a small amount of women would like to do it, and mostly expats.
    Same with wearing abaya and hijab…

  28. @Aafke-Art,
    her real name can be Lada so i feel like yr comment ‘the brand of the cheapest, cruddiest car ever made’ may sound not very nice..moreover, the lada as a car is russian trademark which (Russia) is her home country apparently so even though the car is not the best but i dought that it is either the worst in whole world..
    p.s i should search more about hapkido as i have been thinking on improving my fighting skills for a long time;)

  29. @Irina Merci for defending the trademark mark of Russia. Respect!!!

  30. Lada “Regarding women here driving – it may not happen evere, because such a small amount of women would like to do it, and mostly expats.
    Same with wearing abaya and hijab…”

    I would think you would have to get up pretty early in the morning in order to canvas the whole of Saudi asking all the women in Saudi their opinions about driving and wearing abaya and hijab. That was about the most generalized statement I have read on here yet.

    In case you haven’t got the gist of what is being said here…it’s NOT about driving…it’s NOT about wearing abayas and hijabs…it’s NOT about trying to compete with some feminist notion of “being a man”….but it is about having the same sort of rights as those same men you speak of. Of having the RIGHT to drive if she wishes…the RIGHT to wear or not wear that bit of clothing…the RIGHT to wake up in the morning with the understanding and satisfaction that she too…counts as a fully competent mature member of society able to decide for herself what she can and can’t do…without fear of harassment or reprisal.

    Not because YOU find life wonderful and burden free and have no wish to drive and do love wearing your abaya (I’m assuming) that does not mean all women there feel the same and therefore the issue is moot and finished.

    The worst oppressors of women….are other women.

  31. Lada,
    You are sooo out of touch with the reality of Saudi women. You are one of the privledged class who are blind to how everyone else is living. Most Saudi women are not living the princess life you are living in your gilded golden cage, with car and driver. Most don’t have a driver at all.

    I don’t know your faith but as a Muslim I’ve been taught to consider all members in the community as a whole not just making sure I have mine and to heck with everyone else. If only a few women drive than it shouldn’t be a big deal should it? But you’ll be surprised. Many Saudi women already have their licenses and are just waiting.

    You do a disservice to all the hard working Saudi women trying to support themselves or their family because no one else will do it- or because for whatever reason their menfolk can’t or need help. If you don’t realize the country is full of these decent hard-working women you need to pull your head out of the sand.

    Also, you have NO idea what Aafke may or may not dream about or what she may or may not have in terms of material goods (which seems is the most important thing to you). So how dare you make such judgements?

  32. @Coolred
    “The worst oppressors of women….are other women.”

    You are so right, and I will never understand why.

  33. @Aafke
    I LOVE the “Testicle Tension Tester”, only I would suggest 1 small modification… That the device continues to operate whilst he is driving and has an override shut-off switch to the engine, so that if testosterone levels rise during the drive – he’s walking home!!
    I too love to drive. It makes me feel like I have control over my life…
    Btw, I can’t help being reminded of the drawings of childbirth during the time of the Aztecs – the woman was given ropes to hold and the other end tied around the baby’s dad’s testicles. When labour pains hit she could let him know how she was feeling in a very direct way… Shared pain is halved pain, right?!

  34. Claire, trust me it does, it makes surprise checks, just a little pinch, just to see if the Testicle Tension hasn’t risen during driving.
    And it is always connected with the turn off switch….
    😈

    Irina and Lada, you don’t want to see what happens to the Lada if it crashes with a real car. However, I did use unfortunate words, because it was not meant to imply Lada personally, it was meant purely car-related.
    Russia has made better stuff than the Lada. I have a great vintage Zenith camera, and the Mig-29 was a brilliant fighter plane. Russians rock big time in my opinion.
    If I were Russian I’d call myself МиГ-29 on line.

    Irina, hapkido is a very subtle, very intelligent form of martial arts, you should definitely try it out! I personally prefer something more aggressive. More fun! But I have tried and have great respect for hapkido.

    So, Lada, you are very privileged and have a big house, big cars, a lazy lifestyle, and you enjoy it. Good for you!
    However, not every human has the same goals (or bankaccount) in life. As Sandy said, most Saudi women kive different lifestykles, and you don’t know my dreams for example or anybody else’s.

    My dreams are about riding a beautiful Arabian horse with the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair.
    Making beautiful artworks which gladden peoples hearts.
    Learning new things, gaining new accomplishments every year.
    Collecting books and antiques (you should see my house!)
    Driving my car on an empty highway, full speed and a heavy metal cd on the player.
    Going trekking or to weekends with my friends, talking and riding and enjoying the warm atmosphere of love and friendship and fun!
    Planting flowers in my garden and watching them bloom, and inviting friends for a barbecue and talking in the warm summer evening with candle light, Earl Grey tea and chocolates.

    These are the things I dream about.
    These are not a question of being ”affordable”: most of my dreams are the result of love, work and accomplishments. And free things like the wind and sunshine on your skin, the smell after rain, etc.
    Things to be acquired with lots of money alone do not feature greatly in my dreams…

    It seems we are both lucky and leading the life we dream of.

    It also explains your support for an inherently unequal system which is detrimental for the majority of Saudi women. You are one of the privileged few who actually benefit by it, it suits your dreams and aspirations.
    And so you don’t want it to change. You support this bad situation because for you yourself it pans out.
    You are fine, you lead the easy life, you have everything you want. Therefore you support the system.

    And to hell with everybody else?

  35. I certainly have never, ever, dreamed of owning a BMW or Volvo.
    And then not being able to drive it!!!!

    Maybe in a nightmare….

  36. @Aafke,
    It is a really strange feeling to buy a car you can’t drive. We are due to buy a new one- it will primarily be for my use and my DH keeps asking me what I want. But as considerate as he is, it feels like I’m buying a car for the driver, not me. Of course I care what we get and I appreciate it’s largely my choice- but it sure isn’t the same feeling as buying a car I will drive myself.

  37. What can I say? 😦

  38. @ Aafke -Art May your dreams come true, Inshaallah…
    The ones your mentioned in your list are reality for me, exept the driving on an empty highway. That is my reccuring nightmare…

  39. Women will not drive. They will stop anything which gives women independince and self esteem. No driving, no work. No making decicions for herself. not until the oil runs out. not until they are at the level of yemen and it is the only chance for survival.
    and maybe not then either..

  40. I wasn’t going to comment but happened to notice the art work! Wow, really forceful, or something.

    Obviously all those dead bodies are poor men who didn’t get out of the way of the wild woman behind in the blue bug.

  41. @Aafke-Art,
    to be honest, i dont want to be in any car when it crashes.. what i wanted to say is i dought that lada has chosen her name after a car..there is a clavic name Vladislava (Vlada or lada r shorten forms of it).
    it is out of topic of this post but u have deeper knowledge about russia then i expected which very pleases me of course..from my experience ppl usually know only about cold winters, fur hats, bears, vodka, (men – about beautiful women who often work in ‘certail fields’)

  42. sorry, i mean slavic name

  43. i think/know bragging about how much you have when you know it is more than what someone else has, shows people just how much you were really born with…uh uhmm

  44. i knew to drive & held driving licences in countries, before we moved to riyadh. Once there we could afford an exclusive car and driver for me and the kids. SO i was not stuck, but there were times when my spouse waws busy & driver was late, so what do i do. Sit @ home and wait, get riled uu and it was worse since i could drive, had a car yet i was stuck.. oh the irony, I have a few times called up my husband and yelled.. furious at saudi, I know so many women who drive in bahrain and hand over to a driver before they cross back, made me so angry at saudi..

    Even if onl 2 women want to drive they must be able to , this petition if passed , even if only 2 women take adv, it’s all worth it, therest can sit in their luxury cars and get driven around 🙂

    @lada, yes i know about snow and driving having lived in Mi and now in boston, and hate it, but driving in snow and ice is risky irrespective of if i’m driving or someone else is driving me, in case of a crash instead of just me dying, there’ll be me an dthe drive 🙂
    believe me i don’t think i can sit at home just because it’s snowing.. once or twice maybe after that it’s back to business and being int he medical profession, believe me you don’t want me to sit @ home where people are crashing all around you an drequire treatment….

  45. lada, as salaamu alaikum.

    you said that one who cannot afford a driver cannot afford a car. we have a car which my husband drives. if we could afford a driver he could drive the car that we already have, dropping my husband off at work and then returning to the house. it wouldn’t matter if we could afford another car or not. also, the cost of a driver is much more than the cost of a car. if you have a driver you have to have a place for him to live. and dwellings that have a room for a driver are usually very expensive. aside from the fact that we cannot afford a driver we do not want a non-mahram man to be that involved with our family.

    as to what you personally can afford, it is from Allah, not from you or your husband. be more humbly and graciously grateful for it or Allah may take it from you. if He doesn’t you will find that your wealth is not the blessing that it seems to be.

    regarding driving, i love it and try not to think about it too much or i’ll miss it. i remember when i first started driving, the feeling of being behind the wheel, able to chart my own course. i always chose a stick shift to drive and disdained automatics as merely steering, not actually driving. but the worst part about not being able to drive is not being able to take care of household needs and limiting or prohibiting access to education, employment, and medical care. really, do you think i should not be allowed to drive my son to the hospital when he’s having trouble breathing from an allergic reaction? rather, i have to wait for a man to drive us?

    wanting to drive does not mean that i do not want to wear abaya and niqab. that is what i wore when i lived in america where i could drive. i also believe that it is more than enough for me to stay at home with my 5 kids, homeschool them, clean our house, and cook healthy meals. all of that becomes much more possible if i can drive.

    i feel bad for my husband who has to work a full day and then come home and drive me around to take care of household stuff that i should be free to do during the day.

    don’t get me wrong; i do not suggest that you should HAVE to drive. please, continue to relax in the backseat. you will be much safer with women drivers on the road. one of the problems here is that when a man is driving he knows all the other drivers are men also and so lane changes and yielding etc become competitive. we would all be safer on the road if women could drive here.

  46. Women have no rights basically. It’s not just driving that’s the issue over there.

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