Saudi Arabia: Will the Saudi Women Drive on 17 June?

nb:  Manal Al-Sherif has been released about 6 hours ago!  I have chosen not to change the post below which was written before Al-Sherif’s release although I (happily) did not predict her fate accurately.  Al-Sherif did issue a public apology and stated she would not attempt to drive again.   Issuing such words was likely a condition for her release (in my personal view).


The blog of Saudiwoman gives an excellent account and understanding on the plight of Saudi national Manal Al-Sherif and the impact resulting from her orchestrated plan that 17 June will be the day Saudi women go behind the wheel.  The initial campaign, initiated on a now defunct Facebook page, encouraged Saudi women who were in favor of gaining the right for women to drive in the Kingdom to peacefully start driving on 17 June.  These women were not planning a driving convoy by any means across the Kingdom but rather women would start driving themselves to conduct common errands such as transporting children to school or going grocery shopping.  As the campaign gained momentum some Saudi women, including Manal Al-Sherif, began driving ahead of the official date of 17 June.  Some of these women, including Manal Al-Sherif, posted videos on youtube of their epic journey on the public roadways.  Since her incarceration in a Saudi prison, the Saudi government applied leverage and Manal Al-Sherif’s video was removed from youtube.  However more videos of women driving in Saudi Arabia continue to appear on youtube in support of Manal Al-Sherif and for women to gain the right to drive.

The following video is of a woman driving in Jeddah during the daytime hours. She goes about her business without incident.

The next video is a young woman in Qatif.  She chose to take to the roadways under the cover of darkness. She drives for a longer duration than the first video but seems to carefully avoid well lit intersections and traffic lights.

However as Saudiwoman illustrates and explains so well on her blog Manal Al-Sherif’s initiative and the video which was taken while she drove has resounded with ripples just  like a stone being skipped across the water.  Some Sheiks and Imams are now speaking out in mosques and to newspapers about women driving and using their positions to influence men that women behind the wheel is evil and against Islam.

Will 17 June still be the day when Saudi women demonstrate their desire to have the right to drive?  Or will it be like the “Day of Rage” that never happened?  It seems to me that the strategy of the Saudi government is to keep Manal Al-Sherif imprisoned until 17 June has passed.  In the meantime the religious clerics have free rein to speak on the evils of Manal Al-Sherif and any women who would attempt to drive in the Kingdom.  They also address the honor and respect a family loses within the tribe and the society to consider or allow a female relative to drive.  Not all clerics oppose the right of women to drive and publicly voice support for Manal Al-Sherif.  However in my view the Saudi government is not going to allow or tolerate any attempts of women driving in the Kingdom.  On 17 June policeman and religious police will likely be out in large numbers prepared to apprehend any female seen behind the wheel of a vehicle.


32 Responses

  1. Strange, but in other Arab and muslim countries it is not against Islam for women to drive, and it never was. They have different “Islam” there or what?
    Although I am not driving, but I support the desire of Saudi women to drive. It could make everyone life so much easier and free the country of those low level pakistani, indian, sri lankan, bangladeshi beggars and liers, who we have to hire as drivers and entrust our and our children lives to them.

  2. Driving Is Not The Issue

    The arrest and interrogation of Manal Al-Shareef, an inexperienced advocate for Saudi women’s rights to be permitted to drive so they are able to take their children to school and save their lives in emergency situations, is not the reason for the Saudi authorities’ arbitrary invasion of her house and snatching her while sleeping with her child at 3 AM on May 21, 2011.

    The Saudi regime’s daunting fear is deeper than women getting behind the wheel. The theocratic and autocratic ruling Saudi men are scared that their captive population, male and female, might break away from the grinding fears through which the regime has been able to crush people’s aspirations, to treat them as less than human beings and to control every aspect of people’s lives for decades since the founding of the state in 1932 and historically for centuries before that.
    Like many human rights advocates before her, Ms. Al-Shareef will be severely physically abused and humiliated at the hands of the Saudi Interior Ministry’s hired mercenaries while in prison. This is done not only to silence her but also to send a message to anyone who dares question the Saudi regime’s absolute rule. Like her predecessors, she will come out of prison apologizing for crimes she never committed and praising the system for its wisdom and just governing practices. Welcome to Saudi Arabia in the twenty-first century.

  3. Well said Ali.
    Lada, I am NOT a Muslim but I have lived in Saudi Arabia for over 9 years. From my observations, yes, in Saudi, it is a VERY different Islam.

  4. @Lada,
    I certainly support women driving but do you have to make those racist remarks? I have a very respectable Pakistani driver, and I appreciate the work he does even if I don’t like the situation that is imposed on me. He is a safe driver, cares for my children and always tries to do what is needed without being intrusive. I have had less professional drivers in the past- but it isn’t right to slur whole ethnicities. Better to judge as individuals- better to criticise a system that forces us to take a chance on strangers. It isn’t their fault we hire them.

  5. “Will 17 June still be the day when Saudi women demonstrate their desire to have the right to drive? Or will it be like the “Day of Rage” that never happened?”

    Sorry for being a pessimist, but I think that the much publicized June 17 will be more or less like the much ballyhooed “day of rage”, which more or less never happened.

    Like Dr. Ali Alyami said so eloquently in his post:

    “Like many human rights advocates before her, Ms. Al-Shareef will be severely physically abused and humiliated at the hands of the Saudi Interior Ministry’s hired mercenaries while in prison. This is done not only to silence her but also to send a message to anyone who dares question the Saudi regime’s absolute rule”.

  6. She’s already out. And the whole time she’s been in ladies kept posting video’s of themselves driving around Saudi. I hope, HOPE that this Genie is out of the bottle. Because in addition to driving, it is a blow at the whole mahrem control system- which is of course why people are fighting so hard NOT to let women drive.

  7. It must be frustrating for a woman from Khobar to go across the bridge to Bahrain and see Arab women cab drivers. There is at least one as she drove my husband and I from the airport to our hotel. She was second in line at the airport. The taxi in front of us looked at our luggage and groaned but the lady driver behind him smiled and opened her door with the intent of helping so we bypassed #1 and hopped in her taxi. She was very proud of her big car and success at getting her license. She was also picking us up late in the evening. She told us her husband and family were very pleased by her determination and I’m thinking there might be other women taxi drivers in Bahrain as well.
    I will admit that we have seen some pretty bad women drivers in Bahrain as well as men so KSA doesn’t hold the championship cup on bad drivers.

  8. You know I’ve been thinking a bit about this topic and in my opinion I think these ladies are going about it all wrong.

    Given how the Saudi government frowns upon any sort of public demonstrations, I think the ladies post on Youtube and their Facebook page was their downfall.

    I believe it should have been kept out of the media and no Internet involved. Their meetings to organize this demonstration should have been clandestine and NO ONE should have driven before the set date. Then I believe they all should have just got in their cars as if it was the most normal thing in the world. As if they do it all the time.

    Yes, they would still have to face the consequences but at least this way the government would not have had so much time to plan and plot against them.

    Now their plans are ruined and they only have themselves to blame; partly at least. Sorry ladies if this sounds harsh. Excellent idea but very poor execution. 😦

  9. The internet was the only way to organize something like this. How on earth can you claudestinly (is that a word?) alert half the population? No other way than to broadcast this message out across the country. I do not blame the women AT ALL. OF COURSE some people may spend some time in jail. That’s how these things go. Ladies continue to post videos and GOOD FOR THEM!

  10. No, I disagree. What do you think people did before the Internet? They met secretly and still were able to shake their governments down.

    To just slap their FB page up and post videos was akin to flipping the Saudi government the middle finger and setting off the alarm bells to their plans. I’m not blaming the women per se, their government deserves a stiff wake up call but I still believe this could have been executed in a better way. Just sharing my opinion.

    I bet nothing will happen in June because they’ve spoiled their own plans. Manal drove too soon and the Internet may have helped but it also hindered. ;(

  11. WOMEN who CAN”T MOVE FREELY cannot communicate and MOTIVATE across their cities let alone across the county. Please SPECIFICALLY say how this nationwide thing could have been arranged without the internet.

  12. Firstly, I don’t understand why you’re yelling…using italics is a less defensive way of stressing particular words.

    Secondly, you do have a point…but I’ve always been fond of the expression ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. 😉 And by that I mean I’m sure there are many women who use their drivers to do things covertly.

    Obviously, I’m not expressing myself very well here. So to be clear: yes I am supportive of the women driving; yes the Internet has value and can be very effective in situations such as this however most women do have drivers and therefore they did have other options to organize this demonstration. And finally, as much as I support the women, Manal drove too soon.

    I hope this is clear now. This is just my opinion and I love that we have the blessing of free forums to share opinions with people around the world. 🙂

  13. Most women don’t have drivers. That is such a fallacy.

  14. ok i responded to u on another thread…

  15. Rosemary raises an interesting point for discussion…how could women communicate across Saudi Arabia without using the internet? And as Sandy points out, without the same ease which men can move freely about the Kingdom?

    Should there be local initiatives where women can spread the news by word of mouth? But then that raises the question whether the press is a bonus or hindrance to know of such an initiative?

  16. The US is a big country. Back in the early 20th century when our sisters there were fighting for the right to vote, there was no internet, no cell phones, shoot, many people didn’t have any kind of phone. Yet they managed to organize across the country. They met up at the grocery store and made plans. They wrote letters to their sisters in other cities, Now, using the post system here in Saudi is useless, so that idea would be out.
    Anyway, Roesmary has a point. There has been too much forenotice for June 17 to be much of anything except another June Friday.

  17. Those plans were not secret either. What’s the difference?

  18. so stupid, y are the arabs esp the saudis, so barbaric…they are forcing their tribal customs and cultures on the female species in the name of islam…no wonder our prophet had a hard time with them in every sphere of his life….they are really such a hard core character…basically idol worshippers….!!!!

  19. Shoura ready to discuss women driving if requested

  20. @aaa,

    Have you thought that may be your statement is racist?

    Also, have you thought that may be Islam is a religion based on a tribal culture to begin with and it did codify tribal social rules from 1400 years ago into its teaching? Thus you cannot get rid of this ancient tribal mentality as long as religious/shariia rules are applied….

  21. i can’t fathom what the shoura council has to discuss.. there are only 2 options…
    A> let them drive
    B. don’t let them drive….
    pick A or B , how long does that take?

  22. Sarah: “Shoura ready to discuss women driving if requested”.

    Hmmm. Sarah, don’t ya think it’s a “CONSPIRACY”
    between Saudi writer and columnist Abdullah Abdul Sattar Al-Alami and Shoura Council Chairman Abdullah Al-Asheikh and King Abdallah …. to not let women ever drive …. forever and never more :)-

  23. I’m not sure if all the recent media attention on the middle east will help or drown the womens cause. Yes, it’s a big issue for them- and yes, social media is a huge help when it comes to internal and external support, planning etc…. but with everything else that is going on in the region- it’s an issue that may be getting swamped among the others.

    The women (and supporting males[??]) need to ban together in an organized attempt to be taken seriously. Honestly, if the men who agree with this actually say so, -it’s sad to say- it may have a better chance of success.

  24. There have been continued articles in the Arab media about 17 June. I did read one which I think was in Arab news, written by a Saudi male, and was very supportive. I liked how he mentioned in the article a Saudi woman can be a cardiac surgeon and be trusted with an individual’s life but unable to drive a car.

  25. would it be better to increase awareness on ” driving safely ” first rather argue who has the right to drive? a lot of reckless drivers out there that needs to be re-educated. Road would be safer regardless who and what genre is on wheels.

  26. @jamilamimi,
    No. It would not be better. They are two separate issues. For decades they have not bothered to address either. All they need do is enforce the laws. I am still at risk as a passenger because of the dangerous driving.

  27. Sandy, good comment.
    Everybody always seems to forget that because women are not allowed to drive they are not on the roads. They are, only in the back of their car all alone with a foreign, often substandard novice driver male. I don’t see how that makes it safer for women.
    On the contrary, I would say it triples the risks.

  28. […] Sandy, on June 7, 2011 at 8:34 am said: […]

  29. YESS!!!!! There are reports of driving from all major cities. My son saw a woman driving in Jeddah- I know people who have driven- and I made a symbolic lap of support through my neighborhood. Please keep positive energy directed towards all these brave ladies and the men who support them!

  30. Good for you SANDY!! Seee? I TOLD you you were good to go! Tomorrow try going down to the Piggly Wiggly.

  31. Wonderful Sandy!!!!!!!!

  32. […] recently in May 2011, it was Manal Al Sherif, a Saudi mother, who initiated a Kingdom wide campaign encouraging women to have videos made while […]

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