Saudi Arabia: Her Bravery Led to a New Life

manal alsharif

patheos.com

 

 

She never sought out attention for herself.  She was a quiet individual but fiercely dedicated to what she believed in.  One of those beliefs was that women should not be controlled by the culture of Saudi Arabia.  She would be the first of the new generation to go out and drive.

If you have not figured it out already, this article is a tribute to Manal Al-Sharif.  Her choosing to drive back in 2011 in Khobar, Saudi Arabia kind of reminds me of the “shot that was heard around the world” during the American Revolutionary War.

Manal’s video of her driving went viral, she was apprehended by the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Muttawa), she got forced out of her job at Aramco and life has never been the same.

The first time Manal drove, in May 2011, there was little activity or stir.  She drove around Khobar by herself in her Cadillac SUV.  She was not detected or stopped. Yet when the video made of her driving was put up on youtube, it immediately went viral and her name and her daring act became known around the world.  She did not let that attention or the subsequent threats that followed phase her.

Instead, she decided to drive again and with passengers.  She, her brother, his wife and her child took a drive together with Manal again behind the wheel.  All was fine and calm until when stopped at a traffic light she was confronted by the Muttawa.  When Manal asked them outright what law had she broken she was informed while having not violated any legal law, she had violated Saudi custom.  Both she and her brother were apprehended.  Her brother was subsequently released but Manal remained in custody for more than a week until King Abdullah granted a plea made by her father to release her.  Her father promised the King his daughter would never attempt to drive in the Kingdom again.

After her bold actions and attention she was forced out of her job at Aramco.  Manal left Saudi Arabia and created a new life for herself in Dubai where she can legally drive whenever she wants with no worry of apprehension by the Muttawa.  However, Manal paid a price for her brave and historical actions.  She is a divorced woman with a young son.  Her former Saudi husband refuses to allow her son out of the country.  As a result, Manal will travel back to Saudi Arabia whenever she can on weekends to see and spend time with her son.

She has, however, found love again!  After moving to Dubai she eventually married a man from Brazil who was one of her co-workers when she worked at Aramco.  They are very happy and much in love.  Yet, ironically, in order to marry the new love in her life, she had to obtain permission from King Abdullah to marry a foreign man as she wanted her marriage to be legally recognized in Saudi Arabia.

New life old life road sign on background clouds and sunburst.

colourbox.com

 

 

Manal is a young woman from Makkah who came from a conservative but open-minded family.  She looks upon herself as a normal woman wanting to do things, such as driving, that a normal woman would do.  She has shown to the world over and over that she is a strong woman with a resolve of steel for what she believes in.

Manal Al-Sharif is without a doubt a trailblazer.  It may not be there now, but when all woman are legally able to drive in Saudi Arabia, and eventually they will, her name will be cited in the history books.  She is the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia.

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5 Responses

  1. Wow. Great story. I needed a little inspiration this morning, feeling that my routine has become just too mundane. Her story is how great things happen; ordinary people doing seemingly small acts that become extraordinary and and inspiration to others. I hope that more women in Saudi Arabia will stand up for their rights as Manal has. God has a plan for us all – sometimes we just don’t know what it is (while in the midst of our mundane routines).

  2. It takes great courage to do what she did.

  3. As an African-American of mixed heritage, it is always a matter of pride when others in various parts of the world are compared to Mrs Parks. However, one must note that Mrs Parks never once flee to Canada, Liberia, etc to enjoy relative freedoms/equalities there. She stayed put in her country and suffered pains and injustices like the rest of her race; she went to jails innumerable times btw.

    Another important thing to note is that Mrs Parks or Dr King or Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela would not have succeeded in their efforts if there was no “democratic parliamentary framework” (or a semblance of it) in place. Something to think about when it comes to KSA!

  4. While reading Manal’s story I was just thinking that I wouldn’t have compared her to Ms R. parks. As a Black person who was raised in the States way after the Civil Rights Movement I cannot claim what Ms. Parks went through, but refusing to give up her seat was just a beginning.
    She still is a pioneer in her own way.

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