Tomorrow, thousands of Saudi women will defy the conservative kingdom’s ban on driving.
Their website (Women2Drive) has already been banned, and Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has issued a warning to all women caught driving tomorrow (or any day) as well as to their supporters. But despite the threats, thousands of Saudi women have vowed to get behind the wheel and drive.
It seems like such an obvious and ridiculous thing to say, but women should be ‘allowed’ to drive. Why? Because ‘allowing’ them to drive is the basic step towards fighting the social conditions that, were I to be a Saudi man, would permit me to tell a woman what she can or cannot do.
You know patriarchy and sexism are at their highest when a man of “science”, Saleh al-Lehaydan who is a psychological consultant (whatever that means) to the Gulf Psychological Association said the following:
“In addition, if the woman drove without a necessity this may affect her physiology negatively; in the science of functional physiology this issue has been studied and it affects the ovaries spontaneously, affects thrusting the pelvis upwards, thus we find that most of those who drive cars continuously deliver children with varying degrees of clinical dysfunction.”
Yes, their ovaries can be affected by men who would beat them, not by driving. His remarks sparked a massive online mockery campaign under the hashtag #قيادة_المرأة_تؤثر_على_المبايض_والحوض (women driving affects ovaries and pelvis).
But mister ‘science’ is not the only one with hilarious ‘arguments’. Shanar called those who are demanding for the right to ban “a tribe that has been breastfed by the West” who is “trying to Americanize our society”. And another has blamed the “secularists and the Shias”. Because, you know, whenever your authority is threatened it is always best to blame the West, the Secularists and the Shias.
“All violations will be dealt with — whether demonstrations or women driving. Not just on the 26th. Before and after At all times.” - Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki
The fact of the matter is that women will be allowed to drive. If not now, then in a few months or years. It’s just inevitable. There will come a time when the Al Saud family, their corrupt religious class and their religious police thugs would no longer be able to control every aspect of a woman’s life. The concept of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is far from reaching the level it should be at, namely full equality, in our day and age, it’s true. But we owe it to the brave women who are demanding for their rights to support them, fully and unequivocally.
“It took me a long, long time to break the chains that are inside me”, wrote Manal Al-Sharif. “All I did was ask for rights. I didn’t attack anyone. I didn’t harass anyone. I didn’t oppose the system or the country or the authority. All I said is, ‘Why can’t I drive?’
And indeed, why can’t she?
Global Voices organized an interesting chat with Saudi blogger Tamador Alyami, GV author Hadeel Mohammed, and GV MENA editor Amira Al Hussaini that I urge you all to watch.
Gallery of various images supporting the campaign
The Twitter hashtag #قيادة_26اكتوبر has allowed me to follow the situation in detail.
Amnesty International West Gulf team (covering Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar) has released over 4,000 photos of people supporting the right of Saudi Women to drive. Amnesty International as well as Human Rights Watch have both called for Saudi authorities to lift the ban.
Global Voices has been covering the campaign for quite some time:
Oct 2013 GV Face: Saudi Women Will Drive
Sep 2013 Saudi Clergyman Delivers Ground-breaking Science on Why Women Shouldn’t Drive
Sep 2013 October 26th: A Day for Defying Saudi Ban on Women Driving
Oct 2012 Saudi Arabia: Women2Drive Steps Up Tone; Blames Government Policies
Nov 2011 Saudi Arabia: Outrage Over 10 Lashes for Female Driver
Jun 2011 Saudi Arabia: Women Behind the Wheel
May 2011 Saudi Arabia: Woman Arrested for Driving
May 2011 Saudi Arabia: A Woman Challenges the Law by Driving in Jeddah
And finally, a TED talk by the lovely Manal Al-Sharif
Free Arab Channel’s “Driving For Change”
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