Freedom protests are sweeping through the entire Arab world these days, with exact demands differing from one country to another, according to the existing freedom threshold. In Saudi Arabia, freedom starts behind the wheel. Yes, behind the wheel, as women in Saudi Arabia are still not allowed to drive, yet alone have any other human rights.
The Saudi system is based on the ‘guardian’ system, which requires any Saudi woman to seek permission from its guardian (a close male relative – father, husband or brother) before she proceeds with most of her plans (social, travel or work). This shows how the woman is always assumed, that she does not know what’s right for her. Obviously on the car driving, not all women want to drive, but I can’t think of a reason why the women who want to drive, can’t drive.
The Saudi authorities and supporters of this ban, among other things, justify it by saying that it protects the woman from being harassed in the street by some men. The religious scholars justify it by saying that it removes genders mixing , which it brings temptation and evil!
For me, this is just denial of the problem, backed by the most backward argument I can hear in the 21st century. I suggest they ban the harassment from the idiots on the streets, and raise the threshold of freedom, which shall reduce the ‘temptation’ between the genders, if there is any. I don’t think that these morons on the streets are waiting for a woman to have a car, to harass her. I have not seen people jumping on each other, in other countries where women drive. Moreover, women get cheaper insurance in the west, as they do fewer accidents!
Although it’s not the first time, but some Saudi female activists are organising a campaign, calling for all Saudi women to drive their household cars on 17 June 2011. You can follow the action around this campaign on twitter @women2drive, with a registration form and other contact details here. I also recommend @noleel as another Saudi women-rights twitterer, tweeting about ‘her smiles within the males noise’. There are many other good tweeters too (you can follow me too! @zakyahya).
Allowing women to drive will ultimately lead the system to open up more, leading – on the long-term – to measures towards removing the society restrictions on women. Have you thought how are they going to drive if their faces are covered? Have you thought what jobs they can start if they can drive? All the neighbouring Islamic Gulf countries do not seem to have a problem with this issue, but Saudi Arabia regime is always leading the way in its backwardness.
To gain any rights, we have to acknowledge that there are humans first. I suggest, if you are a woman in Saudi Arabia, you pick up the keys on 17 Jun 2011, and go for a spin ! You will be helping your womankind a lot, assuming you know how to drive!