Monday, May 9, 2011

Do Saudi Women Really Want to Drive?

Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Who doesn't know this? Both expatriate and some Saudi women want to drive. Some do not know this. Maybe you do, but do you know that some Saudi women drive in the rural areas? Is it fact or fiction?

I was surprised when I was told that Saudi women drive in this country. That was 2 years ago and a few months ago, I was told that women even drive in Riyadh, even though this is in a private zone meant only for women. Initially, I thought the need to drive was the cry of the expatriate women only. Many of them have driving licences obtained from their countries of origin, but have to put them aside when they get into the Kingdom.

The difficulties that we, expatriate women, face when it comes to moving around in this country is inexpressible. In the absence of our husbands, we have to hire private drivers. Besides the fact that these drivers charge a lot, they are usually not trustworthy. Many of them, irrespective of their nationality, seem to have lost their moral values and even do not fear to make indecent propositions regardless of the fact that a woman is married.

And what about our Saudi friends? It is easy to suppose that if their husbands cannot drive them around, then either a relative (brother, son, cousin or in-law) or the family driver will. Nope, this is not always the case. Sometimes they are left stranded like us and might be forced to use a taxi in order to go around. This does not work for all of them especially when their families are very strict. No relative to drive you around = no going anywhere. This has been very frustrating for many women, who over the years could no longer bear it and had to make their wishes known.

The number of Saudi women who are requesting to drive in the Kingdom is rising. Some are pretty contented with the fact that they are driven around. In fact, I remember a Saudi nursing student from a well-to-do family who said, "I do not know why these women from the West are critising us. We are very happy women who feel privileged to be well taken care of by our men. We have our luxury cars and have our drivers at our disposal. Stop poisoning our minds with your ideas. We do not need them." However, this is not the opinion shared by some Saudi women. One of the advocates is Wajeha Al Huwaider, a brave Saudi woman, who stood up to speak for her fellow country women. The video below was taken about 2 years ago by her sister-in-law, which shows Wajeha driving in a rural area in Saudi Arabia.

The New Internationalist Magazine interviewed Wajeha and she expressed her views regarding this more. Come to think of it, why are there so many issues surrounding the need for women to drive within the Kingdom? Is it merely a social issue or is there more to it? Hopefully, we shall soon get to the end of the road.

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