Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saudi Arabia: Is June 17 the Beginning?

It was after 10 a.m when my husband woke me up. He said, "What is the date?" I looked at him puzzled. Then he said, "Come on. You've been talking about this and today you have forgotten?"  That was when I remembered that it was June 17, the day that women are supposed to start driving around cities in Saudi Arabia.

Very quickly, I jumped out of bed. I did one or two things in the bathroom, then rushed out of my home. What was I looking for? Women driving their cars? Or I wanted to drive too? Wait a minute! This is supposed to be Saudi women fighting for their rights, right? What about us expat women? We didn't come to break the law in Saudi Arabia, did we? We are just waiting for the moment that the authorities would say "Women can drive."

As I looked around, I could see many cars on the street. All male drivers. Gosh! Maybe it is not going to happen after all, I thought. Later in the evening, as I went out with my son, many families were going about their normal activities. All cars that I saw on the main streets were driven by men, including the one that my son and I were sitting in.

I was sure no woman had gotten behind the wheel until late at night when my husband found some articles online. He was so excited and he called me to read the articles with him. Oh my! About 40 women around the Kingdom had driven their cars. Just like me, he was excited and couldn't help laughing when he read lines talking about Maha Al-Qahtani's husband saying, "Slow down, don't change lanes, you are too fast. She is a good driver."

Even after the arrest of Manal AlSharif, some brave women out there like Maha Al-Qahtani, drove in the stricter Riyadh City. Here in Jeddah, none of my friends or colleagues reported seeing any woman driving, but Arab News mentioned a woman was caught and escorted home, while others were simply ignored by the police.

Didn't I hear women who dared drive had to be beaten by their male relatives? All the iqals that I saw on June 17 were calmly sitting on the men's heads. Did anyone get beaten because a woman sat behind the wheel? No reports too. Things seem to be normal right now.

Will June 17 be the beginning of women to start driving in Saudi Arabia? This is the question that lingers in our minds. We'll stay and watch what happens next.

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