Saudi Arabia does not issue driving licenses to women and if they already hold international licenses they are not accepted. Women are forced to hire drivers to take them to work or do the school run. The driver’s salary absorbs most of what their female clients earn. It has also been reported that often the drivers sexually harass the women they are driving.
Last month 7 women were arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia.
Manal al-Sharif the activist woman who posted a video of herself driving in Saudi on youtube was held in prison for 10 days, had to sign a pledge not to drive again and is banned from talking to the media.
But then again what do you expect from a country that does not allow women to leave the house without a male guardian and that still does not let women vote?
Last Friday around 50 women drove in Saudi – the authorities held back with further arrests and just issued tickets for driving without a Saudi license. This officially moderate reaction to the protests was of course a performance put on for the world’s media now keeping a close eye on human rights violations in Saudi.
On the Saudi tourism website the country Dubai is promoted as “A unique destination that is both a dynamic business centre and a tourist paradise, offering more attractions, shopping, fine dining and quality hotels.” Who gives a shit about shopping in “ultra modern shopping malls” or fine dining when as a woman I would not be allowed to drive to the restaurants or shops I want to visit? Saudi is not a “paradise” but living hell for women who do not have the freedom of unsupervised movement at all times.
Wake up Saudi Arabia, this is 2011 and to discriminate women and limit their human rights of freedom is no acceptable.
Maha al-Qahtani, the activist who shot that crucial youtube video of Manal al-Sharif driving says:
“It is our right. We have to have it!”
This is the original video that kicked up a storm:
here is more info on the issues: