Ladies, Start Your Engines!

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, women are very limited to freedom. Their social and legal positions are very much differed from the men in the kingdom. For instance, women are banned to vote or be elected to any high political positions. They are not allowed to enter public places such as a mall, by themselves. They must cover from head to toe. Last but not least, ladies are banned to drive. These are just a few things that have tightened women’s freedom.

Women2Drive is a campaign that will start to take action on the 17th of June. This campaign is an initiative advocating the right for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. This campaign has caught the international communities attention.

But the question is, who has recently gave their support to this campaign, other than some people in Saudi Arabia? Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton is a very well known advocate for women’s equality. In the Associated Press, she told reporters at a State Department news conference, ‘‘what these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right but the effort belongs to them.’’

Since the start of the Arab Spring, there has been one or two persons that lead a revolution or in this case, a campaign. The uprisings in 2011 have had some women leading movements that fight for freedom and change.

For the Women2Drive campaign, women’s rights activist, Manal El-Sharif has been a key icon and inspiration for other women to start their engines. The 32 yr. old activist posted a video of herself driving with the help of Wajeha Al-Huwaider filming El-Sharif in her car. Later, this video was posted on Facebook and Youtube.

She was then detained and released on May 21st. The following day, she was rearrested, but later released on bail on May 30th. There was a catch though- she had to sign a contract of some sort, to promise not to drive again and to not talk with media after the release. Also, to be questioned whenever the Saudi authorities requests.

A women who lives in Saudi Arabia who was asked to be anonymous for specific reasons, is a huge supporter for this campaign. She states, ''I wholeheartedly support the Women2Drive movement. For so many years, Saudi women have watched as they have been stripped of more and more of their rights and the women to drive campaign is a call to end the disenfranchisement of women. Many people mistakenly think it is ''just'' about driving, and while driving IS a major issue for us here, the movement is about more than driving. With mobility we will slowly get freedom. It only starts with driving. The Women2Drive movement is an extension of other movements that call for absolute equality for women and men.''

I did ask her if the movement affected some people in Saudi Arabia. She stated, ''I'm sure it has. Many women cannot afford a chauffeur, contrary to popular belief. Recent statists put 40% of the Saudi population at living in poverty. Many houses now need to rely on two or three incomes. It is a necessity for women to be able to drive themselves to and from work. There are many who depend on taxis to commute (as there is no inner city transport - the buses are a safety hazard and women are not allowed on) and taxis are expensive.''

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been known for their religious police. The religious police are the government police force. They are given the same weight and more authority than police.

For those who don’t understand the way religious police work, she gives us insight on how they are positioned in Saudi Arabia. ”The religious police were put in place to control people and limit their freedoms. What is allowed and not allowed in Islamic Sharia laws is irrelevant to the Saudi government, as they often break their own rules. The religious police are a scare tactic. The authority they have over everyone is frightening, and those who don’t disagree with them feel that they are on some sort of moral high ground, so they are forced to obey them.” she says.

As I pay more and more attention to what is happening in Saudi Arabia from this campaign, some reactions differ. Most reactions are positive, while others say that women shouldn’t be driving because they are jewels and queens and should not be doing such a thing because they should be taken care of. I do, agree that women are precious-but they can be precious and have their rights!

The women who was asked to be anonymous replies with this statement of ”Women being queens.” She says, ”the women are queens argument is often used by brainwashed people and sexists. The ban has no basis in Islamic law, or in logic, for that matter.”

But it came to my senses that women driving is no where near breaking the Sharia law. Actually, there is nothing in the Sharia law that talk about women not being allowed to drive. In fact, in Islam, we are taught that men and women are equal.

Is Saudi Arabia really fulfilling the Islamic law? Or are they making their own rules? Seems to me, that Sharia laws has nothing to do with women not driving. Some may say so, but there is no real evidence in which it does. Their thinking most likely may be confused between cultural traditions rather than Sharia laws.


About Summer Nasser
Blogger, with Yemeni roots based in New York City. Student of Sociology (B.A.) with a focus on the country of Yemen. I would consider myself a student of knowledge.

4 Responses to Ladies, Start Your Engines!

  1. Bat-Zion Benjaminson says:

    Good work ladies! I feel proud of you. You are doing the right thing. Be strong.
    Driving is a lot of fun, don’t forget to put on some music when you drive and then go do something really high class and serious when you get to where you are going.
    Best of success!
    Your friend, a feminist in Israel

    • Well said(: I love how strong they are even if they know there will be consequences. They have so much support from all over the world. Best of luck! You have support from New York & Yemen!

  2. Woman Voter says:

    I think it is great that the younger generation is taking the mantle and continuing to work for their rights. The Women 2 Drive campaign started in the 90s and twenty years later they are still working at it, but the important thing is that they haven’t given up.

    Go Women2Drive GO!

  3. It is a really good campaign indeed. And in spite of the risks and consequences from such a campaign led by women, they have the strength and the willingness to fight for a simple right: driving. I would add as well that my western view obviously wonders how can such a powerful and well educated country be so slow in the evolution of women’s condition. But we all know that it is a long process regarding the respect of their historical customs…
    I also wrote two articles concerning Saudi Arabia on my blog:

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