Monday, October 13, 2014

Saudi women launch fresh push for right to drive

The Saudi English language daily, Saudi Gazette writes about the revived driving campaign on October 13, 2014. A link to the story is here,  text below.

RIYADH — A group of Saudi women launched a new campaign to be allowed to drive their cars, Al-Hayat daily reported.

The new campaign, called “I Drive by Myself”, reiterates the women’s calls for freedom of movement and transportation without having to resort to private drivers.

Dr. Hala Al-Dawsari, member of the campaign, told Al-Hayat daily the constant campaigns launched by women will eventually lead to two things: either authorities lift the ban imposed on women who want to drive or they should provide a good explanation why women are not allowed to get behind the wheel.

“All active women want one thing: free movement without any cost or social restrictions,” Al-Dawsari said.

There is no written law that explicitly and clearly states that women cannot drive.

Saudi law requires citizens to have valid driver’s licenses when operating a vehicle inside the country. However, women cannot obtain driving licenses, making it difficult for them to drive on the road because they will be breaking the law.

Al-Dawsari presented a working paper about women driving at the Council of Human Rights in Geneva this month. She launched a campaign encouraging people to participate in the issue and document their demands in a bulletin that will be issued on Oct. 26.

The campaign, launched a week ago, has so far attracted 30,000 supporters, Al-Dawsari said, adding that only Saudi women can end the ban imposed on them.

“Women driving is a legitimate right all over the world and there are no logical reasons why they should not be allowed to drive,” she said. The issue is still heavily debated in Saudi society.

Women have been working hard to lift the ban on driving while religious scholars still oppose the idea vehemently.

The voices calling for allowing women to drive increased when June 17, 2011 was set as the date when women would drive their cars on the street.

However, they had to push the date to June 29 following the death of then Crown Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz. In commemoration of the June campaign, a group of women and men have called on authorities to reconsider this issue, stressing that they will not violate laws or cause any trouble to authorities.

They agreed that all they need is to allow a woman who lives alone and does not have a man to help her to drive to the market and buy her stuff herself.

The Queens of Saudi Arabia Need to Drive - Blue Abaya

October 13, 2014 - a blog post on Blue Abaya. It may be blocked on the internet, so I just posted it here. A link to the blog post is here. Text below.

Attention Blue Abaya readers all over the world! I’m going to go ahead and post this, despite the chances that Blue Abaya website will be blocked by the “Magic Internet Fairy” in Saudi Arabia, who absolutely detests seeing anything related to the Saudi Women Driving Campaign. I guess he’s the “Our women are Queens, the Most Precious Pearls, who we pamper with drivers and want to protect from the dangerous traffic and bad drivers out there” -type of guy.

Why? Because that’s just how I roll. I can’t stay silent if I see blatant human right’s violations or any kind of injustice or discrimination based on race, religion or as in this case, gender. I’m also not the type to bury my head in the sand dunes whenever something goes wrong or gets too complicated.
And who am I kidding here? The women (not) driving issue is one of the most, if not THE most debilitating, humiliating, oppressing and life quality-diminishing aspect of living as a female in Saudi Arabia. So this is personal, ya’ll.

And I know I’m not alone. There are thousands of men and women, Saudi and non-Saudi residents, who are fed up and want change.

Really. Enough is enough. It’s 2014.
Women need to start driving yesterday. We need to take our kids to school. We need to go to work, meetings and doctors appointments.

We need to have this basic human right NOW.

We are tired of being forced to rely on the unreliable drivers. We are fed up with taxi drivers that treat us like dirt.

We are really sick and tired of the perverts that cohabit that tiny space with us, and we have no other choice of getting to where we NEED to go but to deal with it.

We are done dealing with drivers lying, yelling or cursing at us. Not picking up their phones or showing up, leaving us in trouble. How many women have been dumped in the middle of roads because the driver had a bad day? If we found the rare gem driver who actually knows AND follows the traffic rules, he for sure will not be following our directions or wishes. Why? Because knows he has that power over us. And he will take full advantage of it.

How many women have been stuck at home with a sick kid, waiting for a driver for what seems to be forever? Worse yet if there’s a medical emergency? The despair and feeling of complete helplessness is unfathomable.

Only women living in Saudi Arabia will know exactly how utterly frustrating it is, seeing that 14-year old boy driving a car right beside us, us sitting in a car in a which we would be fully licensed, capable and WILLING to drive, yet find ourselves hurdled in the backseat, behind the blackened windows, feeling almost as if we don’t even exist.

For crying out loud how does a male sexual organ license a person to drive?

Because a bee-nis is really the only defining factor for persons to be allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia.

It doesn’t matter if you’re underaged, heck even a kid.
No need for a driving license either. Everyone knows males were born licensed.
Driving skills? Who needs them if you’ve got the right chromosome! That means you have natural talent.

How about owning a car, valid international driver’s license and maybe even an exceptionally clean driving record? Nope ,they will not guarantee you can drive, if you lack that certain extra asset.

got penis? can drive.
How did it become Islamically acceptable anyway, that this unrelated male, basically a stranger, that doesn’t even share a common language with us, who doesn’t even have a valid driver’s license from his country of origin, let alone a local one, is driving us around, among thousands other unskilled drivers such as him?

How on earth did this become the ‘safest’ option?

Is this not totally absurd?

Is this how Queens are treated, really? 
If women in Saudi Arabia are treated like the Queens they say we are, then why are we, more often than not, spoken to and treated like children?

Queens have power. Queens are respected. A Queen’s word is the last word.

I have the feeling there are no real Queens in Saudi Arabia. Only Princesses, driven around in carriages, that’s all. The elite 5% of the princesses might be lucky to have a golden carriage and a knight in shining armor driving it, but the rest of us pheasants are stuck with the pumpkins and trolls.

And then we have these nay sayers, telling us that allowing women to drive on the Saudi roads will cause problems such as, more cars on the roads, more traffic congestion.
Well here’s a simple math lesson for you:

Driver takes woman to work in the morning, drives car back home. Goes again in the afternoon to pick up woman from work, drives her home. In the evening driver takes woman to her parents house, goes back home. Comes late in the evening to pick up woman, drives her home again.

TOTAL= 8 car rides.

Woman drives to work in the morning. Drives home in afternoon. Drives to parents house. Stays a couple of hours, drives herself back home.

TOTAL= 4 car rides.

See? It’s actually the other way around, dummies!
And that’s just one hypothetical situation, it could be even more rides back and forth with the driver.
How about the type of guy I mentioned at the beginning of this post? That guy who wants to keep his jewels protected? He doesn’t want women to drive nor will he allow his female relatives to drive themselves because…
The Saudi roads are SO dangerous! How could she possibly drive among those crazy, bad drivers?

YES indeed! Those EXACT same crazy and/or unlicensed drivers and dangerous roads where she is currently riding on, in the passenger seat.

How the heck is that different? Same traffic, roads and same crazy drivers! Actually, if women were on the roads, I bet you they would be far less crazy, less congested and less ridden with accidents.
Whoever came up with this genius excuse deserves the Nobel prize for Illogicality.
If you believe that women in Saudi Arabia who want to drive (not everyone does, but so what), should have the CHOICE to do so IF they wish (nobody will be forced to drive), then there’s something you can do to help. 

#Oct26Driving campaign needs YOUR help! In addition to signing the petition, here’s what all you amazing, awesome people out there can do to help women finally get behind the wheel in KSA!!
“Please support the Oct 26 Saudi Women driving campaign by sending a video of yourself talking about the ban and calling for it to be lifted. Not more than a minute and to ask others to do the same. It can be in any language you like. And it should be about a minute or two long.”
Send them your support videos to this email:

Campaign site and petition here:

My dream is to one day be able to hop in the car with my kids and take them out to the desert to explore the beauty out there. My dream is feeling free and having a sense of security. My dream is to start living life to the fullest.

Desert treksPlease help the Queens of Saudi Arabia!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Saudi activists revive women's right-to-drive campaign

On October 9, 2014, this story was sent out from AFP, and here is the version from alArabiya. A link to the story is here,  and the text is printed below.

Female driver Azza al-Shmasani alights from her car after driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh June 22, 2011. (Reuters)
Activists in Saudi Arabia are revving up a right-to-drive campaign using social media in the kingdom, where women are faced with a de-facto ban from getting behind the wheel, a campaigner said on Thursday.

An online petition asking the Saudi government to “lift the ban on women driving” has attracted more than 2,400 signatures ahead of the campaign’s culmination on Oct. 26.

Activists are also encouraging to women to post pictures of themselves driving using a Twitter hashtag, as well as on Instagram and YouTube.

“We are trying to do something to refresh this demand” that women be allowed to drive,” one activist, Nasima al-Sada, told AFP.

“It doesn’t stop,” she said of the national campaign.

“We are asking the ladies to sit behind the wheel and take action” on October 26 “or any day”, Sada said from the kingdom’s Eastern Province.

Last year, activists also focused their demands on Oct. 26 -- which they call a “symbolic” date as part of efforts to press for women’s right to drive.

At least 16 Saudi women were fined for taking the wheel on Oct. 26 last year.

Forced to cover from head to toe, Saudi women still need permission from a male guardian to work and marry.
Last Update: Thursday, 9 October 2014 KSA 16:34 - GMT 13:34

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saudi human rights activist fined for driving herself to the hospital

Courtney Trenwith of filed the following report on 9/16/14. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.

A female member of Saudi Arabia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has reportedly been fined for driving herself to the hospital.

When police pulled her over, Aliyah Al Farid said she had a medical emergency and there was no one available to drive her to the hospital so she took her husband’s car.

The officers reportedly allowed her to continue driving. They followed her to the hospital and waited while she saw a doctor, before taking her to the traffic department where she was fined for driving without a licence.

Women are unable to get a driver’s licence in Saudi Arabia, despite there being no law against women driving.

Al Farid has been arrested for driving twice previously and has participated in campaigns to allow female drivers, but told Arabic daily Al Hayat on this occasion it was an emergency.

“I told the traffic officers that I had to drive because it was an emergency case,” she said.
“I didn’t do it on purpose and I’m not after fame or media hype. I was very sick and that was it.”

She said she also occasionally drove patients at her centre for persons with special needs when they urgent medical attention.

“We can’t leave an epileptic patient convulsing on the ground while waiting for our male driver to come and transport him to hospital,” she said.

“I have to get behind the steering wheel and do it.”

Al Farid has refused to sign an undertaking not to drive again, citing the fact there is no law prohibiting women from driving; it has become a cultural custom routinely enforced by the unofficial religious police (haia).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Memoirs of a Saudi Ph.D. student: Convenience of owning a car

Article by Hatoon Kadi, a Saudi PhD student living in London. Appeared in the English daily the Arab News on September 15, 2014. Link to the story is here,  and the story is pasted below.

It has been nearly five months since I acquired my driving license. I felt like sharing my feelings with my readers at the risk of being declared repetitive. I know I have written so much on this issue and it might not be a big deal for thousands of women driving cars across the world. To me, however, it is a different experience altogether.

I can confidently claim that being able to drive has transformed my daily life.

It is true, however that in the UK you can live without a car giving the fact that the public transport system is excellent. Not only that it is more environment friendly. Having said that I would like to say if you have a family nothing beats the convenience of having your own vehicle. I remember the time when I did not have a car, I used to abandon social gathering, as I did not wish to drag sleepy boys off the train to the cab and then to our home. The situation used to get ugly when I had to drag grocery bags to my home. It really used to become an uphill task in every sense of the word, as my house is situation on a hill and buses don’t reach there.

I also remember running down the hill to catch the tram and then reach the tram to see it moving in front of us, which means waiting for the next one and be late for school, and needless to say that my sophisticated Ph.D. student prestige was always disturbed when the principle give that look of “you-clumsy-late-for-school-mother.”

But now I can easily say that I am liberated. I am in charge of my life and I have the freedom to move around. I can see that some readers might think that it is so naive to think that having a car is a liberating experience but for me it is truly a huge relieve and kind of liberation. I remember back in Saudi Arabia when relying completely on drivers or any male member of the family to move us around was the norm. I remember how women bought cars with their own money and then hand them to drivers who could be manipulative and dishonest and very unprofessional but we had to put up with it because it was our only means of moving around. Now each time I sit in the driver’s seat I cherish it and appreciate the convenience. I pray to God that the issue of women driving is resolved soon. It is really killing when you are expected to be successful in life and to contribute to the economy of the country but yet you are not allowed to move around.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Kuwaiti woman booked for driving in Saudi Arabia

Gulf News reports the following; a link to the story is here. Text below.

  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief
  • Published: 12:35 September 10, 2014

Manama: A Kuwaiti woman was fined and her car confiscated for five days after she was apprehended for driving in Saudi Arabia.

The woman, believed to be in her 40s, was spotted driving in Hafr Al Baten in the northern part of the country, with her husband as her passenger, local news site Sabq reported on Wednesday.
A traffic police patrol pulled the car over with the Kuwaiti licence plates and booked the woman for breaking the rules.

The police decided to impound the car for five days and asked the husband to sign a pledge not to allow his wife to drive again in the Saudi kingdom.

Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia even though there is no legal text that bans them from driving. However, women, if found driving, are pulled over by traffic police for doing so without a Saudi licence. They are allowed to go home after they sign a pledge not to drive again.

Attempts by women and their supporters to get permission to drive have become more intense lately, but the challenges in overcoming the stiff resistance of conservatives are proving singularly formidable.

Both camps have been using religious, economic and social arguments to support their positions.
Last year, a tweet by Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal in favour of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia sparked a heated debate on the local blogosphere.

“Allowing women to drive will result in saving at least 500,000 jobs held by foreign drivers and subsequent economic and social benefits for the nation,” Al Waleed posted on his Twitter account where he has hundreds of thousands of followers.

The business tycoon who insisted on the significance of reforms tweeted that the era of the “ostrich” was over and the era of “openness” has begun, in reference to the mythical ostriches that choose not to see problems by burying their head in the sand when confronted with difficulties.

The remarks by Prince Al Waleed have accentuated the arguments of the camp supporting the much anticipated breakthrough to allow women to drive in the socially conservative society.

The presence of thousands of male drivers to drive mainly Saudi women and girls has been regularly used by supporters of allowing women to drive to highlight negative social and economic problems.
The arguments have also been boosted by “grave concerns” felt by several women when riding with taxi drivers.

The nomination of 30 women to the Consultative Council last year has bolstered hope that the issue of women driving will be taken up and possibly approved.

The de facto ban on women driving has been at times challenged by women, but they were accused of “stirring up public opinion”.

King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, who has stressed on reforms, particularly on women’s rights, since he became ruler in August 2005, has emphasised that “balanced modernisation compatible with Islamic values was a significant necessity”.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Facing Bumps on the Road

Excellent article by Sabria Jawhar on the reality of working Saudi women and transportation. You can link to the story in the August 7, 2014 Arab News here,  and the article is pasted in below.

One of the hard lessons Saudi women learn when they get a new job in the private sector is the attitude among employers. They are told: “you got a job, the rest is up to you.”

More plainly put, female employees are required to show up at work on time and leave at the appropriate hour at the end of the workday. If you must do work-related errands during business hours, then find your own transportation.

Educated women from well-to-do families and working at high-level jobs can live with these requirements. They have their own drivers. But for the rest of us, those middle-class women who can’t afford to sponsor a full-time driver or don’t have access to a full-time driving service, it’s almost impossible to reliably arrive to work on time and leave at a reasonable hour at the end of the day.

There are many private employers — and I have run into plenty — that may offer company drivers to female employees only to pull the rug from underneath them when the time comes to actually drive women around.

A common method among some employers is to insist that the female worker and the driver work out a schedule between themselves. Yet many drivers loathe the idea of driving women from their homes to work, and then pick them up at the end of the day. Worse, they often become unavailable during working hours. Their attitude is they drive female employees to and from work at their convenience and not the workers.

It’s never a matter of “I won’t drive you” but rather simply not answering the phone or claiming a scheduling conflict. Employers prefer not to get involved, so the transportation issues disintegrates into a cat-and-mouse game where women workers are reduced to using a male colleague’s mobile phone so her so-called driver will pick up the phone, or catch him napping in an empty office somewhere in the building and making an awkward face-to-face demand. This daily exercise becomes so exhausting that the idea of hailing a smelly cab from a street corner is easier.
(Full disclosure: My employer contracts a private limousine company to take me anywhere I want to go. I no longer endure the indignity of begging drivers for transportation.)

The attitude of drivers in Saudi Arabia has changed dramatically in the past decade. Drivers, who were once prompt, courteous and respectful to female passengers has evolved an attitude that shows they are doing women a favor by simply allowing them in the back seat of their car.

The Ministry of Labor has a pretty good handle on the dilemma faced by female workers. No one realistically believes that Saudi women will receive the right to drive a car in the near future. At the same time more women are entering the workforce only to find that lack of transportation is not only hindering their work performance, but also encouraging them to stay at home rather than find employment. This will eventually have a significant impact on the Kingdom’s economy.

To solve the problem, the Labor Ministry now requires employers to provide transportation to Saudi women workers. Al-Sayyda Khadija Bint Khuwailid Center, which is part of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), conducted a study that found that 48 percent of Saudi women workers employ private drivers while 26 percent use the men in their families to drive them to work. Only12 percent use taxis and just 4 percent of the women use private minibuses owned by their employers.

So about half of the female workforce is without reliable transportation since using a dad or brother to act, as a chauffeur is hardly considered reliable.

The Labor Ministry has managed to do a lot to get employers in line since its crackdown on undocumented workers last year. It has successfully integrated retail shops with women workers and continues to find ways to make it easier for Saudi women to get hired in the private sector.

Their program to require employers to provide transportation is a logical step to keep women in the workplace. Enforcement, however, remains a sticking point if employers continue to take a passive attitude by not requiring their drivers to be available. Still, the Labor Ministry over the past year has been consistent in its directives, and women just might see a positive change in how their employers handle their transportation issues.

Sabria's e-mail: