|On November 6, 1990, 47 Saudi women in Riyadh took the wheel of their family cars (most with their husband's or family's permission by the way) and drove across town, setting off a societal furor that still reverberates, two decades on. American blogger Lori, who lives in Saudi Arabia and writes about the Kingdom in her well-known blog, Sand Gets in my Eyes, has made this week 'Saudi Women Driving Week' on her blog. Visit there and you'll find some great links to stories and other blog entries. Here is the link to Sand Gets in my Eyes She took the time to 'chat' with me about the issue, from her point of view.|
Why are you doing Women Driving in Saudi Week on your blog?
The idea really came about because I felt it was important to remember - or more specifically to not forget - the 20th anniversary of the 47 "Drivers" who took to the roads of Riyadh back on November 6, 1990. Their was and remains an amazing story of courage and defiance, and quite honestly, I see them as the "grandmothers" of any women's movement there might be here in Kingdom.
At the time, remember, there was a Kingdom-wide media ban on the women and the event, so any information came almost exclusively through word-of-mouth and from the religious conservatives who vilified them from the mosques - gosh one even called for them to be beheaded! These were the days before Internet and satellite, and again, altho the story was told outside Saudi, inside was another matter. The end result, of course, was an information gap and an urban legend-like (mis)understanding of the women, the event and even the response. I thought the 20th anniversary week was a good time to rectify that situation. Plus I'm a sucker for a good story!
At the same time, of course, the issue of women driving is one that just keeps coming up here. It is truly Saudi's Sisyphus! Every few months there's another glimmer of hope promptly followed by disappointment. (I should add that altho some time is dedicated to those kinds of topics, this week is really about the start of things back in 1990.)
I have to say I'm not convinced change will come for the next 10-20 years with regard to this issue. The social and cultural implications of allowing women to drive are not insignificant, and I really believe small, incremental changes to the very fabric of Saudi society need to be made and then accepted by the masses before the reality of women driving can even be considered.
How do you think Saudi women will eventually be allowed to drive?
As for how it will come about, well I believe it has to start with trust. As a society, Saudi men and women have to start trusting one another to do the right thing, and I have no idea where that starts other than one man and one woman at a time!
Once trust is established, a lot of the other issues which I think stand in the way of women driving - segregation and guardianship, to name two of the big ones - will fall by the wayside and become non-issues. But as long as men and women believe the worst of each other ie that men will pounce on unescorted women, that unescorted women will tempt men, that women are incapable of making independent decisions, that personal responsibility is without merit, etc, the reality of women driving in Kingdom is impossible to achieve.
If you could drive in Saudi Arabia, what kind of car would you drive, and where would you go?
I'm on record as saying I don't think I would choose to drive regularly in Saudi, even given the right to do so. Out in the desert, sure; in my compound, of course - but beyond that, no thanks! There is too little respect for life, too much raw and unnecessary aggression and too few "sane" and self-disciplined drivers to make getting behind the wheel an attractive option - and that from someone who absolutely LOVES to drive anywhere else in the world! If I did drive in Saudi, however, I'd drive my Hummer. Big, Metal. Solid. Intimidating. Maneuverable. Safe, And did I mention Big? lol