Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Women behind the wheel in remote Asir areas

In a striking contrast to the drama unfolding with Manal al-Sharif in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Gazette carries a story today about how Saudi women have no trouble and find no resistance as they drive in the rural province of Asir in the southwest of the country. Rural areas in general seem to have accepted the practice of women driving.

The writer is Saeed al-Zahrani - from his name it sounds like he is from the Asir himself.

Women behind the wheel in remote Asir areas
It was a simple need to drive that motivated them to learn how to do so, not a desire to defy social norms and traffic laws, they said.
The needs of their families would at times compel them to drive beyond the countryside areas, either for shopping at town malls or getting treatment at hospitals, they said.
Rafah Al-Qahtani, a mother of eight, said she had to learn how to drive after her husband’s death and inherited the car from him.
She said she never felt discriminated against or alienated for being behind the wheel.
“Now I can go shopping on my own, trade at the animal stock market and take my kids wherever they need to go,” she said.
“I do what men can do now.”
Al-Qahtani said that if she did not learn how to drive, she would have been begging men for favors.
“Had I left my destiny in the hands of men, my kids would not have gone to school or even to the hospital,” she said.
“They were very young when their father passed away.”
Fatmah Al-Qahtani said she has refused to get married so she could devote herself to helping her aging parents and her young siblings.
She had to learn how to drive to help the family and uses her car to bring groceries to their remote house from nearby towns, take her parents for medical check-ups and take care of their farmland and animals – their only source of income.
Women are also driving in central Saudi Arabia because they have no alternative; these women have never been questioned by their people and some husbands have taught their wives to drive.
– Okaz/Saudi Gazette __

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