Sunday, June 19, 2011

Driving Recap and What's Next?

By all accounts, the June 17th drive-in was a success. Few if any arrests occurred. Many women documented their driving experience. The Saudi people themselves did not harass the women who were out driving. While there was international support that Saudi women could read, hear and see on-line, everyone seemed more interested in cheering Saudi women on from a distance than from demonstrating in their own countries. Yes, as has been repeated over and over again, the social media helped make it happen. And most interestingly, it allowed it to happen in a scattered, self-motivated and very organic way. Which, I believe, is the way the highest Saudi officials would want it. Rural women and women in certain gated communities (like large Aramco oil cities and the King Abdallah University of Science and Technology) do drive, and have been doing it for years. So this foray into public driving in the cities is a natural extension of something already taking place. The international news coverage was pitch-perfect, as far as I can tell, though I don't have a tv where I am now and am relying on the internet for news.

So now we've had a day or two to digest it all. The big question is, will women continue to drive, as was planned? Will they just go about their daily business behind the wheel, until the sight of a woman driver is no longer a big deal, is accepted, and the law follows?

In my opinion, the most important thing was that there were no reports of young Saudi males harassing female drivers, and that is part of a bigger thing, that there was, overall, respect on the road. And each family made its decision about the driving, themselves. To me, that's the true Saudi Arabia, and just maybe, it reflects the core of a moderate civil society. I think it's been there for a long time, just hidden.

So the eyes of the world are on you, Saudi women, and your families. We cheer you on, and wait for your next move. It must feel quite heady, with your hands on the wheel at last.

In the meantime, below are four media accounts from the west about last Friday.

NPR - National Public Radio's story by Ahmad Al-Omran. Excellent interviews with women and men involved. Link is here

PBS Newshour - interview with Saudi women's rights activits Hala al-Dosari and Michele Dunne, editor of the Arab Reform Bulletin.

ABC News - Diane Sawyer reports on the issue:

Last but not least, a link to Aljazeera too:
Saudi women drivers take the wheel on June 17 - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

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