Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hiding behind wheel, another Riyadh woman hits the road

Excellent article in the 9/13/2011 Arab News by Walaa Hawari about a woman and her mother who admit to driving in Riyadh as an economic necessity. A link to the story is here and the text is below. 

Hiding behind wheel, another Riyadh woman hits the road

RIYADH: Hiding under a hooded shirt, another Saudi woman drove on King Fahd Road in Riyadh.
The woman, identified as Nora, was accompanied by her mother, who had expressed her despair of using taxis to move around in the city. Taking taxis exhausted her, the mother complained, adding that it exposed her to a number of problems, as she had no man in the house.
“My only daughter learned to drive when we traveled and is in possession of a driving license, so I thought it more convenient to have her drive me around to finish my chores,” said the mother.
She added that recruiting a private driver was very expensive, and two of her previous drivers had run away, leaving her helpless.
The daughter, on the other hand, said she preferred to wear a hooded sweatshirt to hide her identity, as she was not sure about the law and how she would be treated if caught. “I also tried to keep a low profile, so men would not hassle me, given that I am not protected by the law. Things might turn against me if there was a clash,” said Nora.
Nora and her mother admitted that they had been driving since morning carrying out some chores all the way from Takhassosi Street, west of Riyadh, to Al-Woroud area, north of Riyadh, with no trouble at all. They were held in the traffic on King Fahd Road, where some of the drivers had spotted Nora, but left her alone.
Nora's mother said that once the government finally approved women driving, and bylaws were set to protect her daughter and other female drivers, her and other women’s problems would be reduced.
“I am retired and my salary is hardly enough for my expenses. I cannot afford a driver, and even if I could, I have no place for a strange man in my house,” said Nora's mother, confirming that she knew many other women in the same situation.
Yet Nora's mother expressed more despair about the present situation, as it remains unclear if driving is approved or not and whether she can come out openly with her daughter into the streets or has to keep dodging bullets.
Late last month Jeddah police briefly detained Najla Hariri, a social activist who was part of an Internet campaign titled “Women2Drive,” for driving her daughter to her workplace.

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