Excellent opinion piece in today's Saudi Gazette (originally in Al-Jazira) by Dr. Thurayyah Al-Aredh. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted below.
by Dr. Thurayyah Al-Aredh
THE other evening we were invited to a party in Bahrain by a Saudi
friend who shuttles between both countries. When we arrived at the
venue, our host was not there to receive us. After a long wait he
arrived visibly worried and upset.
He explained to us that the foreign driver who was driving his wife and
kids was apprehended by the Saudi authorities on King Fahd Causeway for
trying to smuggle some bottles of whisky. He said he had to go to the
causeway to drive his family back home.
I have to admit that this is not the first time I hear about the arrest
of a family driver on the causeway for smuggling of liquor. Personally I
have been without a driver for about a whole year now after we have
decided not to bring back our Filipino driver because of his numerous
violations and stealing of our household goods.
My husband and my son are working in Riyadh. We are away from each other
but I am certain that living away from the family is somewhat easier
than living without a car.
The sad side of the story is that I am a holder of a driving license
which I acquired while I was a university student abroad. I have not
been able to use this driving license since I returned home.
Three decades have passed with me waiting hopelessly for the Interior
Ministry to reach a decision allowing women to drive. Such a decision
will rid us of the need to employ foreign drivers and live under their
mercy. Women driving cars is not a fashion trend or an ostentatious
phenomenon but a real and pressing need.
The faltering relationship between the importers of workers and the
foreign manpower themselves has its adverse effects deepening the
tension in our families and homes. The two sides have been exchanging
accusations that included lies and distorted facts. These accusations
culminate in defamation and financial loss.
Foreign manpower has been accused of all vices including child abuse,
physical violence, sorcery, brewing and smuggling of alcohol and murder.
On their part, the foreign workers have been accusing their sponsors of
exploiting them, not paying their salaries and even physically abusing
I often ask myself: What makes us import foreign house helps? Can’t we
ever do without them? Are there no solutions except for recruitment with
all its evils?
It is quite justifiable to import foreign manpower to work in the
advanced technological fields but to bring them to work in our homes and
live among our families is not understandable. We should seek alternate
solutions to our needs other than recruitment.
The importing of drivers has become more perilous than the recruitment
of housemaids. As soon as the drivers know our streets, they will not
fail to find those who will give them all kinds of criminal advice.
Time has come to get rid of the millions of the foreign drivers in our
country. Let the Saudi women drive and the problem will be solved
forever. By driving our own cars we will save a lot of resources for the
economy. We will be a lot safer as well and will sleep in peace and