Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saudi man fined for letting sister drive family car in Al Qateef

Story from Gulf News. A link to the story is here, and the story is pasted in below.

 Traffic police book woman for driving without license

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 09:13 June 30, 2013
Manama: A Saudi man was fined SR900 for letting his sister drive the family car.
The woman, 23, was arrested by a police patrol in Al Qateef, in the Eastern Province, for driving, even though her brother, 17, was riding with her.

The traffic police impounded the car for seven days, asked the young woman, who works at a local hotel, to sign a pledge not to “repeat the violation” and booked her for breaking the rules by driving without a driving licence, Saudi daily Al Sharq reported.

The case will be reviewed by an interior ministry agency.
Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia even though there is no legal text that bans the practice.
Attempts to change the situation and lift the restrictions have been fiercely resisted by conservatives who saw in it a source of immense social and moral problems.

In November last year, Nassima Al Sadah became the third Saudi woman, after Manal Al Sharif and Samar Badawi, to file a lawsuit over the ban for women to apply for driving licences in Saudi Arabia.

In December, Dr Thurayyah Al Aredh, writing for the Saudi Gazette, defended the right of women to drive, arguing that Saudi women would be “a lot safer” driving themselves.

Dr Thurayyah said that, although she held a driving licence that she acquired while she was a university student abroad, she was unable to drive in her own country.

“I have not been able to use this driving licence since I returned home,” she wrote. “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.”

Dr Thurayyah said that “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,” she wrote.

“Time has come to do away with the millions of the foreign drivers in our country. Let 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 we will sleep in peace and security,” she wrote.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wajeha Al-Huwaider sentenced to ten months in prison

Saudi women's right activist (and activist on the driving issue as well), Wajeha Al-Huwaider has been sentenced to ten months in prison for helping a Canadian woman who was being abused by her husband. She and her co-defendant are appealing the sentence. A link to the story is here,  and the text is printed below.

Story by Katha Pollitt in The Nation - June 19, 2013

Wajeha Al-Huwaider with Phellicia Dell, Rebecca Lolosoli, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tina Brown (PRNewsFoto/The Daily Beast)

Terrible news from Saudi Arabia: After proceedings that stretched out over nearly a year and violated many legal norms, Wajeha Al-Huwaider, the prominent Saudi Human rights activist and co-organizer of protests against the ban on women drivers, has been sentenced to ten months in prison, along with her colleague Fawzia Al-Oyouni. (I interviewed Al-Huwaider here.) After they serve their terms, both will be banned from travel for two years.

Their crime? It’s a little complicated. They were accused of kidnapping and trying to help Nathalie Morin, a Canadian woman married to a Saudi, flee the country in June 2011. Morin, who has said her husband locks her in the house and is abusive, has been trying for eight years to leave Saudi Arabia with her three children. (There’s a so-far-unsuccessful campaign, spearheaded by her mother, to get the Canadian government to intervene.) Al-Huwaider says they were responding to a frantic text message from Morin, who said her husband had gone away for a week and left her locked in the house without enough food or drinkable water. When they arrived at the house with groceries, they were arrested.

The two activists were found not guilty of kidnapping, but the judge convicted them of “Takhbib”—inciting a woman against her husband. Apparently helping an abused wife feed her children is a crime in Saudi Arabia. Can’t have that in a country where women need their male “guardian's” okay to travel, work, study or even undergo surgery, where fathers have automatic legal custody of children and the Koran, interpreted at the whim of judges, is the only legal code.
Al-Huwaider writes in an e-mail:

We will be banned from traveling for two years following our release. We will be trapped in this women’s prison—that is, Saudi Arabia—for 3 years.

This is the first time in Saudi legal history that a travel ban has been imposed in a social case. This proves that the decision has really come from the Minister of Internal Affairs, and that they planned to prevent us from engaging in any human rights activities.

From the first session I knew that it was going to be very bad and I was always expecting the worst, but I didn’t think that the judge would be this aggressive.

As I see it now, it was a ‘good catch’ for the Wahabi court to convict two liberal women who have been campaigning for years to promote equality and women’s rights.
Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni have a month to appeal. Muslims for Progressive Values, a Canadian group, is appealing to leaders in Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Americans can help them too:
Contact the Saudi ambassador and protest this absurd miscarriage of justice.
Contact President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry and urge them to speak out about Saudi human rights abuses and make a public statement about this case. Obama can be contacted here or here.

Contact your congressional representative and senators and urge them to push the president and State Department.

Human Rights Watch has more details.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where......

Blogger Editorial ----

So maybe we've been thinking about this issue all wrong. Perhaps we should be writing about how Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where ONLY MEN drive. Which would explain the high accident rate, the out-of-control traffic, and the crazy stunt driving. The latest example of this is the YouTube video of the guy sitting on the hood of a moving car, leaning on the windshield (in front of the driver's seat no less) texting. Take any country in the world - say Australia. If women were banned from driving, how long would it take before the drivers started driving out of control? They'd all be in competition, speeding, getting into fights, causing accidents. I think this sort of thing would happen anywhere that women aren't allowed on the roads.

To me, this video is just another proof that Saudi women need to get in their cars immediately and transform the city streets from race tracks and demolition derbies to avenues where families can travel safely. When women start driving, they will slow everything down.