Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A pressing need, not a luxury

From the Saudi Gazette - An opinion piece pro-women driving, but against the October 26th campaign. A link to the story is here,  and the story is pasted below. Last updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 12:30 AM

Dahham Al-Anzi
Al Sharq
ALLOWING Saudi women to drive their own cars has become a pressing need and not a luxury, as some people may believe. The opposing forces in our country are betting that this right will be revoked through outlining the risks that women may face along the roads as a result of them coming into contact with the male drivers.

Some of the opponents went further than this, warning women that driving might cause them to lose their chastity and honor as if Saudi women only go out of their homes to seek pleasure or as if we are an unethical promiscuous society.

The media is society’s mirror reflecting what is happening in it every day to concerned authorities. The media should be transparent in its handling of the issue so as to reach the ears of concerned officials and decision-makers. We write with hope that our voices reach Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah who said, while he was Crown Prince, that the decision about women driving was in the hands of society. He recalled that women in the countryside drive with the consent and understanding of the government.

On his part, the director general of traffic in the Kingdom said a woman caught driving would only be ticketed.

The media is confused in its handling of an issue which has snowballed. I hope that the issue will not hit a submerged iceberg. I also hope that this collision will not adversely affect the societal harmony and synchronization. The opposing forces are still making strenuous efforts to condemn anyone who supports the right of women to drive.

The Shoura Council tried to join the brawl through the request made by some of its female members to allow women to drive. The council’s speaker crushed this trend in the embryo when he refused any discussions on the issue. He discarded the proposal of the female members to put the issue out for discussion.

As one of the people concerned with this issue, I held dialogues with a number of prominent people including Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmadi, the female Shoura Council member who is a staunch supporter of the right of women to drive. I also exchanged tweets with Dr. Thuraya Al-Areedh and other women Shoura Council members. We are all supporters of women’s rights including their right to drive. We agreed that there should be massive awareness campaigns to make society accept the idea of women driving their own cars. We also hold the opinion that roads should be rehabilitated to suit women’s nature. Traffic laws should be designed for women to enable them drive. This is not a difficult thing to do if the concerned parties are determined to settle this issue.

The working woman who may be a schoolteacher or a medical doctor and who is 30 years or more of age can be allowed to drive inside the city’s boundaries or between the provinces from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. This can be a first step toward allowing women to drive their cars anytime, anywhere.

These days there are massive calls to make October 26 a day for women to drive in a flagrant challenge to society and the government. This is a kind of a cheap pressure on the government and the system. In my humble opinion, the advocators of the October 26 driving campaign are divided into three categories, which are:

• Those who want to send a message to society about the right of women to drive. However, this is not the right time or place for sending such a message. Instead of going out to the streets, the message could be peacefully and quietly sent to the Shoura Council, the decision-makers, the media and local TV channels.

• Those who want to settle accounts with scholars, judges and some government officials through coordination with a number of international organizations especially in the Argentine and Mexico.

• The third and last category is the people who do not give a damn about the right of women to drive. They are only interested in mobs and demonstrations. They want women to go out to the streets only to stir chaos. A woman may die or get injured during confrontations with the security forces. This category will be ready to take pictures to send to international media.

We should therefore foil the women mobs on October 26 through the media and the rule of law. We can continue to call for the right of women to drive through our non-governmental organizations. We should continue to do this until all women’s rights are secured.

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