Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Driving is an economic need: Saudi women

Front page story in the Oct 9, 2013 Saudi Gazette - including quotes from people in Saudi Arabia concerned with lifting the driving ban. A link to the story is here, and it's pasted in below too.

JEDDAH – Three female members of the Shoura Council reportedly filed a recommendation on Tuesday that a ban on women driving in the Kingdom be lifted.

Latifa Al-Shaalan, a Shoura member, was quoted as saying by AFP that she and two fellow members, Haya Al-Mani and Muna Al-Mashit, filed a recommendation urging the consultative body to “recognize the rights of women to drive a car in accordance with the principles of Shariah and traffic rules.”

They backed their recommendation with results of studies on the various justifications for women to drive. “There is no law that bans women from driving. It is only a matter of tradition,” Shaalan told AFP.

Saudi women have “made many achievements... and have acquired leading positions in the government and the United Nations, yet they are still banned from driving. This creates a negative image (for the Kingdom) abroad,” she said.

Welcoming the move, Abdullah Al-Alami, author of the book, “When Would Saudi Women Drive,” told Saudi Gazette that the sooner this recommendation and other recommendations that have to do with women rights the better for the women and the country.

Talking about the “Oct. 26th, driving for women” campaign, he said, “This is a major step forward toward women getting their legal right for freedom of transportation as well as a major step forward for women to gain access to their jobs, schools and other needs.

“This campaign will be successful because it is women who are demanding their rights. Saudi women are not any different from any other women in the world. Saudi Arabian population represents less than two percent of the total Muslim world population and as such Saudi women are entitled to all the rights as other Muslim women are entitled to. In addition, Saudi women are not any different from the remaining three billion women worldwide.”

In his opinion the real obstacles are “some traditional beliefs that are making it difficult for women to prosper, develop and gain their legitimate right.”

“Many government high officials have indicated over the last few years that there is no legal or judicial or Shariah reasons why women can’t drive,” Al-Alami said.

A Saudi woman artist in Jeddah said that “driving is not a luxury or fun, but an economic necessity.” Her sentiments were echoed by other women, one of whom said that she would be much more careful than a stranger driving her children to school.

The move by Shoura women members comes ahead of the Oct. 26 initiative by Saudi activists to defy a longstanding driving ban.

A petition signed in March by 3,000 Saudis had urged the Shoura to launch a debate on the driving ban. The online petition entitled “Oct. 26th, driving for women” has gathered several thousand signatories.

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