Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Woman driver in Riyadh gets both praise and criticism

Saudis bitterly divided over allowing women to drive. 

Gulf News story from March 26, 2014 - Link to the story here. Text is below.
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 14:27 March 26, 2014
Manama: Saudis have heaped praise and criticism in equal measure on a Saudi woman who posted a video clip of her driving in the capital Riyadh.

In the one-minute clip, the veiled woman said that her name was Lateefa Al Ubairi and that she had a driving licence from the US. She added that she was looking forward to obtaining a driving licence from her country.

Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia even though there is no legal text that bans them from driving. However, women, if found driving, are pulled over by traffic police for doing so without a Saudi licence. They are allowed to go home after they sign a pledge not to drive again.
Attempts by women and their supporters to get permission to drive have become more intense lately, but the challenges in overcoming the stiff resistance of conservatives are proving singularly formidable.

Both camps have been using religious, economic and social arguments to reinforce their positions.
The chasm between them was again made very clear in reactions to Lateefa’s post on social networking websites.

“What you have done is fantastic. Driving is your right,” Saud, a commenter, told Lateefa on the internet.

Badr Sary, another commenter, said that the clip was a great response to the extremists.
“Do go forward so that extremists do not get their way. I wish all women would drive cars despite the resistance of all those who mind women driving, but do not mind women sitting alone with foreign drivers,” Badr wrote.

However, Saudis who oppose allowing women to drive have called for stringent measures against those who get behind the wheel.

“She should be apprehended by the police for breaking the law and the orders of the interior ministry,” Fahad posted. “She should be punished severely for her defying behaviour.”
Maram, in her comments, said that she was looking forward to strong action against women who insisted on driving.

“I pray to God that the king and the people of Saudi Arabia would never allow women to drive because there would be huge problems and moral issues in the country, and we do not need any of that,” she said.

Several Saudis opposed to women driving have warned that campaigns to allow women to drive were initiated and supported by liberals intent on “corrupting the country’s morals and undermining its social values”.

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