Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saudi human rights activist fined for driving herself to the hospital

Courtney Trenwith of ArabianBusiness.com filed the following report on 9/16/14. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.

A female member of Saudi Arabia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has reportedly been fined for driving herself to the hospital.

When police pulled her over, Aliyah Al Farid said she had a medical emergency and there was no one available to drive her to the hospital so she took her husband’s car.

The officers reportedly allowed her to continue driving. They followed her to the hospital and waited while she saw a doctor, before taking her to the traffic department where she was fined for driving without a licence.

Women are unable to get a driver’s licence in Saudi Arabia, despite there being no law against women driving.

Al Farid has been arrested for driving twice previously and has participated in campaigns to allow female drivers, but told Arabic daily Al Hayat on this occasion it was an emergency.

“I told the traffic officers that I had to drive because it was an emergency case,” she said.
“I didn’t do it on purpose and I’m not after fame or media hype. I was very sick and that was it.”

She said she also occasionally drove patients at her centre for persons with special needs when they urgent medical attention.

“We can’t leave an epileptic patient convulsing on the ground while waiting for our male driver to come and transport him to hospital,” she said.

“I have to get behind the steering wheel and do it.”

Al Farid has refused to sign an undertaking not to drive again, citing the fact there is no law prohibiting women from driving; it has become a cultural custom routinely enforced by the unofficial religious police (haia).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Memoirs of a Saudi Ph.D. student: Convenience of owning a car

Article by Hatoon Kadi, a Saudi PhD student living in London. Appeared in the English daily the Arab News on September 15, 2014. Link to the story is here,  and the story is pasted below.

It has been nearly five months since I acquired my driving license. I felt like sharing my feelings with my readers at the risk of being declared repetitive. I know I have written so much on this issue and it might not be a big deal for thousands of women driving cars across the world. To me, however, it is a different experience altogether.

I can confidently claim that being able to drive has transformed my daily life.

It is true, however that in the UK you can live without a car giving the fact that the public transport system is excellent. Not only that it is more environment friendly. Having said that I would like to say if you have a family nothing beats the convenience of having your own vehicle. I remember the time when I did not have a car, I used to abandon social gathering, as I did not wish to drag sleepy boys off the train to the cab and then to our home. The situation used to get ugly when I had to drag grocery bags to my home. It really used to become an uphill task in every sense of the word, as my house is situation on a hill and buses don’t reach there.

I also remember running down the hill to catch the tram and then reach the tram to see it moving in front of us, which means waiting for the next one and be late for school, and needless to say that my sophisticated Ph.D. student prestige was always disturbed when the principle give that look of “you-clumsy-late-for-school-mother.”

But now I can easily say that I am liberated. I am in charge of my life and I have the freedom to move around. I can see that some readers might think that it is so naive to think that having a car is a liberating experience but for me it is truly a huge relieve and kind of liberation. I remember back in Saudi Arabia when relying completely on drivers or any male member of the family to move us around was the norm. I remember how women bought cars with their own money and then hand them to drivers who could be manipulative and dishonest and very unprofessional but we had to put up with it because it was our only means of moving around. Now each time I sit in the driver’s seat I cherish it and appreciate the convenience. I pray to God that the issue of women driving is resolved soon. It is really killing when you are expected to be successful in life and to contribute to the economy of the country but yet you are not allowed to move around.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Kuwaiti woman booked for driving in Saudi Arabia

Gulf News reports the following; a link to the story is here. Text below.

  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief
  • Published: 12:35 September 10, 2014

Manama: A Kuwaiti woman was fined and her car confiscated for five days after she was apprehended for driving in Saudi Arabia.

The woman, believed to be in her 40s, was spotted driving in Hafr Al Baten in the northern part of the country, with her husband as her passenger, local news site Sabq reported on Wednesday.
A traffic police patrol pulled the car over with the Kuwaiti licence plates and booked the woman for breaking the rules.

The police decided to impound the car for five days and asked the husband to sign a pledge not to allow his wife to drive again in the Saudi kingdom.

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 support their positions.
Last year, a tweet by Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal in favour of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia sparked a heated debate on the local blogosphere.

“Allowing women to drive will result in saving at least 500,000 jobs held by foreign drivers and subsequent economic and social benefits for the nation,” Al Waleed posted on his Twitter account where he has hundreds of thousands of followers.

The business tycoon who insisted on the significance of reforms tweeted that the era of the “ostrich” was over and the era of “openness” has begun, in reference to the mythical ostriches that choose not to see problems by burying their head in the sand when confronted with difficulties.

The remarks by Prince Al Waleed have accentuated the arguments of the camp supporting the much anticipated breakthrough to allow women to drive in the socially conservative society.

The presence of thousands of male drivers to drive mainly Saudi women and girls has been regularly used by supporters of allowing women to drive to highlight negative social and economic problems.
The arguments have also been boosted by “grave concerns” felt by several women when riding with taxi drivers.

The nomination of 30 women to the Consultative Council last year has bolstered hope that the issue of women driving will be taken up and possibly approved.

The de facto ban on women driving has been at times challenged by women, but they were accused of “stirring up public opinion”.

King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, who has stressed on reforms, particularly on women’s rights, since he became ruler in August 2005, has emphasised that “balanced modernisation compatible with Islamic values was a significant necessity”.