- 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”.