Monday, October 27, 2014

Next Step - Summit on Saudi Women Driving?

After the second 'driving day' by women in Saudi Arabia, it is natural to think about next steps. If women are going to get the right to drive at some point, how will it ever happen? Women need to be able to discuss it and brainstorm.

As a small-time blogger, I offer this idea - that women from Saudi Arabia hold a summit or conference on the subject - either at a women's university or in Bahrain. At this event only women could attend so they could speak freely. That way those affected by the law could actually discuss it. Maybe the female members of the Shoura Council could speak and take ideas from the people.

Obviously no one has asked me for ideas, but it would make total sense to create an occasion and a venue where women could gather to discuss it.

Saudi women's driving campaign seen as 'successful'

AFP story on the driving demo day, October 26, 2014. Story filed on 10/26/14. A link to the story is here.  Text below.

A Saudi woman gets into a taxi in the city of Riyadh on October 26, 2014, as a online campaign continues to call for an end to the driving ban for women in the country Photo by Fayez Nureldine

Riyadh (AFP) - Activists pushing for women's right-to-drive in Saudi Arabia declared their online campaign a success Sunday, in the world's only country where women are not allowed to operate cars.
The campaign that began last year and revved up again since the beginning of the month encouraged women to post online images of themselves driving. Dozens of women have driven and posted during the latest campaign, one activist said, although she knew of only two who hit the streets Saturday and Sunday as the campaign peaked. "
A day hasn't gone by without receiving one or two videos" of women driving, said the activist.
Men and women have also posted messages of support. More than 2,800 people have signed an online petition at asking authorities to lift the ban on women driving.
The activist said she did not want to be named because the interior ministry has threatened her with arrest if she speaks publicly about the campaign.
Last year, activists also focused their demands on October 26, when at least four driving videos were posted on YouTube.
Sixteen or more women were fined for taking the wheel on that day.
There is a "huge risk" for female drivers, the activist said when asked why more had not posted images of themselves this year.
Women have previously been arrested, cars have been confiscated, and one received 100 lashes, she alleged. "So, women are afraid," the activist said.
She added that, apart from driving, the campaign is also about "creating a storm" over the issue.
On Thursday the interior ministry issued a warning to would-be female drivers and their supporters.
The ministry said it would "strictly implement" measures against anyone who "contributes in any manner or by any acts, towards providing violators with the opportunity to undermine the social cohesion".
That means the campaign has had an impact, the activist said. "I think it's pretty successful. If we're getting a reaction, that means we're effective."
A conservative Saudi Arabian cleric has said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems, countering activists who are trying to end the Islamic kingdom's male-only driving rules.
'Half a citizen' Sahar Nasief defied the warnings and got behind the wheel anyway on Sunday.
"The roads were full of police cars... everybody was on alert," she told AFP from the Red Sea city of Jeddah after running a 15-minute errand in her car because her driver wasn't available.
The authorities' response shows the driving campaign has been "very successful," she agreed.
"Its sad that you live in a country where you feel like half a citizen, that you are a threat to national security," another driver said in a YouTube video posted on Saturday.
Dressed in black with only her eyes exposed, she said she was driving in Riyadh on the weekend. Saudi women are required to dress in black from head to toe and still need permission from a male guardian to work and marry. Activists say women's driving is not against the law.
Tradition and custom are behind the prohibition, which is not backed up by an Islamic text or judicial ruling, the online petition states. But activists said they feel the conservative society is becoming more accepting of women motorists.
"A lot of people now are for the campaign," Nasief said. Another activist, Aziza al-Yussef, said people notice that she is a woman driver and don't seem to care.
"We are just waiting for a decree from the king to allow it," she said, optimistic that a change is coming.
Hardline clerics protested when King Abdullah, in January last year, decided to give women a 20 percent quota in the previously all-male Shura Council, an advisory body.
The unnamed activist said "it's hard to say" if women are closer to the right to drive.
In the meantime activists say they will keep raising their voices, and getting behind the wheel. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Saudi Women Still Protesting Driving Ban on 1-Year Anniversary of Campaign

This report by Yohana Desta on Mashable, (link to the story here, - pasted below). Despite warnings to stop the protest, and despite some news reports that it was cancelled, women have been driving anyway.
Saudi Arabian women are getting behind the wheel to protest the country's ban on female drivers.
The demonstration falls on the one-year anniversary of last year's campaign, which encouraged women to drive, then share video and photo evidence online. About 60 women took to the streets in 2013.

Kicking off this year's campaign is a woman driving through Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital city. A video uploaded to YouTube by the Oct. 26 Saudi Women Driving Campaign shows her discussing how shameful the driving ban is toward women. In the United Arab Emirates, women can fly jets to fight the Islamic State, but she could be called a terrorist just for driving a car, the woman says in the video.

Although there is no official traffic law preventing women from driving, the decades-long ban has deep religious roots, according to The Atlantic.

It came to a head in 2011, when a woman named Shaima Jastaina was sentenced to 10 lashes for driving a family member to the hospital. The lashings were later revoked, but Jastaina's case strengthened the resolve of campaigns such as the Saudi-based Women2Drive.

Protesters have taken to social media for Sunday's protest, sharing stories about their past driving experiences, as well as photos of themselves behind the wheel.

On Thursday, the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry warned women not to drive during this year's protest.

"The Interior Ministry emphasizes it will firmly apply the laws against anyone who participates (in a protest by female drivers)," it said in a statement issued by state media, according to Reuters.
A petition launched by the Oct. 26 Saudi Women Driving Campaign, calling for the ban to be lifted, has attracted nearly 3,000 supporters.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Saudi Arabia warns women not to join protest against ban on driving

This report in from Reuters on October 23, 2014. A link to the story is here, text below.

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia October 22, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry on Thursday issued a warning to women not to get behind the wheel in defiance of the kingdom's men-only road rules after a renewed social media campaign to challenge the law by driving in public.

The announcement comes ahead of the anniversary on Oct. 26 of a demonstration last year in which dozens of Saudi women said they had taken to the road in protest at the ban on female drivers, leading to some arrests.

In recent weeks, campaigners have been pushing on social media for women to drive themselves and post pictures or films online, as they did in the run-up to last year's protest.

"The Interior Ministry emphasizes it will firmly apply the laws against anyone who participates (in a protest by female drivers)," the ministry said a statement carried by state media.

Any such attempt by women to drive in public in breach of the law was "an opportunity for predators to undermine social cohesion", the ministry said.

Since the 2011 Arab uprisings and subsequent regional turmoil, Riyadh has taken a zero tolerance approach to all attempts at protest or dissent in the kingdom, including by liberal rights activists, Islamists and members of the Shi'ite Muslim minority.

The conservative Islamic kingdom is the only country in the world to stop women driving, although a growing number of public figures in the country have publicly pushed for the rule to be overturned.
Some leading members of the country's powerful Sunni Muslim clergy have argued against women being allowed to drive, which they say could lead to them mingling with unrelated men, thereby breaching strict gender segregation rules.

In Saudi Arabia, a top Arab ally of the United States, women are legally subject to a male guardian, who must give approval to basic decisions they make in fields including education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment.

Under King Abdullah, who has ruled since 2005, the position of women has gradually improved in the face of opposition from conservatives.

He has pushed for women to have more opportunities in education and employment, and has appointed some to the Shoura Council which advises the government on policy.
(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

87.2 percent of Saudi families have drivers

The English language daily, The Arab News reports on a recent survey of Saudi households. A link to the article is here, and the text of the story is below.

A recent survey conducted by the Public Opinion Survey Unit in King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue found that 66.7 percent of the 1,000 participants from the Kingdom had house-maids.
The survey also found that 87.2 percent of the Saudi families participating in the polls said that they had private chauffeurs.

In another focus issue of the survey, it was revealed that Sudanese labor ranked last on the list of foreign workers preferred by Saudi families at 1.2 percent. This was followed by Nepalese workers (1.7 percent), Egyptian workers (1.8 percent) and Bangladeshi workers (2 percent).

The survey confirmed that 46.1 percent of the respondents felt that the main reason behind the tendency of families to recruit housemaids is that generally the female head in the house is employed full time in a professional setting. Converesely, 70.6 percent of the sample said that recruiting house help in Saudi communities is extravagant and unneccesary.

The King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue has allocated an integrated public opinion survey unit at its academy specifically for dialogue and public opinion.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Saudi women launch fresh push for right to drive

The Saudi English language daily, Saudi Gazette writes about the revived driving campaign on October 13, 2014. A link to the story is here,  text below.

RIYADH — A group of Saudi women launched a new campaign to be allowed to drive their cars, Al-Hayat daily reported.

The new campaign, called “I Drive by Myself”, reiterates the women’s calls for freedom of movement and transportation without having to resort to private drivers.

Dr. Hala Al-Dawsari, member of the campaign, told Al-Hayat daily the constant campaigns launched by women will eventually lead to two things: either authorities lift the ban imposed on women who want to drive or they should provide a good explanation why women are not allowed to get behind the wheel.

“All active women want one thing: free movement without any cost or social restrictions,” Al-Dawsari said.

There is no written law that explicitly and clearly states that women cannot drive.

Saudi law requires citizens to have valid driver’s licenses when operating a vehicle inside the country. However, women cannot obtain driving licenses, making it difficult for them to drive on the road because they will be breaking the law.

Al-Dawsari presented a working paper about women driving at the Council of Human Rights in Geneva this month. She launched a campaign encouraging people to participate in the issue and document their demands in a bulletin that will be issued on Oct. 26.

The campaign, launched a week ago, has so far attracted 30,000 supporters, Al-Dawsari said, adding that only Saudi women can end the ban imposed on them.

“Women driving is a legitimate right all over the world and there are no logical reasons why they should not be allowed to drive,” she said. The issue is still heavily debated in Saudi society.

Women have been working hard to lift the ban on driving while religious scholars still oppose the idea vehemently.

The voices calling for allowing women to drive increased when June 17, 2011 was set as the date when women would drive their cars on the street.

However, they had to push the date to June 29 following the death of then Crown Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz. In commemoration of the June campaign, a group of women and men have called on authorities to reconsider this issue, stressing that they will not violate laws or cause any trouble to authorities.

They agreed that all they need is to allow a woman who lives alone and does not have a man to help her to drive to the market and buy her stuff herself.

The Queens of Saudi Arabia Need to Drive - Blue Abaya

October 13, 2014 - a blog post on Blue Abaya. It may be blocked on the internet, so I just posted it here. A link to the blog post is here. Text below.

Attention Blue Abaya readers all over the world! I’m going to go ahead and post this, despite the chances that Blue Abaya website will be blocked by the “Magic Internet Fairy” in Saudi Arabia, who absolutely detests seeing anything related to the Saudi Women Driving Campaign. I guess he’s the “Our women are Queens, the Most Precious Pearls, who we pamper with drivers and want to protect from the dangerous traffic and bad drivers out there” -type of guy.

Why? Because that’s just how I roll. I can’t stay silent if I see blatant human right’s violations or any kind of injustice or discrimination based on race, religion or as in this case, gender. I’m also not the type to bury my head in the sand dunes whenever something goes wrong or gets too complicated.
And who am I kidding here? The women (not) driving issue is one of the most, if not THE most debilitating, humiliating, oppressing and life quality-diminishing aspect of living as a female in Saudi Arabia. So this is personal, ya’ll.

And I know I’m not alone. There are thousands of men and women, Saudi and non-Saudi residents, who are fed up and want change.

Really. Enough is enough. It’s 2014.
Women need to start driving yesterday. We need to take our kids to school. We need to go to work, meetings and doctors appointments.

We need to have this basic human right NOW.

We are tired of being forced to rely on the unreliable drivers. We are fed up with taxi drivers that treat us like dirt.

We are really sick and tired of the perverts that cohabit that tiny space with us, and we have no other choice of getting to where we NEED to go but to deal with it.

We are done dealing with drivers lying, yelling or cursing at us. Not picking up their phones or showing up, leaving us in trouble. How many women have been dumped in the middle of roads because the driver had a bad day? If we found the rare gem driver who actually knows AND follows the traffic rules, he for sure will not be following our directions or wishes. Why? Because knows he has that power over us. And he will take full advantage of it.

How many women have been stuck at home with a sick kid, waiting for a driver for what seems to be forever? Worse yet if there’s a medical emergency? The despair and feeling of complete helplessness is unfathomable.

Only women living in Saudi Arabia will know exactly how utterly frustrating it is, seeing that 14-year old boy driving a car right beside us, us sitting in a car in a which we would be fully licensed, capable and WILLING to drive, yet find ourselves hurdled in the backseat, behind the blackened windows, feeling almost as if we don’t even exist.

For crying out loud how does a male sexual organ license a person to drive?

Because a bee-nis is really the only defining factor for persons to be allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia.

It doesn’t matter if you’re underaged, heck even a kid.
No need for a driving license either. Everyone knows males were born licensed.
Driving skills? Who needs them if you’ve got the right chromosome! That means you have natural talent.

How about owning a car, valid international driver’s license and maybe even an exceptionally clean driving record? Nope ,they will not guarantee you can drive, if you lack that certain extra asset.

got penis? can drive.
How did it become Islamically acceptable anyway, that this unrelated male, basically a stranger, that doesn’t even share a common language with us, who doesn’t even have a valid driver’s license from his country of origin, let alone a local one, is driving us around, among thousands other unskilled drivers such as him?

How on earth did this become the ‘safest’ option?

Is this not totally absurd?

Is this how Queens are treated, really? 
If women in Saudi Arabia are treated like the Queens they say we are, then why are we, more often than not, spoken to and treated like children?

Queens have power. Queens are respected. A Queen’s word is the last word.

I have the feeling there are no real Queens in Saudi Arabia. Only Princesses, driven around in carriages, that’s all. The elite 5% of the princesses might be lucky to have a golden carriage and a knight in shining armor driving it, but the rest of us pheasants are stuck with the pumpkins and trolls.

And then we have these nay sayers, telling us that allowing women to drive on the Saudi roads will cause problems such as, more cars on the roads, more traffic congestion.
Well here’s a simple math lesson for you:

Driver takes woman to work in the morning, drives car back home. Goes again in the afternoon to pick up woman from work, drives her home. In the evening driver takes woman to her parents house, goes back home. Comes late in the evening to pick up woman, drives her home again.

TOTAL= 8 car rides.

Woman drives to work in the morning. Drives home in afternoon. Drives to parents house. Stays a couple of hours, drives herself back home.

TOTAL= 4 car rides.

See? It’s actually the other way around, dummies!
And that’s just one hypothetical situation, it could be even more rides back and forth with the driver.
How about the type of guy I mentioned at the beginning of this post? That guy who wants to keep his jewels protected? He doesn’t want women to drive nor will he allow his female relatives to drive themselves because…
The Saudi roads are SO dangerous! How could she possibly drive among those crazy, bad drivers?

YES indeed! Those EXACT same crazy and/or unlicensed drivers and dangerous roads where she is currently riding on, in the passenger seat.

How the heck is that different? Same traffic, roads and same crazy drivers! Actually, if women were on the roads, I bet you they would be far less crazy, less congested and less ridden with accidents.
Whoever came up with this genius excuse deserves the Nobel prize for Illogicality.
If you believe that women in Saudi Arabia who want to drive (not everyone does, but so what), should have the CHOICE to do so IF they wish (nobody will be forced to drive), then there’s something you can do to help. 

#Oct26Driving campaign needs YOUR help! In addition to signing the petition, here’s what all you amazing, awesome people out there can do to help women finally get behind the wheel in KSA!!
“Please support the Oct 26 Saudi Women driving campaign by sending a video of yourself talking about the ban and calling for it to be lifted. Not more than a minute and to ask others to do the same. It can be in any language you like. And it should be about a minute or two long.”
Send them your support videos to this email:

Campaign site and petition here:

My dream is to one day be able to hop in the car with my kids and take them out to the desert to explore the beauty out there. My dream is feeling free and having a sense of security. My dream is to start living life to the fullest.

Desert treksPlease help the Queens of Saudi Arabia!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Saudi activists revive women's right-to-drive campaign

On October 9, 2014, this story was sent out from AFP, and here is the version from alArabiya. A link to the story is here,  and the text is printed below.

Female driver Azza al-Shmasani alights from her car after driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh June 22, 2011. (Reuters)
Activists in Saudi Arabia are revving up a right-to-drive campaign using social media in the kingdom, where women are faced with a de-facto ban from getting behind the wheel, a campaigner said on Thursday.

An online petition asking the Saudi government to “lift the ban on women driving” has attracted more than 2,400 signatures ahead of the campaign’s culmination on Oct. 26.

Activists are also encouraging to women to post pictures of themselves driving using a Twitter hashtag, as well as on Instagram and YouTube.

“We are trying to do something to refresh this demand” that women be allowed to drive,” one activist, Nasima al-Sada, told AFP.

“It doesn’t stop,” she said of the national campaign.

“We are asking the ladies to sit behind the wheel and take action” on October 26 “or any day”, Sada said from the kingdom’s Eastern Province.

Last year, activists also focused their demands on Oct. 26 -- which they call a “symbolic” date as part of efforts to press for women’s right to drive.

At least 16 Saudi women were fined for taking the wheel on Oct. 26 last year.

Forced to cover from head to toe, Saudi women still need permission from a male guardian to work and marry.
Last Update: Thursday, 9 October 2014 KSA 16:34 - GMT 13:34