Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Saudi prince supports women driving

The Gulf Daily News of May 31, 2017 reported this story, which you can read at this link, and the text is pasted in below:
Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah - Photo Credit: Sabq

Manama: A Saudi former minister said that allowing women to drive was bound to happen and that women would be driving society, not just cars.

“The ban on women driving has been imposed on us, and women in the past used to lead their own camels. Women need to be empowered because they represent more than half of the society and they are highly dependable,” Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah said.

“Maybe some people are afraid of change, but it is inevitable. Change in all cases must start from within and women need to prove their success and their positive influence on society,” he said during a talk show on Rotana Khaleejia Television.

Prince Faisal who held the education portfolio in the Saudi kingdom from 2009 until 2013, said that he held Saudi women in high esteem and respected their achievements.

“I have great pride in Saudi women. They are mothers, wives and daughters and I take immense pride in them and in their faith, beliefs and commitments in our modern times. Women in Saudi Arabia are the bases of society and they hold a significant place in the Islamic civilisation. I am confident they can succeed whenever they have the opportunity,” he said, quoted by Saudi news site Sabq on Tuesday.

Prince Faisal is the latest of Saudi princes to call publicly for allowing women to drive.
In 2013, billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal tweeted in favour of allowing women to drive in the kingdom, sparking a heated debate on social media.

“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,” the billionaire prince posted on his Twitter account.

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 associated with the ban on women driving.

No legal text bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia and the issue is related mainly to social traditions.

The de facto ban has been at times challenged by women who, if spotted behind steering wheels, are pulled over by traffic police for driving 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 to overcome the stiff resistance of conservatives are proving singularly formidable.
The camps supporting and opposing lifting the social ban on women and allowing them to drive have been using religious, economic and social arguments to reinforce their positions.

The chasm between them is invariably clear in their reactions to reports related to women driving.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Teach Your Daughters How to Drive

This opinion piece by Maha Al-Shehri appeared in the Saudi Arabic daily Okaz and was translated and printed in the English daily Saudi Gazette on May 14, 2017. A link to the story can be found here,  and the text is below.

By Maha Al-Shehri
SEVERAL incidents of women being saviors or heroes, especially when their men developed sudden health problems while behind the wheel, have been reported in the media.

Recently a female university student became the hero when she rose to the occasion and took the wheel after the driver of her university bus fainted. Ashwaq Al-Shamri of Hail University took the bus and the driver to safety. The news of the incident was widely circulated on social media.

The female student was able to avert an accident and save the bus driver by driving him to hospital because she had learned driving despite the ban on women driving existing in the country.

There is no legal basis for preventing women from driving but the Kingdom has so far failed to allow its female citizens to exercise this legitimate right.

I believe that every woman should learn driving as a skill even if she does not own a vehicle or may not obtain a driving license in the near future. We have seen men learning cooking even though they do not cook on a daily basis.

The mastering of a skill will enable us to use it whenever a need arises. It will help us deal with various life situations boldly and efficiently.

It is high time that we overcome the mentality that women are incapable and inferior beings. We have limited women’s roles treating them as weak despite their capabilities, aptitude and decision-making prowess.

People have to recognize that women are no less than men in terms of qualifications and efficiency. Women are partners of men in every walk of life.

Even while considering women as mentors of new generations and protectors of families, some of us wrongly believe that they are incompetent in most matters, which they think are reserved for men.
In a nutshell, we should teach our women how to drive for the sake of themselves and others. A situation may arise at any point of our life where we will not find anyone except women as saviors as has occurred in the case of the Hail bus driver.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Girl student takes the wheel to save driver

On May 11, 2017 the Saudi Gazette published this story about a student driving a bus when the driver fell ill. This took place in the region of Hail in north central Saudi Arabia. A link to the story is here and the text is pasted below.

HAIL – Al-Ghazzalah branch of Hail University on Tuesday honored a group of girl students who saved the life of the driver of their bus with their quick thingking and action. The driver had fainted on the wheel while driving the vehicle.

Ashwaq Al-Shamri, one of the girls, rose to the occasion and drove the bus with full presence of mind, and took him to the nearby hospital, according to a report in Anha online newspaper. The girls were on their way back home after classes in the private bus that was hired to transport them.

Dr. Hanan Al-Amir, general supervisor of the girls’ section at the university branch, commended the bravery and humanitarian spirit of the girls, saying that this helped save the life of the driver.

“The university is keen in providing intensive training to students in carrying out emergency services and first aid. The girl students won accolades from the entire university staff and students as well as the community members,” she added.

The girls said that they had simply fulfilled their humanitarian duty. The driver managed to stop the bus before fainting. The girls gave him first aid and then took him to the hospital, the newspaper reported quoting the girls.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Shoura intent on enabling women to drive

Article from Okaz and the Saudi Gazette on May 10, 2017 by Fatima Al-Dibais, that the Shoura Council postponed their discussion of the women driving issue. From reading the article, it appears that a Ministry of the Interior report must have recommended the law be changed, if the recommendations are to be incorporated into the actions of the Council.  A link to the story is: here, and the story is pasted below.


Women members taking part in the Shoura Council deliberations in Riyadh on Tuesday. — SPA

By Fatima Al-Dibais
Okaz/Saudi Gazette
DAMMAM — A number of Shoura Council members are making preparations to come up with a solid recommendation to enable women to drive, according to informed sources.

The sources said the Council on Monday postponed the discussion on the Interior Ministry’s report so as to include in it a recommendation on the issue.

The sources said the members were notified about the postponement of the discussion only 48 hours before the start of the session.

No new date has been announced, but the discussion on the Interior Ministry’s report is expected to take place before Ramadan which starts on May 27.

The sources said the Council’s security committee was unable to draft a recommendation approving women driving to be included in the report.

They said the members late last December rejected the recommendations made by the security committee because it failed to mention anything about women driving. The sources said that a number of members at the time were determined to include a recommendation allowing women to drive in the ministry’s report which should have been discussed on Monday.

The issue of women driving was mentioned during the Council’s previous session in which about 30 women members participated.

Latifa Al-Shaalan and Haya Al-Manie, two women members, introduced the issue in 2013 but the security committee rejected it saying the recommendation was inappropriate.

In April last year, the two women members introduced the issue for the second time through a recommendation calling for the amendment of the traffic law to grant driving licenses to women also. But the Council’s consultants turned it down.

The issue of women driving was not raised in the Council’s sixth session, but it resurfaced in the current session in December when Al-Shaalan asked the security committee to take the initiative to adopt a recommendation that would enable women to drive.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Saudi Arabia's Shura Council to Debate Granting Women Driving Licenses

Report from the May 9, 2017 issue of al-Bawaba. A link to the story is here and text is below. Notice the nuance that the Shura Council may ask that licenses be issued, before women are allowed to drive. It does make sense, to get those women who want them, trained and permitted...and then to allow them to use the licenses.

Saudi Arabia's Shura Council is expected to debate on Tuesday a motion to allow Saudi women to obtain driving licences - a significant step towards a possible end to the country's ban on women driving.

The debate in the Consultative Assembly follows recommendations submitted by council member Fahad bin Juma to allow Saudi women to obtain driving licences - even if they still cannot drive in the country.

Bin Juma said the current ban on Saudi women getting behind the wheel should not interfere with their ability to obtain a license, which he said can benefit them outside the country.

"My recommendation is in line with human rights and eases the misrepresentation of Saudi Arabia, which has gained a reputation for banning women from driving," he said, adding that an eventual lifting of prohibitions on women driving will reduce the number of taxi drivers needed and the associated financial burden on families.

While the issue of women driving remains hotly contested among activists in the country, the Shura council remains divided between those favouring a lifting of the driving ban and others who see the ban as a low-priority matter in face of other issues in the country.

"The issue of women driving is not that important right now. What is more important is providing a dignified livelihood for Saudi citizens," Asma al-Zahrani said.

The Shura Council is the kingdom's formal advisory body. It can propose laws to the cabinet but has limited powers.

The proposed discussion in the Shura council follows reports of an incremental loosening of the country's ultra-conservative laws on women.

Earlier this month, local media reports said the country's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued orders backing the relaxation of rules on male guardianship over Saudi women.

The orders are alleged to include the provision that Saudi women can access government services - including education and healthcare - without a male's consent.

Numerous public campaigns calling for the promotion of women's rights in Saudi Arabia remain at the forefront of activists' efforts both within and beyond the Kingdom's borders.

While #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen campaign enters its 300th day, the #Women2Drive campaign is into it's sixth year after having been catalysed by the efforts of female activists who took to the roads in contravention of the country's law.

Last year, Saudi women protested the government's $3.5 billion investment in taxi service Uber, claiming the kingdom would be profiting directly from the female driving ban.

Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where women are banned from driving following a law introduced in 1957.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Old Video of Saudi Preacher Surfaces, Causing Outrage: Women Will Come Home Drunk if Allowed to Drive

A 2011 video of a preacher lecturing about women driving has resurfaced and is causing a kerfuffle in social media. A link to the story by Habib Toumi from al-Bawaba of May 8, 2017 is here,  and the text is below. This is not a new recording, and the fact that there is a big backlash against it shows that people are more open to the idea of women driving. This blogger takes the outrage as a good sign

Social-media users in Saudi Arabia have lashed out at a preacher who claimed that if women were allowed to drive they would come home late and drunk.
The outraged users said that the preacher, known as Abu Zaqm, should be put on trial and punished severely for his immoral allegations.
Abu Zaqm made his claims as he addressed young people in the Red Sea city of Jeddah in 2011. The video recording re-emerged on Sunday in Saudi Arabia and sparked the outcry.
“If allowed to drive, a woman will come home late while her husbands will be up, just waiting for her. She will be most probably drunk,” he said, trailing his remarks with sarcastic laughter. “If the husband asks her to prepare something to eat, she will argue with him and when she eventually does it, she will end up hosting him in their neighbour’s home,” he added in his imagined scenario.
The preacher warned that such situations would be a major feature of the freedom anticipated by liberals, Saudi daily Okaz reported on Monday.
Abu Zaqm claimed that Europe and the US started applying new laws to isolate women from men amid complaints about the increasing number of babies born out of wedlock.
The new laws were enacted after these countries found out the babies and the construction of foster homes to keep them cost them fortunes.
In their reactions, Saudis expressed anger and outrage.
“Such ridiculous remarks cannot be uttered in the privacy of a home, let alone in public and in front of a crowd,” one user posted.
Basma, another user, said that he should be held legally accountable for his remarks.
“His claims are a deep insult and what is terrifying is that he is making then in the name of Islam,” she said. “He should be punished for his filthy allegations.”
Sulaiman called for prompt action.
“Regardless of whether women are allowed to drive or not, this miasma has to be stopped.”
Abu Zaqm, a former car drifter, is no stranger to controversy. He was criticised on social media following the circulation of a video clip in which he made comments with sexual overtones during a conversation with another preacher.
He apologised about the conversation, but later launched scathing attacks on “liberals” for their criticism.
The latest incident is seen as a new indication of the formidable challenges faced by the Saudi authorities in their drive to change mindsets and attitudes towards several social issues.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Manal al-Sharif's DARING TO DRIVE Tour Announced

DARING TO DRIVE, the landmark memoir by Manal al-Sharif, Saudi woman's rights activist and proponent of women driving, will be released next month (June 13, 2017) in the U.S. You can pre-order the book now on amazon here: Pre order book here.

In conjunction with the book release, the author will be appearing at venues around the U.S. in major cities, below are the dates scheduled so far.

You can keep up to date with book news at this facebook page:

Saudi women no longer need guardian's consent to receive services

This article by Lulwa Shalhoub from the May 5, 2017 English daily the Arab News reports on a new royal communication that is extremely important in advancing women's rights. The issue of women driving is not mentioned in the decree, but the article notes that on May 9th the Shoura Council is going to debate the issue as it relates to the Interior Ministry. A link to the full story is here and the full article is pasted in below.

JEDDAH: Women are not required to obtain consent from their guardians for services provided to them, “unless there is a legal basis for this request in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah,” according to a royal degree issued by King Salman and reported by Okaz local daily on Thursday.
“This came in a royal directive to all concerned government agencies, after approval of proposals raised by the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to resolve issues related to human rights,” according to the royal decree.
In a statement on their website confirming Okaz report, Human Rights Commission President Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban said he welcomed the gesture saying that it reflects King Salman’s care of his people and embodies his concern to simplify procedures for women who constitute half of Saudi society and who are a major partner in the development of the society.
Many advocates of the empowerment of Saudi women hailed the announcement, as needing a male guardian’s consent can pose significant obstacle for women.
“This (male guardianship) has always been an obstacle to women and demeaning because unfortunately some guardians abused their authority over women and took advantage,” Maha Akeel, director of the public information and communication for the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), told Arab News.
It finally recognizes the right of a woman “to be her own guardian and take care of her official matters… without the need for the approval of the guardian,” she added.
According to the Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court has demanded concerned agencies to review procedures in force, Okaz reported.
It also demanded to list all procedures that require the approval of the woman’s guardian to complete a service and to provide an explanation of their statutory basis for the service within three months of the order’s issuance date.
“This means male guardianship has been lifted,” Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, senior member at the Saudi-based National Society for Human Rights told Arab News. She added it means “the legislations that demand a male guardian have been amended.”
She added that she believes the services would include women’s ability to independently represent themselves in court as well as to issue and renew passports and to travel abroad without needing a guardian’s permit.
“Shariah law does not necessitate male guardianship of women because we are perfectly competent,” Al-Abideen said.
The new order is not clear yet and does not state under what circumstances a woman should or should not obtain the consent of her guardian for services provided to her, said Saudi writer and women rights advocate Abdullah Al-Alami.
Al-Alami told Arab News that he believes the law was introduced “to satisfy the Human Rights Commission, in relation to the international conventions to which the Kingdom has acceded.”
On April 19, United Nations (UN) member states elected Saudi Arabia to serve on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Lina Almaeena, Shoura Council member. She said the move is in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to increase the number of women in the workforce and reduce unemployment.
“I think it’s a fantastic step,” Almaeena said. “Everyday we hear of an improvement. A lot of things are changing. Not only at a women’s level but at so many levels.”
Almaeena told Arab News she is sure this will include “work permit,” pointing to the present law that requires women to get a consent from their guardians to work.
The right to drive has not yet been granted to women in Saudi Arabia, although Al-Abideen said she believes it is “coming up next.”
Yet, as Al-Alami noted, the order demanded the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to provide means of transportation for women workers in accordance with the provisions of the labor law.
“In other words, no news yet on women driving, although I think it would be approved soon,” Al-Alami said, adding that there is still a need to resolve problems with respect to women’s rights.
The Shoura Council is scheduled May 9 to discuss and consider a recommendation that demands the Interior Ministry support women driving.
The OIC’s Akeel said she looks forward to more decisions for empowering women. She commended that “the decision included educating and raising women’s awareness of their rights.”
In the past five years, Saudi Arabia has been appointing more women in decision-making positions. In 2011, the late King Abdullah gave women the right to join the Shoura Council and the right to run and vote in the municipal elections, which came a reality in 2015.
In 2013, women were appointed to the Shoura Council for the first time and 30 had become members. Today, the representation of Saudi women on the Shoura Council stands at 20 percent.
Three months ago, three women — Sarah Al-Suhaimi, Rania Nashar and Latifa Al-Shabhan — were appointed in the male-dominant financial sector to the positions of the chair of the Saudi stock exchange, Tadawul, CEO of Samba Financial Group and chief financial officer of Arab National Bank (ANB), respectively.
Increasing the participation of women in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent is one of the main goals in Saudi Vision 2030.