Thursday, September 28, 2017

Saudi women celebrate news they will finally be allowed to drive

CNN reports on Saudi women reacting to the news that they will soon be able to drive. This was reported on 9/27/17. A link  to the story is here. 
Text pasted in below.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (CNN)Women in Saudi Arabia have been celebrating the news that they will finally be able to drive, a landmark step that brings the conservative kingdom in line with the rest of the world and will allow many more women to work.
The Saudi Foreign ministry announced Tuesday that a royal decree has been issued that will allow women to drive by next June.
"This is a historic big day in our kingdom," Prince Khaled bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, said Tuesday in a briefing with reporters.
The move follows years of activism and appeals both from within and outside the Gulf nation.
A Saudi woman walks near car down a street in the Saudi capital Riyadh on September 27, 2017.
Kholoud Attar, a 32-year-old Saudi designer and magazine owner who has been running her business for 10 years, told CNN the change would make a "huge difference" both to her and to her female employees.
"Being able to drive really facilitates a lot of logistics and helps with shaving off the time to get things done," she said. "It's so thrilling to be able to do this."
For her female workers, the biggest gain will be in not having to pay for a driver or other transportation out of their salaries, Attar said. Employing a driver currently eats up a third of the average monthly salary for her staff members, who may also have to find the money for their children's care or education, she said.
As for those who remain opposed to women driving, Attar said, their voices "just became much quieter" thanks to the government saying it would be allowed.

'Huge battle won'

Manal al-Sharif, one of the women behind the Women2Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia, said the magnitude of the decision to allow women to drive "won't make sense" to those outside the country, "but if you live in Saudi Arabia, it's a huge battle that was won today."
She celebrated the victory Tuesday by posting a photo on Twitter of herself behind the wheel of a car.
Sharif, who now lives in Australia, was jailed in Saudi Arabia 2011 after posting a video on YouTube of herself driving a car. The act provoked death threats and spurred her to start the campaign.
Speaking to CNN from Australia, she hailed Saudi Arabia's "new leadership" as young and "courageous." There will be a "huge backlash" from "the extremist Islamists in my country," she said. "It won't go unnoticed."
Economic stagnation, she said, was a big impetus for the decision.
"They cannot afford keeping the women in the back seat. They want to make women fully involved in the economy, and you can't do that -- you can't assign a woman to be in a political position or in a government position, and she still can't drive her own car."

'Life will be faster'

Nouf Alosaimi, a 29-year-old diving instructor based in Jeddah, is pictured in diving gear.
Nouf Alosaimi, a 29-year-old diving instructor based in Jeddah, told CNN that even with a driver, it was a hassle arranging trips and scheduling work appointments.
"Life will be faster," she said, adding that she was looking forward most of all to the adventure that will come with driving her own car.
"I live in a country that I can't explore," she said. "I've always wanted to explore the kingdom's coasts... I can't take someone I don't know to drive me to these places and my brothers are too busy to take me on long trips."
Alosaimi, who recently returned to Saudi Arabia from abroad because of an increase in demand for diving among women, said the decision would increase tourism revenues, not just because of the expected increase in women tourists but also thanks to women-run tourism businesses.

Restrictive rules remain

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follows a strict form of Wahhabi Islam that bans the mixing of sexes at public events and places numerous curbs on women, including needing the permission of a male guardian to work or travel. These restrictions are enforced by religious police.
Women in Saudi Arabia still can't do these things

Saudi women will not have to get permission from their male guardians to take driving lessons, ambassador bin Salman told CNN.
However, rules that govern the guardianship of women will continue to restrict many aspects of everyday life for the country's female population.
Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, told CNN that while being allowed to drive was a "very important step," there was still a long way to go for Saudi women.
"This prohibition on driving is just one in a vast series of laws and policies which prevent women from doing many things," she said. "The guardianship rule stops women from making every decision in her life without the assistance of a male relative, even if that relative is her 7-year-old son."

Economic gains

The move to ease some restrictions on women has huge implications for the Saudi economy and women's ability to work. It is the latest in a series of changes that have been rippling through Saudi Arabia since the rise of 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The crown prince, appointed to the position by his father in June, is spearheading a plan to reform and transform the Saudi economy by 2030 and, in line with that goal, increase the number of women in the workforce.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman viists the White House, March 14, 2017.
Marriam Mossalli, a Saudi entrepreneur who founded a Jeddah-based consultancy firm specializing in luxury marketing, Niche Arabia, told CNN that "with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, things are happening quite quickly, at a 'millennial' speed," compared with the past.
The decision to let women drive will allow the debate to move on to other, more important issues, she said.
"We can go now beyond that and look at the real issues we have, more entrepreneurs, more women in the workforce, and this is why the ban was lifted, to facilitate putting women in the workforce," she said.
"A driver can be costly, around $400-800 a month, while an average entry level income for a woman working for example as a school teacher is $1,600... almost half of your salary is going to a driver. This is an economical decision and a human rights one."
Mossalli, a social media influencer whose company helped to organize the first public sports day for women in Saudi history, added: "Being conservative and contemporary are not mutually exclusive. You can be a modern conservative Saudi."

Conservative concerns

Throughout Wednesday, the leading hashtag in the Saudi Twittersphere was against women driving. Many social media users expressed concerns that allowing women to drive would violate the kingdom's strict rules on gender segregation.
Adnan el-Bar, 52, deputy director of Jeddah municipality council, told CNN the issues raised after the announcement ranged from infrastructure challenges to reservations about the possible social changes.
But, he said, the government has already laid out infrastructure changes that will be put in place, including setting up driving schools for women and special entities to issue driving licenses, and providing support for female drivers in case their car breaks down.
El-Bar said he didn't expect a huge increase in number of vehicles on the road once the decision is implemented. "I expect 50% of women will not let go of their drivers," he said, although this could change as more women join the job market as transportation costs drop.
"Time has come for a cultural change," he said. "Now, the debate has moved from the social realm to the family. It will be up for each family to decide."
Decisions would be based on many variables, from the cost of buying a new car to family traditions and religious beliefs, he said.
The social repercussions are unpredictable, El-Bar added. While one concern is a potential backlash from conservative society against female drivers, El-Bar said that even if such incidents occur, they would be isolated cases rejected by Saudi society.
"This is a sovereign decision by the government," he said. "This is not a victory for one side over the other; all decisions are for the country's interests ... to move the wheel of development forward."
The Saudi Senior Scholars Council, Saudi Arabia's highest religious body, "commended" the royal order allowing women to drive in a statement Wednesday, Saudi state news agency SPA reported, saying there was no religious reason to prevent women driving vehicles.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Saudi women to be allowed driving licenses

The day has come at last! Saudi women will be allowed to drive!!!!! The BBC is reporting that King Salman issued a decree to that end. 
Congratulations to Saudi women, and Saudi Arabia for getting this done!!!

Nine years ago when this blog began, we hoped this day would come. It is a thrill to see it actually happen. Now comes the challenge of implementing the change. This blogger believes that Saudi society is well ready for it, and that women driving will create more balanced traffic and driving behavior on the roads. It is a win-win for women and all of Saudi society to enable women to contribute fully to their society by being able to move about more freely in it. Good luck to everyone involved in the effort to enact this change and make it a reality.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Saudi cleric suspended over 'quarter-brain' women drivers quip

Reuters reported on September 22, 2017 that the cleric who claimed women shouldn't be able to drive since they only have a 'quarter brain' has been suspended by Saudi authorities. We posted the news about his initial lecture that was videotaped and put out on  social media. A link to the latest story is here, and the story is pasted in below.

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Saudi cleric who said women should not drive because their brains shrink to a quarter the size of a man’s when they go shopping has been banned from preaching, state television said.
Saad al-Hijri was suspended from all religious activity after advising against allowing women to drive in a speech that contained comments “diminishing human value”, the broadcaster quoted a spokesman for the governor of Asir province as saying.
Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving, despite ambitious government targets to increase their public role, especially in the workforce.
Women in the kingdom are also bound by law to wear long robes and a headscarf and require the consent of a male guardian for most legal actions.
In a video identifying him as the head of the religious edicts department in the southern province, Hijri asked what the traffic department would do it if it discovered a man with only half a brain.
“Would it give him a license or not? It would not. So how can it give it to a woman when she has only half?” he said.
“If she goes to the market she loses another half. What is left? A quarter...We demand the traffic department check because she is not suitable to drive and she has only a quarter.”
The comments sparked anger on social media, which is hugely popular in the kingdom. Twitter users shared the video, many criticising it and making jokes about his remarks, under the Arabic hashtag “Al-Hijri_women_quarter_brain”
Some users posted pictures of Saudi female scientists and academics in response and questioned Hijri’s own intellectual capacities.
His suspension, ordered by the provincial governor, was aimed at preventing the spread of views that spark controversy and do not serve the national interest, the provincial spokesman said, according to Ekhbariya TV’s official Twitter account.
Any others who used religious platforms to preach such views would also be banned.
The government’s modernizing reforms, backed by Saudi Arabia’s business class, have sparked tensions with influential clerics upon whose support the ruling family relies. Some clerics have millions of followers on social media.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Ahmed Tolba; editing by John Stonestreet

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Women can't drive because they 'have a quarter of a brain', Saudi sheikh says

Mariam Nabout writes on Stepfeed about a video of a Saudi cleric speaking about why women shouldn't be allowed to drive. Published on September 21, 2017. A link to the story is here  and the text is pasted below.

"Women don't deserve to drive because they only have a quarter of a brain"

According to the head of religious fatwas (edicts) in Saudi Arabia's Assir governorate, a woman shouldn't be allowed to drive because "she has a quarter of a brain."
You heard that right.
In a now-viral video that started making the rounds online late on Wednesday, Sheikh Saad Al Hajari is heard making the statement to a group of people during what appears to be a sermon.
"A woman isn't equal to a man when it comes to brain power and this is how she was created," Hajari said.
He then explained that because women have "half a brain," Saudi Arabia's Road and Traffic safety authority shouldn't allow them to drive.
"If a man had half a brain, would they issue him a driving license? They wouldn't."
Hajari's insults didn't stop here, he went on to explain that when women go shopping, they lose another half of their existing "half brain" and end up with only a quarter.
"Women don't deserve to drive because they only have a quarter of a brain," he reiterated.
Hajari's comments come at a time when the debate about women's right to drive continues to intensify.
Under the country's current law, there is no official prohibition on women driving, however, officials have yet to issue driving licenses to women. 

Outrage on social media

As soon as a video of Hajari's talk started to circulate online, it sparked outrage on Saudi Twitter.
Many wondered how a person who calls himself a religious cleric could make such statements, while others called on authorities to take immediate action against him. 

People were angered by the statements

"He's brainless"  

A few couldn't even watch the entire video

"I congratulate those who watched the video till the end for being able to handle it."  

"Don't they feel shame, talking about their own mothers like this!"

Many raised this issue

"The real problem is that a few of these clerics explain and interpret religion as they please and use our religion as an excuse to do the worst things." 

"A quarter of a brain contributes to the continuity of humanity, and a full brain contributes to its regression"

A few women shared right-on-point responses

"She lacks a brain, she lacks spirituality, she lacks an arm, leg, or even a head... all your bullshit won't work... women are going to drive sooner or later."  

Many called on the authorities to take action against Hajari

"This person is offending and denigrating Saudi women, authorities must take action against him and fire him from his position."  

Watch Hajari's full statement here: it's in Arabic only.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New proposal calls for granting licences to men and women alike

This story appeared in the Gulf News dated September 13, 2017. A link to the story is here, and the story is pasted in below.

Supporters are hoping the recommendation will this time be endorsed by the 150-member Shura council
Gulf News

Manama: A recommendation to allow Saudi women to drive will be submitted to the Shura Council within one month, a member of the Saudi advisory body has said.
“A high number of Shura members are interested in the issue, and 20 members have expressed their open support to it,” the member who was not named said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Monday.
Supporters are hoping the recommendation will this time be endorsed by the 150-member council.
In 2013, members Haya Al Maniie, Lateefa Al Shaalan and Muna Al Mushait submitted a motion to the Shura calling for allowing Saudi women to drive, within a religious framework.
However, the motion was turned down by the Council.
“The new proposal calls for amending Article 36 of the Traffic Law on the conditions to acquire a driving licence. Under the new proposal, a new paragraph will be introduced, stipulating that “the driving licence is a right for men and women alike when conditions are met, the Shura member said.
“The proposal was accompanied by a note explaining it, based on a comprehensive study showing the importance of establishing this requirement according to a scientific vision that took into consideration the social, economic, cultural, legal, security and other dimensions. The legal basis for the proposal is consistent with the system of state governance.”
There is legal text banning 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 drove on roads and highways, alone or with relatives, but they were accused of “stirring up public opinion” and made to sign commitments not to drive again. The women were held accountable for not holding valid driving licences.
The debate over allowing women to drive has been omnipresent on social media in Saudi Arabia with both camps using religious, social, cultural and economic arguments.
The presence of thousands of males 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 Saudi Shura Council comprises 30 women.