Friday, June 17, 2011

DWF - Driving While Female

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." ~ Abraham Lincoln

Today, June 17, 2011, marks the day that women in Saudi Arabia planned to begin their peaceful protest against an unfair ban against "Driving While Female" in the conservative desert kingdom. There have been reports from all over the country about women who hold valid international drivers' licenses taking their rightful places behind the wheels with the support and blessings of their husbands and fathers. At the same time it appears as though the police are confused as to what their course of action should be, especially after the unpopular decision to jail Manal Al-Sharif, a young Saudi mother, for ten days in May 2011 for her crime of Driving While Female.

Disabling half the population of the country is a bad policy on so many levels:

• The added expense to families who must hire drivers is not cost effective, especially when women are perfectly capable of driving themselves.

• Importing droves of foreign males to act as private family drivers and taxi drivers presents a variety of potential problems for the Saudi women who are supposedly prohibited from driving for their own safety.

• Placing a Saudi woman in the company of a man driver who is not part of her family is totally against the teachings of Islam, which calls for unrelated men and women not to be alone together to prevent inappropriate contact from taking place.

• Those families who cannot afford drivers or choose not to have them suffer greatly due to the added stress on the male members of the family who must chauffeur the women around besides working their regular paid jobs.

The women also suffer from the inconvenience of having to rely/impose on male family members just to take them to school, work, shopping, or to visit friends or relatives.

• In emergency situations, Saudi women are forced to choose between saving a loved one's life by driving or by obeying the law of the land and possibly watching their loved one die.

The reasons for why disallowing women from driving is such a bad policy are too numerous to mention here, while the excuses for keeping this policy ban in effect range from feeble, outdated, unfair, and illogical, to downright ridiculous.

The world has finally sat up and taken notice of this infringement of Saudi women's rights. There have been countless newspaper articles reporting on the situation and numerous online groups and videos supporting Saudi women in their quest to obtain this very basic function of living a normal life.

The Current Radio Program, CBC Radio featuring an interview with Saudi Blogger Eman Al-Nafjan

Facebook Group "Yes 2 Women Driving in Saudi Arabia"

Saudi Women Defy Driving Ban

Saudi Arabia Women Test Driving Ban

Saudi Women Drivers Take the Wheel on June 17

Saudi Arabia Women Drive Cars in Protest at Ban

Saudi Women Challenge Male-Only Driving Rules

YouTube videos "Honk for Saudi Women"

YouTube videos of "Saudi Women Driving"

Women Who Drove in KSA in 1990

Those who are against allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia at this point will probably never be ready for it and will never change their minds. But it is obvious to me after my short time in the kingdom these past few years that those who are in favor of lifting the ban have found their voices and are ready for this to happen.

"Driving While Female" should not be considered a crime anywhere in the world.

What will Saudi Arabia do?


  1. U know I think even in Afghanistan women are allowed to drive, ok maybe allowed is an extreme word but maybe its not a crime if they do.

  2. Susie,
    Hi there!
    I check in on your blog from time to time and I got to say that I really appreciate your thoughts and blogposts. I especially love the extremely relevant quote from Lincoln. Keep up the great work and God bless!

  3. For goodness sakes, it's the new millenium, how much longer?

    Saudia Arabia looks like a beautiful country, from what I've seen in your pictures, KSA, join the rest of us in giving women their due place in society.

  4. Susie, how do you feel it went? Think you'll be taking the wheel yourself any time soon?

  5. Assalaam alaikum wa rahmatullah.

    This was a very nice article. I don't know if you are Muslim or not, but you do seem to have a really good understanding of Islamic teachings and you presented them in a coherent and overall correct way (which is SO RARE these days!). The thing that irks me the most is those "sheikhs" (I don't believe they deserve the title) who say women shouldn't be allowed to drive because they may come into contact with strange men at a gas station or if they need roadside assistance, etc... then women have to rely on strange men (ie: hired drivers) to take them around. It's preposterous logic!

    I have to say, though, I really hate that you used that particular political cartoon, which does not speak to the issue, but rather is intended to illustrate the oppressive nature of the abaaya and khimar, or hijab. I feel it is completely inappropriate to your otherwise wonderful blog entry. As a convert to Islam, I have experienced both sides of the coin: hijab and no hijab. To say that hijab is oppressive is ignorant, incorrect and actually quite insulting. I do disagree with it being mandated in KSA (no where in the Qur'an or Sunnah does it say not wearing it is a punishable offense, which leads me to believe that disobeying the commandment is between a person and God), but its nature is anything BUT oppressive.

    Keep up the good work. If I ever move to Jeddah (a possibility, as my husband and I are looking into international teaching opportunities in KSA) I will certainly look you up, insha'Allah.

    Wa salaam

    Umm Isa

  6. Thank you for fleshing out this issue for me in terms of the practical applications of the current law. I do hope that the women of Saudi are successful in their attempts to achieve what seems like very simple parity in the rest of the world. I'll be following your links with interest!

  7. @ Umm Isa - I used that cartoon because to me it illustrates the oppressive nature of many aspects of Saudi women's lives, not just hijab in particular. It represents much more to me. I didn't even see it as being against hijab and didn't intend for it to be seen that way.