September 26, 2013

Women driving a basic right

Women driving a basic right


Last updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 11:55 PM

Abdullah Al-Alami

Wednesday, Sept. 25, was an occasion for Saudi women and the entire nation to celebrate. This date marks the first anniversary of the announcement made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah that women will be appointed full-fledged members of the Shoura Council.

The King also said Saudi women could vote and run in municipal council elections.

Since then, Saudi women have suffered many constraints and setbacks in their daily lives. Among others, these included abusing and bad-mouthing the women who have become Shoura Council members and also those who practice sports in private schools or in fitness clubs. The women cashiers and those working in lingerie shops have also been mercilessly harassed.

The women who dared to ask for their right to drive cars have been hushed. There were many positive statements about the right of women to drive. I will only mention a few of them, issued by the executive, judicial, religious and legislative authorities.

Former Interior Minister Prince Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz told  journalists in May 2011 when he was deputy interior minister that the system does not allow Saudi women to drive but people had the right to make such demands.

Speaker of the Shoura Council Sheikh Abdullah Al-Sheikh said in June 2011 that the council was ready to discuss the issue of women driving whenever it was presented to it.

Justice Minister Mohammed Al-Issa said in April 2013 that there was no clear position in the Saudi system of governance, or constitution, to prevent women from driving. “The matter is entirely a societal one,” he said.

President of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) Abdullatif Al-Alsheikh told Reuters news agency in September 2013 that the ban on women driving was not imposed by any Shariah text. Yet, there is a standing fatwa (religious edict) against women driving in Saudi Arabia.

There are some people who have reservations against celebrating our National Day on religious grounds. Will we listen to these people and stop celebrating our National Day?

The demand for women driving is not an optional one. It is the right of women to demand to be allowed to drive. It is also their right to keep silent about it.

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