"We did not break the law. We were not driving on the road,” one Saudi woman said after being arrested for practicing her driving skills. Today five women were arrested for driving in three cars in an empty lot in the Hettein district in Saudi Arabia when two police officers arrived to detain them. Next week a nation-wide protest by women who oppose the ban against female drivers will take place in the country.
In Saudi Arabia there is no written ban against women driving, however it is illegal for women to obtain a driver’s license in the country, making it effectively illegal for female drivers. Saudi women have seen the change and progress taking place across the Arab world and are jumping at their chance to make noise for their cause.
Shaima Osama drove herself to the hospital to receive her regular vitamin injection and was arrested by police on the way home. She said, “I learned that there is no law banning women driving. I took the keys, took a deep breath and started the car." Also arrested for her rebellion, Manal Alsharif posted a Youtube video of herself driving and encouraging others to do the same.
Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi politics professor says "The issue of women not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia has been in the public domain for more than 35 years. This is not the first time women had driven cars but you could say that the revolutionary wave has added to momentum and added a new context."
In Saudi Arabia women need written approval from a male guardian to work, travel or have certain surgeries. Most families have at least one driver, or if they can’t afford one they have a male family member do the driving. It would be not only timesaving but also extremely cost-effective for women to do their own driving, however the opposition is violently firm. Conservatives against this form of progress have launched oppositional social media campaigns encouraging people to beat women who attempt to drive.
One student, Talal al-Hussain says that he agrees with women driving: “It would ease costs but there need to be some rules. Women shouldn't drive from 18 years of age like we do, but from their early thirties when they can look after themselves better.”
Several women across the country have been taking action on behalf of the Facebook groups challenging the ban, and June 17 marks the date that Alsharf wants all women to start driving in protest.