Saudi Women Continue to Challenge Driving Ban

by Adrienne Tooley

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Luckily, that’s just what a few brave women in Saudi Arabia are doing in the hopes of finally lifting the ban against female drivers. According to NPR, Saudi women are continuously posting videos of themselves driving on YouTube, and have chosen Saturday, October 26th as a day for women in the country to rally together and drive. 

Although women say that officials have lightened up on their general restrictions against females behind the wheel, women are still unable to procure their own driver’s licenses. That change will come only after King Abdullah has officially deemed it appropriate. Though the ruler says he supports a woman’s right to drive, no changes to protocol have yet been made.

Currently, women in Saudi Arabia (the only country that effectively prohibits women to drive) must rely on men to provide their transportation. But drivers can be expensive, and women want more freedom. The ban on driving also directly conflicts with the government’s attempt to integrate more women in the private sector workforce—without the ability to control their own transportation, women are unable to accept such work positions. Thus, women are taking matters into their own hands.

This is not the first time women in Saudi Arabia have attempted to make a change for their right to drive. In 1990, a group of 47 women made the first attempt. All were fired from their jobs and banned from traveling for many years. In 2011, Maha al-Qatani was the first Saudi woman to be given a traffic ticket. Other women were jailed for driving, but in the wake of the event, King Abdullah granted women the right to vote in local elections, and 30 women were appointed to a 150-member advisory council to the king.

Such progress is exciting, but the work isn’t finished yet. Although it can sometimes be dangerous, women must continue to fight for their rights. “Think back in history — Rosa Parks was the only person who sat down on the bus, wasn’t she? And then it started to happen gradually,” Saudi activist Sara Hussein told NPR. “It does have to start with the few brave people who are willing to risk whatever there is to risk.”


Thanks to NPR

Image courtesy of NPR

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