Saudi Women Demand More Rights!

When it comes to oppression of women, not much surprises me anymore. I can easily pick up a newspaper, glance through a few pages and find several stories of how women still have not achieved the level of dignity they demand. Perhaps, even easier is to focus attention outside the western world — overt, blatant oppression can usually be found without looking far and I didn’t really have to look far when I pulled up the story of the Saudi woman Manal al-Sherif.

What was Manal’s crime? Driving a car in Saudi Arabia. Yes, you heard me right- driving a car. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both foreign and Saudi — from driving.   Now the interesting thing about all of this is that there is no law against women driving. Only a fatwa created by hard-line clerics like Abdel Rahman al-Barak. Barak thinks that allowing women to drive is opening women to temptation and sin. If women were allowed to drive, they might travel do sinful acts. Thereby suggesting that only men should have this kind of allowance.

This fatwa forces those who can afford it, to hire a full time live in driver for $300 to $400 a month. Those who don’t have that kind of money have to rely on male family to drive them around.

Frustrated at the fatwa, Manal defiantly taped herself driving while explaining how not driving is taking away her basic human right.

Since then, Saudi authorities have arrested the 32-year-old Manal, information technology specialist for Aramco, the Saudi oil conglomerate  and her brother according to Abu Dhabi-based English-language newspaper the National for wanting a basic right that almost every woman around the world enjoys.

Currently, a campaign to end the ban on driving calls for Saudi women who have international licenses to jump into their cars and drive on June 17th. When this same act was attempted in 1990, some women lost their jobs and some were denounced by their communities as well as theirr clerics.   Despite the potential risks of arrest and loss of livelihood, the campaign is earning international attention- how could it not, half the world is made up of women.

So imagine this, you, as a woman would not be able to go to the grocery store, take your child to the doctor if s/he were sick, take yourself to the hospital if you needed. You are at the mercy of a male in your family who has time for you, or cares enough to make time for you. If you are a man, you are bound to catering to the needs of the women in your family. You have to take them shopping, always be available, and take time out of your life to become the driver you wish you could hire.

The thought of relying on someone or having to cater to someone would probably drive most of us insane. We can't imagine a world that doesn't allow us to do what we want - how we want. For me, this is a strong reminder that as a global society we still have a really long way to go.

You can connect by following  the group's account on Twitter

Saudi Arabia: Free Woman Who Dared to Drive (Human Rights Watch)

Woman Driver Jailed Pending Probe: Official (by Khalid al-Blahidi, Saudi Gazette)

Manal Al Sherif (Saudiwoman’s Weblog)

Manal al-Sherif Drives (YouTube