Wajeha al-Huwaider

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Wajeha al-Huwaider
وجيهة الحويدر
NationalitySaudi Arabian
OccupationJournalist, writer

Wajeha al-Huwaider (Arabic: وجيهة الحويدر‎) (born 1962 or 1963) is a Saudi activist and writer, who played key roles in the anti male-guardianship[1] and women to drive[2] campaigns during the early twenty-first century. She is a co-founder of The Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia.[3]


After being banned from publishing in Saudi Arabia in August 2003, Wajeha al-Huwaider became internationally well-known for writing about women's rights.[4] Al-Huwaider has published in the Arabic language daily Al-Watan and the English language daily Arab News.[5]

On 6 August 2006, al-Huwaider was arrested after she publicly protested by holding a sign stating "Give women their rights". She was detained again on 20 September 2006 for six hours.[4] Before she was released, al-Huwaider was forced to sign a statement agreeing to cease all human rights activism and was banned from travelling outside Saudi Arabia. The travel ban was lifted on 28 September.

Al-Huwaider supported the appointment of Norah al-Faiz and added that the Saudi government needs to further the rights of women.[6] Al-Huwaider wrote "Saudi women are weak, no matter how high their status, even the 'pampered' ones among them, because they have no law to protect them from attack by anyone. The oppression of women and the effacement of their selfhood is a flaw affecting most homes in Saudi Arabia."[4] In 2008, she received international media attention when a video of her driving in Saudi Arabia was posted on YouTube; it was illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia at the time.[2][7] In 2007, she presented a petition to King Abdullah advocating an end to the ban on women drivers. She collected signatures for the petition in public areas and through the internet, despite intimidation and the frequent blocking of her e-mail address. Al-Huwaider also campaigned against the mahram or guardianship laws that give male kin control over women's daily lives, including permission to travel outside the home.[8] In 2009 she deliberately tried on three separate occasions to cross the border with Bahrain without male guardian approval. She was refused departure all three times. She encouraged other women to try the same experiment in protest against the male guardianship system in general.[1]

A brief period spent in the United States influenced her to become a feminist activist:[9]

"Before that, I knew that I'm a human being. However, in the United States I felt it, because I was treated as one. I learned life means nothing without freedom. Then I decided to become a real women's rights activist, in order to free women in my country and to make them feel alive."

The editor of the reform-minded Aafaq compared al-Huwaidar to Rosa Parks.[10]

In 2011 al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni were charged with kidnapping for attempting to help Nathalie Morin to escape her abusive husband and go to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh.[11][12] The charges were dropped due to the influence of a prominent politician in the region, but a year later al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni were charged with the lesser crime of takhbib (inciting a separation between a husband and wife).[11] On 15 June 2013 al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni were convicted and sentenced to prison for ten months, with an additional two-year travel ban.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jamjoom, Mohammed; Escobedo, Tricia (10 July 2009). "Saudi woman activist demands right to travel". CNN. Archived from the original on 26 May 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Saudi women make video protest." BBC. Tuesday 11 March 2008. Retrieved on 23 May 2010.
  3. ^ "Women Deliver 100: 26 – 50". Women deliver. 2011. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Dankowitz, Aluma (28 December 2006). "Saudi Writer and Journalist Wajeha Al-Huwaider Fights for Women's Rights". Middle East Media Research Institute. Archived from the original on 26 May 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  5. ^ "Wajeha al Huwaider". English Pen. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Saudi activist: Female minister 'first step' but more needed." CNN. 15 February 2009. Retrieved on 15 February 2009.
  7. ^ Setrakian, Lara. "Saudi Woman Drives on YouTube." ABC News. 10 March 2008. Retrieved on 23 May 2010.
  8. ^ "Saudi Women Drivers: Threat to State Religion and Politics". Huffington Post. 15 October 2013.
  9. ^ Hiel, Betsy (13 May 2007). "Dhahran women push the veil aside". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  10. ^ Salman, Omran (17 March 2008). "Wajeha Al-Huwaidar Makes History". Aafaq.org. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  11. ^ a b c "Canada Turned a Blind Eye to This Woman's Black Eye". 7 November 2013.