Women to drive movement
Saudi Arabia is unique in being the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive motor vehicles. The women to drive movement is a campaign by Saudi Arabian women, who have more rights denied to them by the regime than men, for the right to drive motor vehicles on public roads. Dozens of women drove in Riyadh in 1990 and were arrested and had their passports confiscated. In 2007, Wajeha al-Huwaider and other women petitioned King Abdullah for women's right to drive, and a film of al-Huwaider driving on International Women's Day 2008 attracted international media attention.
In 2011, the Arab Spring motivated some women, including al-Huwaider and Manal al-Sharif, to organise a more intensive driving campaign, and about seventy cases of women driving were documented from 17 June to late June. In late September, Shaima Jastania was sentenced to ten lashes for driving in Jeddah, although the sentence was later overturned.
Two years later, another campaign to defy the ban targeted 26 October 2013 as the date for women to start driving. Three days before, in a "rare and explicit restating of the ban", an Interior Ministry spokesman warned that "women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate support." Interior ministry employees warned leaders of the campaign individually not to drive on 26 October, and in the Saudi capital police road blocks were set up to check for women drivers.
- 1 Background
- 2 1990 driving protest
- 3 2007–2008 petition and YouTube video
- 4 2011–2012 campaign
- 5 International solidarity
- 6 See also
- 7 References
According to scholar David Commins, "In 1957, Riyadh pronounced a ban on women driving."  As of 2012[update], women's rights in Saudi Arabia are limited compared to international standards that have prevailed for the last century. This includes their right to drive cars and other motor vehicles. In 2002, The Economist magazine estimated that the salaries of the approximately 500,000 chauffeurs driving women in Saudi Arabia came to 1% of the national income.
1990 driving protest
In 1990, dozens of women in Riyadh drove their cars in protest against the driving ban. They were imprisoned for one day, had their passports confiscated, and some of them lost their jobs as a result of their activism.
2007–2008 petition and YouTube video
In September 2007, the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia, co-founded by Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Uyyouni, submitted a 1,100-signature petition to King Abdullah asking for women to be allowed to drive.
On International Women's Day 2008, al-Huwaider filmed herself driving, for which she received international media attention after the video was posted on YouTube. Al-Huwaider's drive began within a residential compound, where women are permitted to drive since roadways inside the compound are not considered to be public roads, but she left the compound and drove along a main highway. Al-Huwaider expressed the hope that the ban on women driving would be lifted by International Women's Day in 2009.
In 2011, a group of women including Manal al-Sharif started a Facebook campaign named "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself" or Women2Drive that says that women should be allowed to drive. The women said that their campaign was inspired by the Arab Spring.
The campaign called for women to start driving from 17 June 2011. As of 21 May 2011[update], about 12,000 readers of the Facebook page had expressed their support. Al-Sharif described the action as acting within women's rights, and "not protesting". Wajeha al-Huwaider was impressed by the campaign and decided to help.
A woman from Jeddah, Najla Hariri, started driving in the second week of May 2011, stating "Before in Saudi, you never heard about protests. [But] after what has happened in the Middle East, we started to accept a group of people going outside and saying what they want in a loud voice, and this has had an impact on me."
Considering the fact that Subaru vehicles have a tendency to be marketed heavily towards women, a number of Saudi women and various groups including Saudi Women for Driving has asked the parent company of Subaru, Fuji Heavy Industries to stop selling motor vehicles in countries where women cannot drive.
The following week, al-Huwaider filmed al-Sharif driving a car as part of the campaign. The video was posted on YouTube and Facebook. Al-Sharif was detained and released on 21 May and rearrested the following day. On 30 May, al-Sharif was released on bail, on the conditions of returning for questioning if requested, not driving and not talking to the media. The New York Times and Associated Press associated the women's driving campaign with the wider pattern of the Arab Spring and the long duration of al-Sharif's detention with Saudi authorities' fear of protests.
Late May – early June
On 23 May, another woman was detained for driving a car. She drove with two women passengers in Ar Rass and was detained by traffic police in the presence of the CPVPV. She was released after signing a statement that she would not drive again. In reaction to al-Sharif's arrest, several more Saudi women published videos of themselves driving during the following days.
Wajnat Rahbini, a Saudi actress famous in the Arab world for playing in the satirical comedy Tash ma Tash, broadcast annually during Ramadan, drove her car "in defiance of a long-standing ban on female driving" on 4 June in Jeddah. She was detained after exiting her car and released the following day without bail.
17 June 2011
On 17 June, about 30 to 50 women drove cars in towns in Saudi Arabia, including Maha al-Qahtani and Eman Nafjan in Riyadh, and other women in Jeddah and Dammam. When she drove for a second time the same day, al-Qahtani was given a ticket for driving without a Saudi Arabian licence. Al-Qahtani was pleased to receive the ticket, stating to a Time magazine journalist travelling with her, "It's a ticket. Write this down. I am the first Saudi woman to get a traffic ticket."
Late June 2011
On 29 June, five women driving in Jeddah were arrested. The Saudi Arabian blogger Eman al-Nafjan described the arrests as "the first big pushback from authorities". She claimed that the June drives were more significant than the 1990 protest, stating, "When actually the 1990 protest was only fourteen cars that had 47 passengers, [from] June 17th and onwards there have been about seventy documented cases of women driving."
In July, Princess al-Taweel, niece-in-law of Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, spoke about her opposition to the women driving ban on the United States (US) radio station NPR and called for women to have equal rights in the workforce, in the legal system, and in education. She described these human rights as more important than the right to drive. In response to criticisms of women's rights campaigns, she described her approach as "evolution not revolution".
At the end of September, Shaima Jastania was sentenced to 10 lashes for having driven a car in Jeddah. The sentence was announced shortly after King Abdullah decreed that women would be able to participate in the 2015 Saudi Arabian municipal elections and be appointed to the Consultative Assembly; King Abdullah overturned the sentence.
On 15 November 2011, Manal al-Sharif filed charges in the Grievances Board, a non-Sharia specialized court, against the General Directorate of Traffic for the rejection of her application for a driver's licence. Al-Sharif had applied for a licence in May 2011. The lawsuit was transferred to the Ministry of Interior.
In early December, a member of the Consultative Assembly, Kamal Subhi, submitted a report to the Assembly saying that lifting the ban would cause prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce and the "end of virginity". The head of the Assembly told women campaigners that he was "still open to hearing the case for lifting the ban".
On 4 February, Samar Badawi, a human rights activist who had driven regularly since June 2011 and helped other women drivers with police and court procedures, filed similar charges to those of Manal al-Sharif, objecting to the rejection of her own driving licence application. Badawi was asked by the Grievances Board to "follow-up in a week". The women to drive campaign circulated an email about the court case.
On 29 June 2012, to celebrate the anniversary of the June 2011 driving campaign launch, a member of the My Right to Dignity women's rights campaign drove her car in Riyadh. She stated that she had driven about 30–40 times in 2011 and that about 100 Saudi women had driven regularly since June 2011.
In October 2013, there was a campaign calling for women to defy the ban in a protest drive on 26 October, which gained support from some prominent women activists. In response, the campaign's website was blocked within Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan, one of Saudi Arabia's top clerics, said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems. Interior ministry employees had also contacted leaders of the campaign individually to tell them not to drive. However, despite this discouragement and a heavy police presence, as of Sunday 27 October Saudi activists had posted 12 films on YouTube said to be of women driving on Saturday, and said some other women had also driven but without recording their exploits on video or in photographs. Also a YouTube film made by male Saudi comedians went viral on Saturday to support the women's driving campaign, parodying the Bob Marley song "No Woman No Cry" as "No Woman No Drive".
On 15 June 2011, women drivers in the United States organised a protest in solidarity with Saudi women, planning to encircle the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. In mid-June, three women from Minnesota, supported by an advocacy group, announced a gender discrimination complaint against Saudi Arabia's livery services in Rochester to coincide with the 2011 "Women2Drive" campaign.
The music video to the M.I.A. song "Bad Girls", released on 2 February 2012, is a protest piece in solidarity with the movement. Elizabeth Broomhall, writing in Arabian Business, appreciated M.I.A. for "pushing boundaries" to get the world to pay attention to women’s right to drive in the kingdom, and for being a female artist who "finally" did something different. Lucy Jones from the The Daily Telegraph praised the video for its stance against Saudi driving law.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Women2drive.|
- Laura Bashraheel (27 June 2009). "Women's transport: Solutions needed". Arab News. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "II. Human Rights Violations Resulting from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation". Perpetual Minors. Human Rights Watch. 2008-04-19. Archived from the original on 2011-01-07. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
- "Saudi women make video protest". BBC News. 2008-03-11. Archived from the original on 2011-01-07. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "2008 Human Rights Report: Saudi Arabia". United States State Department. 25 February 2009. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
- "Women Deliver 100: 26 - 50". Women deliver. 2011. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
- Setrakian, Lara. "Saudi Woman Drives on YouTube." ABC News. 10 March 2008. Retrieved on 23 May 2010.
- "Five Saudi women drivers arrested, says activist". London: The Guardian/AP. 2011-06-29. Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- MacFarquhar, Neil (23 May 2011). "Saudis Arrest Woman Leading Right-to-Drive Campaign". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- Burke, Jason (2011-06-17). "Saudi Arabia women test driving ban". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2011-06-19. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
- al-Nafjan, Eman (2011-06-29). "Saudi women driving movement". Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- Khan, Muna (2011-06-20). "Highway to Nowhere. Why is it so hard to give the wheel to women?". Al Arabiya. Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- al-Omran, Ahmed (2011-09-29). "Reports: Saudi King Cancels Lashing Sentence Against Woman Who Drove". NPR. Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- Dolan, Kerry A. (2011-09-28). "Saudi King Revokes Lashing Punishment For Woman Driver". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- Casey, Mary. "Saudi Arabia issues warning against women's driving campaign". October 25, 2013. Foreign Policy magazine. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- Reuters (27 October 2013). "Saudi Arabian women vow to keep up campaign against driving ban". Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 November 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Commins, David (2009). The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris. p. 109.
- Buchan, James (1982). "Secular and religious opposition in Saudi Arabia". In Tim Niblock. State, Society, and Economy in Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris. pp. 108, 111, 112.
- The Economist, March 2002
- Tripp, Harvey; North, Peter (2009). CultureShock! A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette. Saudi Arabia (3rd ed.). Marshall Cavendish. p. 87.
- Al-Shihri, Abdullah (21 May 2011). "Manal al-Sherif, Saudi Woman, Detained For Defying Driving Ban". Huffington Post/AP. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
- Saudi woman claims she was detained for driving on CNN.com, 22 May 2011
- "Histoire du monde : le droit de conduire" (in French). RTBF. 23 May 2011. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
- al-Huwaider, Wajeha (23 May 2011). "The Saudi woman who took to the driver's seat". France 24. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
- Buchanan, Michael (18 May 2011). "Saudi woman seeks to put women in the driving seat". BBC. Archived from the original on 29 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
-  “Saudi women urge Subaru to stop selling cars where women can’t drive them”, PakWheels Blog, undated, Retrieved 24 January 2016.
-  “Saudi Women Call on ‘Progressive’ Subaru to Leave Kingdom Over Driving Ban”, Bloomberg, June 22, 2011, Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- Stewart, Catrina (23 May 2011). "Saudi woman arrested after defying driving ban". London: The Independent. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
- "Detained Saudi woman driver to be freed on bail". France 24/AFP. 31 May 2011. Archived from the original on 31 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- Murphy, Caryle (31 May 2011). "Saudi woman driver released from jail after nine days". The National. Archived from the original on 31 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- Michael, Maggie (26 May 2011). "Saudi authorities extend detention of woman who defied ban on female drivers". Winnipeg Free Press/AP. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- "Saudi woman caught driving in Qassim". Arab News. 24 May 2011. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "Saudi actress held for driving car". Emirates 24|7. 2011-06-05. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
- Toumi, Habib (2011-06-05). "Saudi actress Rahbini took driving lessons from husband". Gulf News. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
- Baker, Aryn (2012-01-13). "Making History: TIME Sits with a Woman Behind the Wheel in Saudi Arabia". Time (magazine). Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- "Women drivers of Saudi Arabia". Thomson Reuters. 2012-01-13. Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
- Kelly, Mary Louise (2011-07-14). "Saudi Princess Lobbies For Women's Right To Drive". NPR. Archived from the original on 2012-01-30. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
- Metz, Helen Chaplin (1992). "The Legal System". Saudi Arabia: A Country Study. United States Library of Congress. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
- Abu-Nasr, Donna (2012-02-04). "Saudi Woman Sues Traffic Agency for Refusing Driver's License". Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
- "Saudi women launch legal fight against driving ban". London: Daily Telegraph/AFP. 2012-02-06. Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
- "Saudi women in drive ban legal bid". London: The Independent/AP. 2012-02-05. Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
- Usher, Sebastian (2011-12-02). "'End of virginity' if women drive, Saudi cleric warns". BBC News. Archived from the original on 2012-01-16. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- "Saudi women file lawsuit against govt.". Press TV. 2012-02-05. Archived from the original on 2012-02-08. Retrieved 2012-02-11.
- al-Nafjan, Eman (2012-02-07). "It's back on!". Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
- "Saudi Authorities To Try Woman For Driving". WCMH-TV/AP. 2012-01-13. Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
- "My Right to Dignity". My Right to Dignity. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
- Abu-Nasr, Donna (2012-06-29). "Saudi Women Drive on Anniversary of Campaign to End Ban". Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
- "Driving damages women's ovaries: Saudi cleric". Al Akhbar English. 2013-09-29. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
- Reuters in Riyadh. "Saudi Arabian women vow to keep up campaign against driving ban | World news". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
- "Protest: Women drivers to circle Saudi embassy", Washington Examiner. 15 June 2011. Accessed 15 June 2011
- "Rochester women: We were fired from jobs as drivers for Saudis", Elizabeth Dunbar. Minnesota Public Radio. 16 June 2011. Accessed 17 June 2011
- "3 Minnesota Women Fired For Being Female", CBS Minnesota. 16 June 2011. Accessed 17 June 2011
- Dabbous, Dina (11 February 2012). "In Defence of MIA's 'Bad Girl' Arab-Bashing". Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- "M.I.A. song 'Bad Girls,' lawsuits renew fight for Saudi women's right to drive". 6 February 2012. Elizabeth Flock. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- Broomhall, Elizabeth (6 February 2012). "Saudi women drag racing video becomes YouTube hit". Arabian Business. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
- "Watch: M.I.A's middle finger to Saudi Arabia's insane driving laws trumps Madonna's sexy pop". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 February 2012.