Ms. Huwaider started off as an employee at Aramco with an occasional piece published mostly in Al Watan newspaper. She’s a divorcee and mother who had accompanied her then husband for studies in the USA and I believe that life there had had a huge influence on her. Her presence as an activist snuck up on the Saudi government and the religious establishment until they finally resorted to banning her from all forms of Saudi media in 2003. On August fourth 2006 she took things into her own hands and single-handedly staged a protest by walking on foot with a poster demanding Saudi women rights on the King Fahad bridge between Bahrain and Riyadh. She was stopped and detained for questioning by the Saudi government for six hours. That same year she tried to get a group of Saudi women to organize a protest in the Eastern region where they would all drive cars. Unfortunately they backed out at the last minute. In 2007 she and three other women started a petition for women driving and they even went to the malls and the streets to get signatures. Three weeks into the petition they were able to gather 1100 that they then DHLed to the King’s office in Jeddah. However, what she is most famous for is the video last year in which she drove a car in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia and at the same time addressed the King in a plea to legalize women driving. Many Saudis criticize her because they believe she is out to air Saudi Arabia’s dirty laundry in front of the world. I think that these people are not aware that she has extensively written about these rights in Saudi media and in Arabic and that she is currently banned from doing so. Her Arabic writing is emotive and seems almost like poetry. She definitely has a talent for it. But that sort of writing in Arabic when writing about anything outside of religion rubs our conservatives the wrong way. They can’t even take logic and science if it disagrees with them.
When I asked a group of my mother’s generation about her, they called her subversive, disobedient, and disloyal to her religion, family and country. They also felt bad for Huwaider’s parents. And a group of women of my generation didn’t know who she is and after telling them, they shrugged their shoulders. I guess they are more aware of whatever they are currently showing on MBC 4. I also asked my husband what he thought of her and he just frowned. I think he’s worried that there might be an inner Wajeha lurking inside of me, squirming to get out. Most likely she won’t be appreciated and celebrated until my daughter’s generation and only as long as a Taliban-like government doesn’t take over and execute her or throw acid in her face. She told Turki Al Dakheel in a 2007 TV interview that she gets lots of hate mail with prayers that she contracts a deadly disease or at least gets her hand cut off. She also said that websites hosting her writing have been hacked several times.
Huwaider is a woman to be respected for her sacrifices. She had a stable life as an educated married mother and she sacrificed it for the women of her country. If you are interested here’s a link to a BBC radio interview she did in February.
What Huwaider is calling for in women and labour workers’ rights will never take root in Saudi Arabia unless a mass of the population calls for it. Why would the government rock the boat when the heard majority is happy with things as they are?