My piece in the Guardian: Women driven to confusion in Saudi Arabia

On 11 March, when Saudi protesters’ “day of rage” did not materialise, Fouad al-Farhan, a human rights activist, tweeted:

“My fear is that the ceiling of our reformist demands will be lowered to women driving for some and combating westernisation for others.”

Two months later, his fears became a reality. A campaign to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia was started on Facebook. Currently this issue has overtaken all others online, in the press and on the ground. read more…


CBC Radio interview with one of the first women to drive in this campaign, Najla Harriri, and Saudi journalist and activist, Ebtihal Mubarak. I’m also on there too.

A comprehensive historical look at the campaign that goes back over twenty years ago by Ebtihal Mubarak in Foreign Policy.


Filed under Uncategorized

14 responses to “My piece in the Guardian: Women driven to confusion in Saudi Arabia

  1. Nah

    That’s an interesting thought. As you know, sooner or latter, this debate must be taken, this society must get used to hearing different opinions and what happened yesterday is likely to be a healthy thing on the long, democratic & free term.
    Never in the past, such an open discussion of such an iconic social issue has occurred. It has always been between very-conservative clerics and (what I consider) less-conservative press but young independent people got to reach out this time, which made the usual, extreme voices very rejected and I’m sure that the society never has been more supportive of the issue or more questionable of the ‘westernisation’ thing (yes there still many who buy it, but it’s improving)
    Plus, the idea of contacting human rights organizations and getting media support are skills that young activists can use.

    Finally, did you notice who the official media was absolutely silent today?

  2. Laura Maniscalco

    I wonder if the people that insist on the ban is not connected with the agency that provide the drivers for woman …Is this ban based, even partially, on money interest ?

  3. There are old men with evil minds, and there are young women with courage and the knowledge that your society cannot go on like this. And that slobbering clerics are not the ones to decide about universal human rights, – although they would love to do so.

    It may comfort you to know that during my childhood in the 1950´s in Germany, prejudice against women and women driving was similar, a stinking mix of dumbness, preservations and false piety. So I believe, you´ll have to go through all that. You will bear the discrimination and the humiliations, but at the end you´ll win. Time is overdue for a wroldwide relaunch of democratic virtues. Arabia has given a lot to human culture, in the past, and so it will now. As a European, I would not be surprised to find totally new impulses coming from your culture into ours: the youth, the courage and last not least the self-confidence that authority in its present form is a dying elefant that will have to give way to new forms of democratic self-organisation. I´m pretty sure, once the levies have broken, Arabic women will walk in the front line of all this.

  4. Sam Hindawi, coach and public speaker

    Equality between men and women is an inevitable condition that will be established. The whole world, country by country, decade after decade, have all come recognized and established greater and greater rights for women. Those inequalities that took place for centuries are coming to a near end. What is truly unfortunate is that we do not recognize the importance of this equality.

    Nations that gave women there birth earned rights, have flourished throughout history. Our Arab and Muslim nations did so as well. The examples played by heroin figures in our society are many and enough to convince those of clear thinking and adequate consciousness of the importance of protecting women rights. Women rear the future of our nations. Are we so dumb and blind that we do not recognize that? As an Arab man, I am embarrassed today by my Saudi gender who believe that such ban is pious and moral.

    The dogmatic and fearful minds will always perish. I assure my dearly loved and respected Saudi women of that. No injustice ever prevailed. No inequality ever succeeded in the end. But your world has not awaken fully to this reality yet. It will happen. Of that I am certain.

    I implore Saudi men who think as I do to lead with their words and deeds their communities to establish healthy and respected relationship among the two genders and fight for equal rights. Your nation will benefit from this and so will you. Learn about women. Try to understand them beyond any form of objectification. Learn how to make them happy and you will be happy yourselves.

    Eman, I loved how you inquired about what will happen if women continued to drive. That is indeed what needs to happen. Society will come along. However, change happens by those who show up. I wish I was there in person. My work would be with Saudi men.

  5. les king

    The ban on women driving in Suadi Arabia is as ridiculous as it sounds, but the resistance to such what is a trivial matter in the grand scheme of things, by the religous establishment and certain members of the Saudi royal Family is simple to understand, these dinosaurs fear an avalanche of women reforms if this first milestone is arrived at. They percieve this issue and its success as the beginning of the end of their absolute power. Whenever I hear that tired old dogma that ‘women’ are venerated in Saudi society it makes wonder if the Saudi establishment actually believe this because let me assure them, nobody else does.

  6. Hello Eman. I am hooked on your blog. I found your blog two days ago and since then I have not stopped reading it. I have read all your posts. I was off two days and reading your blog was the only thing I have been doing. Coming to the issue you raised, I liken this to running the marathon. You one day decide to get out and run 50k. But half way thru it you realize your muscles are too weak for that. Then you have two choices give up all together or start small all over again. May be you can start running around the block, then 5k, etc. And little by little you will get there. Even though the right to drive is minor compared to other rights denied to women, it is a first step. May be if radicals can see that women driving does not unravel the fabric of society, they will be more willing to allow women have other rights as well.
    Also driving will make women more visible. I remember a study done here in in the US that say that white people who have more contact with black people are less racist. May be with more visibility of women sexism will be less prevalent in SA

  7. LJM

    The youtube video I would like to see?

    Saudi women driving. I want to see, on video, Saudi women driving. We know they do, all over the world, just not in Saudi itself. A video, one video, of a perfect Muslimah driving in a perfectly halal way: with permission and supervision, ideally filmed in an area that is not “The Evil West.”

    As an aside, I am so tired of this being blamed on me/us. The West endlessly talks about this, for sure. In fact, it is probably this issue, solely and singularly, that is the greatest divide between Saudi Arabia and every other country in the world that allows women to drive – even Islamic countries, and NOT only “The Evil West.”

    Honestly, it’s disappointing that this is such a divide when the solution is there because Saudi women drive. Moreover, the blaming is useless and only serves to widen the divide. There’s endless yapping about whether women should drive, even though they do drive, but Saudi Arabia can’t come together and figure out how to make it happen IN Saudi Arabia. The logistics are easy and clearly pointed out in the Qu’ran (there has been absolutely no statement otherwise, ever), and already happens every single day.

    Here’s what I’m looking for.

    A Saudi woman, a Saudi woman that holds a passport, driving permit, marriage papers, letter from her Mahram, appropriate religious texts with pages marked in the driver’s seat, driving, while her also appropriately documented Mahram is also the vehicle.

    The only other requirement is that it can’t be filmed in Saudi Arabia because, as we all know, is illegal but not illegal and both women and men get in trouble and have to promise not to do it again if they are caught doing this and, really, it’s proven to be a bad idea.

  8. khalid o.k.

    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

    اخواتنا في الله حفظكم الله جميعا من كل سوء

    السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

    لقد سأئني جهل الجهلاء وقلة معرفتهم بالدين الاسلامي – انا ممن يؤيدون قيادة المرأة للقياده فهو حق شرعي قبل ان يكون حقا مدنيا و احتياجيا
    وان كنت اطالب بتنفيذ شروط لقيادة الانثى لسيارتها فإن ابرز الشروط التي يجب ان تتوفر لها هي امتلاك جهاز الشلل الكهربائي لحماية انفسهن من ذوي العقول المتعجرفه ممن يستهويهم اذية الاناث وليس على طول الدوام بل حتى يتعود هذا المجتمع المتخلف اسلاميا ودينيا وانسانيا
    لقد كانت الانثى في صدر الاسلام تقود راحلتها من جمال وحتى خيول وما ضرها شيئا ما دامت على خطى الرحمن تمضي وما جاء تحريم الهي او حتى نبوي
    وهنا يحرمون الحق من اجل استرضاء الاحلاس ذوي اللحي ونعلم تماما ان الامر السياسي لا يخدم المواطن لقلة عقل هولاء القوم ولذلك فحقها الشرعي لا يمنعه الا حاخامات صهيون الاسلام والاسلام منهم براء
    اما مدنيا فحقهم الذي يأمنهم من سوء المستغلين من اصحاب الليموزين الاجانب أسال الله لهولاء السائقين ان يحبط استغلالهم السيئ والمهين فكم من سائق عام كالليموزين وكم من سائق خاص يهين الانثى السعوديه الى حد الاغتصاب
    بل ويصل الامر الى الاستغلال المادي الى ان اصيبت العوائل بالخراب الاخلاقي
    فاين انتم ياعلمائنا عفو ياشيوخ يا اسياد اللحي بل اصحاب اللحي من بشاعة افعالكم مما فعله السفهاء من هولاء الاجانب الغادرين
    نعم نعم نعم

    يوجد الفساد من دون هضم الحق من اجل قيادة الانثى لسيارتها ولو كانت تلك زواجاتكم وبناتكم ما رضيتم لهم ذلك وربما وربما قد تجعلون بناتكم او زوجاتكم تقودن سيارتهن في الخارج

    واين الانسانيه في حق بنات بلدنا ممن لا عائل لهم غير الاناث فهل يجلسن دون ان يحسن لهن
    فكم من خسائر ماديه يجنينها للعيش دون الحاف

    الامور كثيره جدا ومتعبة اكثر من تخيلنا

    ايتها الفتيات التي يردن قيادة سيارتهن اقول لكم ناضلن حتى ينكسر قرني الثور السعودي فاما ذلول واما حلول

    انا ادعمكم بالدعاء لكن ان ينصركن حتى تقدن سيارتكن اما الجميع وبين الذكور
    وللعلم انا لي اخت واحده ودوما ادعوه لتعلم القيادة وان خسرت سيارتي من اجل ان توفاني الله لن تجد احدا تستعطفه ليوصلها الى مكان فلا اريدها تحتاج لي ولا اخوتي ولا الى ان تحتاج تاكسي ولميوزينات ولا تاى سائقين خاصين

    انا بطبعي رجل محافظ ولكني حر التفكير على المنهج النبوي واكره التعقيدات فكل زمان له اناسه ورجاله

    اخوكم في الله خالد عمر سليمان

    وفقكم الله ونصركن اجمعين
    منا الدعاء وعلى الله التوفيق
    والسلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

  9. Somehow the Wests Vision of an American Ghetto does not seem like much of a Future for Arabia. The Monarchy Is a Capitalist Hoax, (as It has been since the fall of the Ottoman Empire) and so Is Democracy.
    There Is nothing so Beautiful as a Central Asian Buddhist Cave, Or a Pre Colonial
    Persian Rug; But I would rather be forced to Pray over one than have my Children learn about then from the lips of a condescending Hollywood Celebrity…

  10. lefranse

    What a bunch of morons. You prefer women to be driven by men that you hardly know. It is better for everyone in the household, except underage children, to know how to drive. A seconds or a few minutes could determine whether you live or die. Go Saudi women, learn to drive, and then drive!!!

  11. Smat

    سبحان الله يجعل لكل شخص هدف في حياته. البعض أهدافهم عظيمه والبعض الآخر أهدافهم سخيفه و بايخه. هل هدف تحرير المرأه لقيادة السياره عظيم أم سخيف يا أخت إيمان لأن كل مواردك الفكريه و الماليه و تعلمك للإنجليزيه و الإتصالات الهاتفيه بالقنوات الفضائيه هي فقط حول هذا المحور؟؟؟؟؟؟؟
    ولماذا تعتبرينه عظيم؟؟؟؟؟؟
    لدي قائمه طويله بالأهداف العظيمه الكبيره النبيله الراقيه المحترمه للمرأه إذا أردتي أن أزودك

    • ممكن هي تافهة بالنسبة لك لانك لا تشعر الا بما يمس حياتك الشخصية ولكن حينما انظر حولي اجد الأرملة ذات راتب ٤٠٠٠ وملزمة بايجار سكن وبسبب حظر القياددة مثقلة بهم راتب وسكن رجل غريب. وامرأة اخرى لا تريد الخروج عن زوجها وفقد أطفالها ولكن مبتلاة بزوج لا يقوم بواجباته ولا يصرف عليها فوجدت عمل بإحدى المدارس الاهلية ولكن مضطرة ان تعطي نصف عرق جبينها لرجل غريب بسبب حظر القيادة. تخيل نفسك تشتري سيارةبعد ما تجمع المبلغ او تقيسطه من راتبك وتضطر ان تضع المفاتيح وتسلمها لرجل من احد قرى جنوب اسيا لا يقدر كم هي كلفتك. ولماذا؟ أليس هذا ظلم وإجحاف؟

  12. Edson (Pele)

    Simple solutions to two problems in Saudi Arabia: datng and driving.
    Dress 100% Saudi Arabian and speak Arabic fluenty before trying this out.
    Take the Saudi girl out on a date. And let her do the driving for a change.
    Do not go to the mall or supermarket. Go out to the desert.

  13. zadoc

    So… they’ll be allowed to run for office but they won’t be allowed to drive to their office?

    POLL: Should Saudi women be allowed to drive?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s