My Right to Dignity campaign has issued its strongest statement so far. With school starting this week, households across the country are incapacitated by the ban on women driving and resentment has again boiled to the surface. This is evident in the more assertive tone of the statement. In the past few weeks the campaign has received several messages and videos of support from both Saudi men and women and enquiries about the next step planned. Nothing is definite just yet but I predict an exciting year ahead.
Translation of the original Arabic Right to Dignity eleventh statement:
We all know that the duty of the state is to achieve the greatest facilities for the convenience of citizens of both sexes and of all ages. This includes the state’s duty to protect them and ensure their rights in order that the people in turn build a society. This duty is recognized by our government and taken as one of the cornerstones upon which the state based its Basic Law of Governance decreed by King Fahad in 1992. Article VIII of The Basic Law states that governance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on justice, consultation and equality in accordance to Islamic law. Unfortunately our government has contradicted its own Basic Law of Governance.
The State discrimination is based on gender so that men are granted the right to freedom of movement and even adolescents and children driving is tolerated while women are strictly prohibited. This is unjust. This is also not complying with the Basic Law of governance of the country since, instead of basing it on consultation; the ban was issued on the basis of the views of a limited number of men with the exclusion of women. This despite the fact that it was made official only after a group of women protested the ban. That group of women who protested is much larger than the number of men consulted when issuing the ban. God did not distinguish between male and female, when he said in the Holy Quran: “And (He has created) horses, mules and donkeys, for you to ride and as an adornment. And He creates (other) things of which you have no knowledge”. This is the text that many Islamic scholars depend on to legalize driving, but the state and the religious establishment has ignored God’s decree of equality and decided to take the opinion of jurisprudential evidence as legitimately stronger and more important than God’s own words to justify discriminating against women and preventing them from the right to acquiring a license permit to drive. This right to a license permit is stated indiscriminately in the traffic law. Thus the ban and the religious misinterpretation on which it is based causes damage to millions of women based on assumptions and scenarios of a few that have no basis in reality.
As a result of this, religion has become a hardship on women. Saudi women now have the duty towards religion, country and society to carry the culpability and the hardship of not practicing their legitimate right. If any woman takes it upon herself to try to ease this hardship by publicly calling for a lift of the ban or by getting behind the wheel, her patriotism and honor are immediately questioned and she is publicly accused of being corrupt and thereby corrupting society. All this while the government stands by and offers her no protection.
We women are fully aware that society will not advance unless its advancement is with our support, our efforts, our productivity and with us. However this has become virtually impossible due to the overwhelming financial burden and emotional stress that we are forced to undertake just to have access to transportation and the ability to run our own errands within our homeland. The presence of two million legal and illegalmigrant male drivers that exploit the needs of women to bleed them financially of money that is betterspent on these women themselves and their families is unexplainable and religiously, socially and humanely un acceptable.
We are not asking for the impossible. All we want from the state is to stop issuing unfulfilled promises and conflicting internal and international statements about the ban on women driving. We want the state to begin to lift this injustice by issuing a decree to allow women who want to drive, to do so.Those women who do not want to drive are not forced to. Since the rights of citizens is guaranteed by Article VIII of the Basic Law of Governance adopted by the state and on which our government is founded, we hereby will exercise this right and the state has to support us and provide us with protective laws to practice it safely.