F.A.Q. About the Saudi Women Driving Ban

Today, November 6th, is the 25th anniversary of the first protest against the women driving ban in Saudi Arabia. On this occasion, it’s apt to answer all those questions Saudis usually get when the ban comes up:

Why is there a ban on women driving?
Any answer is pure speculation. The government arrests and/or punishes not only women who drive but also anyone who attempts to raise this issue. Simultaneously, all official statements concerning the ban claim it is a societal issue that the government does not want to interfere with. The Minister of Foreign Affairs insisted that it is a societal ban and not governmental when asked by British journalists in 2007.

It has no basis in religion. Even the most extremist interpretations of Islam such as ISIS’s do not ban women from driving. Even if an Islamic reason is forced, it should not lead to a government ban. There are fatwas against health insurance, against women working in hospitals, against women being alone with a driver…etc. These things and others are not only legal but also practiced by members of the religious establishment despite the fatwas.
The only answer that does make sense is the financial aspect. Dr. Mohammed bin Saud AlMasoud wrote a breakdown of this last year in Aleqtisadiah Newspaper, and I’ve translated it in the previous post.

Why don’t the Saudis who protest the ban go through the proper channels?
They have gone through the proper channels over and over again. The Royal Court has been bombarded with petitions requesting the ban be lifted since 2003. These petitions never get a response or even acknowledgement. The Shura Council rejected proposals to discuss the ban in 2006, 2011 and 2013. Aziza Al-Yousef and Hala Al Dosari even had a meeting with the Minister of Interior (albeit via closed circuit TV), and he told them that the Ministry has no executive power in these matters and that it is completely up to the King. However, the Ministry is the source of statements banning women from driving, and Saudi Kings have repeatedly stated that this is a matter for society to decide.

Why won’t those protesting the ban quiet down to give the Saudi government a chance to seem like it came to the decision on its own?
This approach has been attempted by activists over several years. They are promised indirectly through official statements and directly through private conversations with officials that the ban will be lifted soon. “Quiet down until after Ramadan” is a favorite of these officials. On and off, over the years, these promises and in return lulls in activism occur with nothing to show for it.

Why won’t more women just drive their cars to protest?
Hundreds, if not thousands, of women have driven both in protest and because they have no other option. The numbers are low for two reasons. The first is the risk of arrest is real. Cars are impounded; women are imprisoned, fined, lashed and even threatened with terrorism charges for public incitement. The second reason is that it is difficult for women to learn how to drive in the first place. Even neighboring Gulf countries make it difficult for Saudi women to obtain licences out of respect for the Saudi government.

Traffic in Saudi Arabia is already a problem, what would happen if women also drove?
Lifting the ban on women driving will help ease traffic. Due to the ban, there are millions of expatriate men in the country simply to drive women around. These drivers are using the roads twice and thrice more than if women were to drive their own cars. For example, when I need to get to work (a 40-minute commute), I use the roads twice, once in the morning and a second in the afternoon. The rest of the time my car is parked outside my office. However, because I am required to export and employ a foreign man to drive my car, we use the roads twice as much. Currently, he drives me to work, then drives back home and then drives to my office a second time that day to pick me up and drive me home. This is if we falsely assume that the driver will drive straight home and not use the roads for his errands and even joyrides. Traffic is only one downside of the ban on women driving. There’s also the economical, environmental, and societal impact of needlessly having all these strangers take up space on our roads and in our homes.


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31 responses to “F.A.Q. About the Saudi Women Driving Ban

  1. Reblogged this on HX Report and commented:
    MB is often asked about this subject when he is home. This Saudiwomen’s Blog provides most of the answers.

  2. Has it occurred to the Saudi regime, its religious establishment and Saudi males, in general, that denying women the right to drive in the 21st century justifies global denunciation of Saudi Arabia as a medieval fiefdom? I hear this argument wherever I go not only among those accused of being Arab and Muslim haters, but at social and political events where the crème de la crème of advanced societies exchange view of world’s issues.

    Continuing to deny Saudi women their natural and human rights is holding Saudi Arabia back, costing it a fortune and denying it the contributions of millions of educated, resilient, enlightened, tolerant and brilliant women.

    • Tapani

      I think the main point in progress is to make women equal for the business reasons (do not take wrong: I am a true ” believer” of the equality). The thing is that in a society, which supports/enhances the women’s rights, there is the double of bright brains thriving the business; it is not our of nothing the Nordic countries florish!

  3. Could it be, like other cultures, not a ‘religious’ thing, not a ‘government’ thing but a men thing? I’m not ‘man-bashing’ but history shows across cultures and centuries men do a lot of things to keep women subservient.

    • Ieesis,
      This is the 21st century. Women, worldwide, have gained tremendous financial independence, equality and legal rights to protect them against predators. Saudi women’s fate is determined by men from cradle to grave. It might be helpful if you read the male guardian system in Saudi Arabia.

  4. Reblogged this on Leesis Ponders and commented:
    the more we learn the better we are

  5. i’ve seen Saudi women learning how to drive here in Oman and in the UAE when i lived there. (They have a male family member with them, normally). i’m thinking these women/families must have a spare bit of dosh to allow them the time etc to go to a neighbouring country to learn driving skills.

  6. Pingback: Interesting Links for 07-11-2015 | Made from Truth and Lies

  7. Hamidu Jalloh

    Since, no Islamic; Quran, hadith, fatwa or shariya supports the ban… Let’s the Saudi authorities lift the ban.

  8. Saudia Arabia is it the biggest women’s prison in the world
    A sad fact

  9. Daniel

    While I certainly appreciate and agree that women should be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, I am a tad surprised by the uncharitable comments about expat drivers, the majority of whom treat women with respect. I lived in that country some years ago and believe that, strange as it may sound, Saudi women often hesitated to get into taxis driven by Saudi men.

  10. Lucille

    I feel that I could live easily there because I don’t drive due to unfortunate circumstances. Some women or wannabees don’t need to be in power b/ c they r stupid and cannot handle the situation.
    I work in a male dominated society with threat of a take over from jealous, hypocritical women. So which is worse?

    • AAB

      I am quite sure you would not want to live there as a woman. You cant drive, nor can you do anything without your husband or father’s permission. I think the driving thing has a lot to do with the car as a symbol of freedom itself. If you have a car, you can simply go wherever, whenever you want to. It would be tough to keep an eye on women if they drive cars.

  11. Brad

    There are many ways of looking at it. From someone in the free world its hard to understand. But we and the whole world are just coming to terms with equality. Except for Native Americans. We always knew. We had matriarchal systems where women governed. And we always knew that women were more powerful than men. Freedom is never given. It is earned.


    • Saudi Women Are Resilient And Determined To Succeed
      While the current anti-political-reform king and his equally reactionary son and nephew (known as the two Mohammeds) are determined to stop or reverse the wheel of history, Saudi women are determined to move forward. More than any segment in Saudi society (or any society), women are being targeted by the archaic monarchical system for no reason other than the way God created them. Against all Saudi man-made obstacles, women are achieving in sciences and excelling in schools, businesses and art, as well as climbing Mount Everest despite the fact that they are not allowed to play sports in their schools.

      • Jennifer Winkler

        I presume you are familiar with the article “The Changing Face of Saudi Women” in the February 2016 issue of the National Geographic Magazine. The article sparked my interest in the subject. It left me with the impression that many Saudi women, even if otherwise progressive, were ambivalent about driving. If all Saudi women could (miraculously) vote on whether women should be allowed to drive, what would the outcome of the vote be?

        The article says, “Four decades ago, older Saudi women told me, protocols for covering and comportment varied across the kingdom, according to region, class, and one’s own family and tribal standards…And in certain Saudi regions of that era, older women remember, there was nothing shocking about going out in a casual short abaya or wearing modest clothing with no outer cover at all.” Is this accurate and, if so, what then happened to cause the country to insist women be much more covered/hidden?

      • Thank You, Jennifer Winkler. I take what the majority of Western journalists and news outlets write and publish about Saudi women with a grain of salt (or bag of Arabian sand.)
        Based on multitude of firsthand experiences, I know that most Western journalists’ first and foremost priority is self-aggrandizement, to maintain goodwill with Saudi authorities and to sell their product to their romantic readers, most of whom are more entertained by what they read than by their caring for the gross injustices imposed on Saudi women.
        Below is a partial response to your engaging question:

        Denying Saudi Women The Right To Work Then Blaming Them For Being Indolent

        CDHR’s Commentary: In what seem to be well-rehearsed answers to questions asked by a reporter of The British Economist, Saudi deputy Crown Prince, Defense Minister and economic development overseer, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (the king’s son), gave a positive, albeit misleading, account of the Saudi kingdom’s political, legal, economic, religious and social affairs. Among the many exaggerated and unsubstantiated answers the novice prince is quoted to have said is that Saudi Arabia has a legislative parliament. The Saudi people would be the first to contradict the Prince’s depiction of the rosy affairs of a regime known domestically and globally for its draconian political and religious policies and practices.
        Another of the prince’s inflated claims is his accusation that Saudi women lack the interest to work. When asked about the reason for the staggering percentage of unemployed Saudi women (estimated at 82%), the apprentice minister was quoted as saying, (it’s the) ‘Culture of women in Saudi Arabia; the woman herself. She’s not used to working. She needs more time to accustom herself to the idea of work. A large percentage of Saudi women are used to the fact of staying at home. They’re not used to being working women.’
        Prince Mohammed and his mentors, specifically his father King Salman, could not be more wrong about Saudi women’s lack of interest in and ability to work. Prior to the widespread imposition and stern enforcement of the misogynistic Saudi/Wahhabi policies, Saudi women (who are among the most resilient people in the world) were tilling and harvesting fields, building mud and straw houses, weaving and making clothing, fetching wood and water and herding their families’ flocks. The Saudi and Wahhabi dynasties have used their religious and political dogma to ensure that women remain totally controlled by men physically and financially for political and economic reasons, not because of religious and traditional customs, as they cagily assert.
        In reality, it’s the system that should be held liable if most Saudi women are reluctant not only to seek employment, but to leave their homes for fear of attacks and humiliation by the ferocious governmental religious police who are obsessed with women’s sexuality and a daunting fear of their self-reliance. The argument that women do not want to work offers the same unfounded excuses Saudi officials have used for decades, despite the fact that denying women the right to work is a state policy.
        On the one hand, every conceivable man-made hurdle is institutionalized to deny the overwhelming majority of Saudi women the right to work. On the other hand, unemployed women are blamed for lacking the motivation to work, an excuse that Prince Mohammed and his family have used to render the female half of Saudi society dependent on and controlled by the other half, Saudi men.
        In reality, women are not only prevented from earning a self-supporting living, but excluded from educational program that encourages work ethics and economic opportunities as this account demonstrates. By excluding women from the work force, the Saudi regime re-enforces social divisions, another aspect of its “divide and conquer” philosophy upon which the Saudi/Wahhabi state is founded. http://www.arabnews.com/news/869751

      • Lucille

        I feel like I’m going through something too. Working 4 hours a week for minimum wage is nothing. I see the police all the time when I leave home. This discrimination mess goes on all over the world.

    • Lucille

      Freedom means u free. It is something that is from the man upstairs. Therefore, freedom is a gift. U can’t work your way to heaven.

      • Freedom does not come on a gold platter. It is a heard earned blessing and much harder to maintain. Injustices are committed worldwide, but comparing working for minimum wage with being prevented form working because of your gender falls short of a sound comparison.

  12. Cynthia

    While I enjoy being driven, I’m all for letting women drive in KSA. However, I doubt it will result in less traffic. My expectations are that the many families will keep their drivers to do other things for them, like transport their children to school and other places. Not only that but every female in the house of driving age will have a car and come and go separately. So I do think it could result in even more traffic.

  13. it will traffic more when women drive cars in ksa

  14. Pingback: Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening | Saudiwoman's Weblog

  15. Aman Al-Nathan and her promoter of equality and social justice colleagues must not be forgotten by people of conscience, regardless of gender, ethnicity or beliefs.

  16. Hello,
    I’ve read this news, bad news for women in Saudi Arabia.
    Thanks for the news about women

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