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- Middle East Political & Social Issues
Saudi Arabia's Women2Drive Campaign
I know, I know, I know. That, in the 21st Century, in a country with tons of dinero from oil, that buy the latest the West produces, that relies on close relations with the World, are stuck in some truly backward Wahhabi interpretation of Islam that is so outdated. Saudi Arabia conjures up a lot of images to those in the West. Lots of contradictions within their society that define foreigners. While the men speed along the roads in their $100,000 BMWs or Ferrari, women are truly left in the dust over arcane customs from the camel days.
Saudi Arabia has a de facto ban on women driving cars. Yes, you read it correctly. Women cannot drive a car. Just how more inconvenient and controlling could this be. I guess the guys have to do it all, how unfair! Why do they have to work and then get groceries before coming home? Why can't Saudi women get in a damn car, go to the store, buy them?
Well, as even the foreign educated Saudi women tell you, when they return from school abroad, it is damn hard to adjust back into the backward society. Saudi women are denied a drivers license and if they do drive, risk fines, jail or flogging (OMG, didn't that end centuries ago?). The reason is because of the Quran that discourages the mixing of unrelated women and men. The Saudi government fears that allowing women to drive a car would lead to widespread loss of virginity among single women. Does anyone notice the loop holes here? What if the driver was related to either a woman or man passenger? What about a married women driving? Could this issue be anymore ridiculous?
So, today, Saudi women have the choice of staying home, finding a male relative to go for a ride, or pay thousands of dollars a year for a driver.
Because of one 32 yr-old Saudi woman, Manal al-Sharif, a computer consultant, this arcane rule may be finally reverse. However, the MOST odd thing about this "law" in Saudi Arabia is that it is not a law at all! There are no written laws in SA that bans women from driving there and even King Abdullah has said he sees nothing wrong with women driving there, yet, there this ban. Incredible! The women of SA have simply be programmed by their culture to accept it as a matter of fact.
The recent lawsuit from Manal very well finally force the their High Court to rule on this. Manal, herself, videotaped herself driving and posted it on YouTube while complaining. That put her in Saudi jail for a week. She then filed an application for a driver's license, which was rejected that is when she filed the lawsuit. That brought another woman, Samar Badawi, to file a lawsuit. It was the International media attention that is now applying pressure on the Saudi government to address it, much to their disliking. The case is being heard in their religious courts, which deal with internal customs and headed by very conservative old men. However, this case may be moved out of the court and if this happens, women in SA very well may get to drive freely as those in the West.
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