“On June 17, We Will Drive”: Saudi Women Plan Mass Protest for Freedom to Drive

May 15, 2011

A group of Saudi women are organizing a mass “drive-in” for June 17, 2011. They will risk arrest, the loss of their jobs, and possibly further restriction on what little freedoms they have.

From The Seattle Times: “Saudi Arabia enforces the ascetic Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam. Women aren’t allowed to have a Saudi driver’s permit. They can’t travel or get an education without male approval, or mix with unrelated men in public places. They aren’t permitted to vote or run as candidates in municipal elections, the only ones the kingdom allows.

The last time a group of women publicly defied the driving ban was on Nov. 6, 1990, when U.S. troops had massed in Saudi Arabia to prepare for a war that would expel Iraq from Kuwait. The Saudi women were spurred by images of female U.S. soldiers driving in the desert and stories of Kuwaiti women driving their children to safety, and they were counting on the presence of international media to ensure their story would reach the world and lessen the repercussions, according to Noura Abdullah, 55.

Abdullah was one of 47 drivers and passengers who stayed out for about an hour before being arrested. They were banned from travel for a year, lost their jobs for 2 ½ years and were condemned by the powerful clergy as harlots.”

According to the United Nations 2010 Human Development Report’s Gender Equality Index, although Saudi Arabia scores high in development, they are one of the worst nations in the world when it comes to gender equality. “The country shows high human development, with a global HDI [Human Development Index] ranking of 55, an HDI of 0.75 and income per capita of nearly $25,000. However, despite good female educational attainment, women are nearly absent from parliament, and female labour force participation rates are only one-forth those for men, giving the country a GII [Gender Inequality Index] value of 0.76, and a ranking of 128 out of 138 countries.”

The Saudi government has hinted many times over the years that the restriction on female driving would be lifted, but it has never followed through. The Guardian reports that a 2004 study showed 47% of Saudi women own a car! But they are not permitted to drive them. According to http://www.saudiwomendriving.blogspot.com/ , a site devoted entirely to news surrounding Saudi women driving, the fact that average families cannot afford to pay for taxis or drivers means the ban has an even more severe effect on women of lower income and their families.

 A Facebook Page has been set up by some of the women who are planning the protest. As of today nearly 2000 have pledged to participate. They declare: “On June 17th, 2011.. We women in Saudi Arabia, from all nationalities, will start driving our cars by ourselves

We are not here to break the law or demonstrate or challenge the authorities, we are here to claim one of our simplest rights

We have driver’s license and we will abide by the traffic laws..

Enough with the talk… we are here to walk the talk and just do it.. it’s about time!”

(The participating women are being advised to have international driver’s licenses, since Saudi licenses are not issued to women. That way additional charges cannot be brought against them).

Also a twitter site has been set up to gather support, and to post updates on the day of the event. http://twitter.com/#!/Women2Drive

46 Responses to ““On June 17, We Will Drive”: Saudi Women Plan Mass Protest for Freedom to Drive”

  1. FAB Libber aka Dave the Squirrel Says:

    Really brave women, risking arrest and incomes.
    I wonder too how the women in Egypt are going, after the reception they go for their expression of their rights on IWD.

  2. plasticgirl Says:

    This just goes to show you how *privileged* and awesome it is to be *lolcis* in Saudi Arabia. I think I will apply for citizenship there right away (if it is possible), and submit myself to Islamic social codes. I can’t wait for the *cis* privilege to wear a burka all the time, and never be issued a Saudi driver’s license, or even get an education, without the express permission of God’s representatives on Earth: Teh Menz.

    lolcis, aka “born female-privilege”, indeed.

  3. ana_is_ana Says:

    dear plasticgirl, it looks that you crossed oceans to put your nose in somebody armpit!!
    Burka, islamic social and education you mentioned relate only to the corrosion in your mind!! you apparently far away from the subject of this page>>
    Make sure that people is capable to finalise their social issues by themselves and do not need your nose to be in> thank you for your understanding :)

    • GallusMag Says:

      Ana I think Plastic was saying he supports the Saudi women in fighting for their right to drive. (And he was saying how different he would be treated if he was female).

    • GallusMag Says:

      Everyone here agrees that women are capable of finalising their social issues by themselves. :)

      • Barbara Di Bari Visconti Says:

        Everyone here agrees that women are capable of finalising their social issues by themselves.

        This.
        I am so sick of hearing that women need men in order succeed in securing our rights.

  4. GallusMag Says:

    Nearly 6,000 women confirmed! Go Women! Drive, Drive, Drive!

  5. jilla Says:

    Cha Cha Muldowney. “I love to get the boys”.

  6. Noanodyne Says:

    This is what activism for women’s liberation looks like!!! Wonderful

  7. jilla Says:

    I couldn’t live without my car. Sometimes I just stand looking through the window at it parked there. It calms me just to see it. It’s my freedom to go anywhere dumpster-dived bottle refund gas can take me. I am anxious and fearful (moreso than normal) when I don’t have a car. I saved for years to buy my written-off refurbished teeny weeny car.

    I think all single mothers should have cars. Women when they retire should get a car. All disabled women who can pass driving tests should get a car.

    From social services. We deserve it. We worked our whole lives for room and board, we are not spending summers in Arizona, or jetting off to tour ruins somewhere.

    But we could drive — to the park, to the healing garden, to get our groceries at the cheap place 20 km from where we live, to just feel the wind in our hair.

    Drive women drive.

    • GallusMag Says:

      Me too- I LOVE to drive- the freedom! One of the BEST things you can do for a woman is teach her to drive or help her get a car, or lend her your car.

  8. jilla Says:

    So. You like to drive do you GM?

  9. jilla Says:

    Easy to see why Saudi men don’t want women to drive. Independence, autonomy, skill-building, adventure, fun, escape.

    (I’m saving for one of those rear-view mirrors.)

  10. GallusMag Says:

    Over 8,000 have committed to drive! PEDAL TO THE METAL LADIES!!!!!!!1!!!!!!

  11. GallusMag Says:

    One of the Saudi women organizing the Right To Drive campaign was “detained” by the Saudi government today.
    From AP:
    “May 21, 4:49 PM EDT

    Saudi woman detained for defying driving ban

    By ABDULLAH AL-SHIHRI
    Associated Press

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Authorities detained a Saudi woman on Saturday after she launched a campaign against the driving ban for women in the ultraconservative kingdom and posted a video of herself behind the wheel on Facebook and YouTube to encourage others to copy her.

    Manal al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,” which urges authorities to lift the driving ban. She went on a test drive in the eastern city of Khobar and later posted a video of the experience.

    “This is a volunteer campaign to help the girls of this country” learn to drive, al-Sherif says in the video. “At least for times of emergency, God forbid. What if whoever is driving them gets a heart attack?”

    Human rights activist Walid Abou el-Kheir said al-Sherif was detained by the country’s religious police, who are charged with ensuring the kingdom’s rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings are observed.

    Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women – both Saudi and foreign – from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

    Women are also barred from voting, except for chamber of commerce elections in two cities in recent years, and no woman can sit on the kingdom’s Cabinet. Women also cannot travel without permission from a male guardian and shouldn’t mingle with males who are not their husbands or brothers.

    The campaigners have focused on the importance of women driving in times of emergencies and in the case of low-income families. Al-Sherif said unlike the traditional argument in Saudi Arabia that driving exposes women to sinful temptations by allowing them to mingle with policemen and mechanics, women who drive can avoid sexual harassment from their drivers and protect their “dignity.”

    Through Facebook, the campaigners are calling for a mass drive on June 17 and more than 11,000 people viewing the page have indicated they support the call. To encourage women to get behind the wheel, al-Sherif went for a drive on Friday as another activist filmed her.

    Dressed in a headscarf and the all-encompassing black abaya all women must wear in public, al-Sharif said not all Saudi women are “queens” who can afford to hire a driver. She extolled the virtues of driving for women, saying it can save lives, and time, as well as a woman’s dignity. Al-Sharif said she learned how to drive at the age of 30 in New Hampshire.

    “We are humiliated sometimes because we can’t find a taxi to take us to work,” she said.

    On their Facebook page, the group says women joining the campaign should not challenge authorities if they were stopped and questioned, and should abide by the country’s strict dress code.

    “We want to live as complete citizens, without the humiliation that we are subjected to every day because we are tied to a driver,” the Facebook message reads. “We are not here to break the law or demonstrate or challenge the authorities, we are here to claim one of our simplest rights.”

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_SAUDI_WOMEN_DRIVING?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-05-21-14-33-16

  12. jilla Says:

    Wow. The Koran had a section on driving?

    Did the Koran authors KNOW how 21st Century Saudis would make bank?

  13. jilla Says:

    I see lots of Muslim women every day. Driving. But now I think on it, I don’t see Muslim women who wear traditional clothing, driving. Of course, I don’t see many women, of any ethnic origin, no matter their clothing, driving. When they’re with men. :/

    • Sig Says:

      I used to wear traditional clothing and drive. In the west and in the Middle East. Outside of Saudi Arabia, Muslim women of all types of dress – including face veils – drive.

  14. GallusMag Says:

    “Police is trying to break in by force without an arrest memo,Manal and her Bro refuse to open the door”- Posted on the Women2Drive twitter account 2 hours ago.

  15. GallusMag Says:

    Women2Drive من حقي أسوق
    #Media world wide we need your #support in #ManalAlsharif case fighting for #WomenRights. she is being arrested for #Driving #FreeManal
    1 hour ago

  16. Cizzir Says:

    Wow all these privileges born women have…

    (/irony off)

  17. jilla Says:

    The (Canadian national newspaper) Globe and Mail has it online, print tomorrow. And there are several stories on Google.

  18. Noanodyne Says:

    Unfuckingbelievable. Words just cannot express the rage I feel. And will any of the powerful men who run the world have anything to say about this? Fuck no. Not in any way that will matter.

  19. Jeannetta Vivere Says:

    please drive !

  20. jilla Says:

    They did. About 50 women, some with their husband in the passenger seat.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0617/Braving-police-Saudi-women-drivers-take-to-streets


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