Archive | June, 2011

Plz DO NOT Drive! *Crash!*

23 Jun

Fayez Nureldine / AFP - Getty Images

That was the note attached to a broken side-mirror that belongs to one of the women who drove in Riyadh. I can’t help but be amused at the “Plz” on the note. Is that a request or an order? If it was a request, why break the glass? Furthermore, why is it in English? I can see something else written on the back and personally, I’m DYING to know what it says. I’m also wondering who took the notepaper from Fraiser Suites Bahrain. Doesn’t sound like a super-conservative to me. Maybe a kid out for kicks? anyhow, I think they should be found and made to pay for the broken glass and charged with vandalism. Do we even have a vandalism charge in Saudi?? hmm…

So now we have a broken mirror. A bit of a joke as far as threats are concerned but still, it could be cause to worry. Is this the beginning? Will little incidents like these increase then escalate? I think that any sign of violence against female drivers should be nipped in the bud quickly and decisively.

But the “Plz” still cracks me up!

This is the link to the msnbc photobucket page that posted the images and a short article.

Note on the msnbc article: The car in the picture does not belong to Eman al-Nafjan’s family, but to her friend Azza Al Shamasani who appears in the first photo.


Hey, That’s My Mum!

20 Jun
So my mother sent a letter to a columnist in Arab News and it got published. So proud of her!

A growing social issue and a novel argument

With the buzz of women behind the wheels currently sweeping the Kingdom, many have defined and formed their opinions on the matter.

A novel argument, one undoubtedly thought out in detail and raised by one of my readers, deserves its reproduction in full.

Heidi K., a resident of Jeddah writes: “Perhaps we can try to get a discussion going in the Majlis Al-Shoura pertaining to this matter by using a different logic — perhaps the argument of conservation? The fastest and least expensive way to conserve water and other resources in Saudi Arabia would be as follows — allow women to drive!”

Heidi continues: “Where is the connection? Allow me to give an explanation in a very rough estimate of figures: If women were given the right to drive, approximately one million drivers could eventually be sent back to their home countries. Each one of these men consumes about 300 liters of water a day (about 1/3 cubic meter). That’s 300,000,000 liters per day for a million drivers. That’s 90,000,000,000 liters per year. (I’ve made allowances for vacation time). That’s 90,000,000 cubic meters per year of water consumed by drivers alone.

“The Desalination Plant in Shuaiba, Saudi Arabia produces 1,000,000 cubic meters of water per day. That’s 365,000,000 cubic meters a year. If we had a million less drivers we would only need 275,000,000 cubic meters. The Shuaiba desalination plant would thus have 25 percent more water for people to use if women could drive their own cars. Double check the math. “The same approximate figures would hold true for electricity consumption. Even if drivers were to be slowly phased out, this would amount to an enormous saving for the country in terms of water, energy, and of course finances as well.

The employment of drivers is becoming an increasing financial burden. Some women’s salaries are spent solely on a driver’s expenses. Should women then not receive government subsidies for each household, as compensation for the expenses of having to pay recruiting agencies, visas, air fare, medical check-ups, driver’s licenses, traffic tickets, extra living quarters, furniture, insurance, meals, medical bills and medication, and of course water and electricity, etc., in addition to drivers’ salaries?

“What a huge financial burden for a country which doesn’t have much of a middle class, nor pays a minimum wage much higher than that paid to a driver brought in from a developing country, many of whom have never driven a car before coming to work in Saudi Arabia. That brings up the safety issue as well: Safety on the road, safety allowing one’s children day in and day out in the presence of a stranger.

“Which leads me to my next point. The burden of women being banned from driving is also of a psychological and social nature. How has a conservative society such as Saudi Arabia ever allowed itself to bring total strangers into their homes, not knowing the slightest thing about their past, their moral conduct? It’s a mystery. The whole issue of the ban on women driving is a mystery and a paradox.”

And thus Heidi concludes her argument for letting women drive. In that she has chosen an original slant to a social issue of growing concern is indicative that this issue will not simply go away. Nor will those marginalized by social restrictions that confine and constrict their personal development be silent forever.  The blanket of traditions and beliefs should be shed from the body of this issue.

Voices have been stirred and have led toward actions, as we have witnessed in the publicized cases of those women behind the wheels. Those women were not trying to be revolutionaries. They were not attempting to revolt against society or create upheavals.  They were simply trying to address their frustrations, and in the only manner they felt was at their disposal.

Meanwhile we have Heidi to thank for yet another qualitative argument in favor of letting women drive.

Darma – Part Three : Hope

18 Jun

So Thank God, nothing disastrous happened. So many “tweeps” tweeted about them driving, or their wives driving besides them, and not being harassed either by the people or the police. I think That’s a sign. A sign that the “haters” and opposers are a minority, and most people really think its a personal freedom that they don’t want to violate. A man tweeted about his wife’s drive in his car, and how they saw two police cars that “pretended not to notice” them. That got me giggling with glee!

Respect to those brave, supportive husbands. Who stood by their wives as friends and protectors at such a decisive moment. Some tweeps called for men to dress in an abaya while driving, in support of women driving and to confuse any opposers! I haven’t seen any pictures or heard any reports of that happening but it would be funny if it did!

Some of my friends bbmed me about driving from one place to another successfully, while others just asked me if i knew what was going on. Seems to most, it was just one typical lazy friday, uneventful.

One guy tweeted about his friday “khutba” (sermon). Apparently the sheikh was preaching against women driving and had the nerve to publicly make dua’a against them and the people supporting them! What an abuse of authority, to use your position as a local religious representative to call against your fellow muslims and countrymen and women. I’m personally against making dua’a against any group of people, but that’s another matter altogether.

So, what does this silence mean? well, I agree with human right’s activist Samar Badawi when she said it could mean one of two things: one, that the Authorities decided that this is a social issue and let the people fight it it themselves (a bit like my opinion in a previous post) and two, that they are undecided and are observing how the events unfold. A third and scarier option would be that women’s rights are so insignificant that they won’t even be dignified with an official answer, but that’s to depressing and scary to even contemplate.

Below is Samar’s interview with BBC Arabiya:

Most now are saying, what’s next? Well, the women2drive campaign is now asking women to bombard the “muroor” (traffic police) with calls requesting drivers licences, asking for the speaker’s name, asking why is it not allowed, and recording the whole conversation. I’m guessing this is all part of pushing the authorities to realise that many women do in fact want to drive.

Drama – Part Two: The Big Day

17 Jun

No, its not my wedding. Today is June 17th. The day Saudi women have decided will mark drawing the line. Naturally I’m not speaking for all saudi women. and personally I don’t see why one date should mark the breaking of a dam when a trickle that grows into a flood is so much more effective at avoiding the radar, but it seems attention is the aim of this campaign. Getting attention and support for a cause that has been neglected long enough.

I’m not in Saudi at the moment, (which explains the absence of my complaints), but nonetheless, I’m following news of home closely and no matter the method, I’m wholeheartedly supportive of whatever initiative my Saudi sisters choose.

And so the snowball continues…. It seems that twitter is the best source of info right now, and on the Big Day, people are tweeting about lack of police presence, support for the women that chose to go out today, and how this is an issue of rights. Some go as far as speculating as to the “female power” to affect the country’s stability. I resent those people’s speculations. Regardless of such an event’s impact on the country, we are talking about a human right here, why make it political in a country where making things political will only guarantee that you will be  denied your request? This is a social/ human rights matter, not a political one. That is what is giving those women the courage to stand up for what they believe in. So please, if any foreign correspondents are reading this, don’t turn this into a political matter and therefore become an active obstacle to this cause. That’s what caused Ms. Manal’s arrest in the first place. Just because you can write whatever you want doesn’t mean its not being read by the decision makers in Saudi and won’t influence them. Just a thought. Thank you.

Yet despite the massive emotional and verbal support on social networks, youtube, newspapers & TV, I wonder how many women are willing to stick their necks out, or men who’d let their wives stick their neck out today. We are a nation of much ado, but when the going gets tough … well, lets just say its a lot easier to type in ” I Support Saudi Women Driving!! Start Your Engines!” then actually go out and do it under the fear of arrest or harassment. I’m embarrassed to say even if I were in Saudi, I probably wouldn’t have gone out today. Not unless great number of women already went out and I knew it was relatively safe. And I’d only do a quick drive to the supermarket or my friend’s house, just to say I did it! Yeah I’m chicken like that. If most people are like me, that’s probably why we haven’t driven yet. Lets just hope that “yet” ends today.

What I CAN do is send my prayers that God protect each and every woman back home who practices her right to get behind the wheel from this day on. And inshallah gather the guts to join them when I go back.