Archive | June, 2012

Interviewing the “Real” Saudi Women

29 Jun

A smart effort, documenting the “real” Saudi women, not the” westernized”, “liberal”, “feminist” ones like myself that can afford a driver but believe in our right to have a choice, but the ones that have to turn down jobs, miss out on opportunities that they NEED, because they have no way to get there or its too expensive.

Many anti-women driving claim that the ban is to protect her, because she is a “Queen”with any male relative at her back and call. Not everyone has male relatives, not all men will be eager to take all his sisters to work all around town before his own job and pick them up after. And not all male relatives are supportive and helpful. Is letting these women suffer in poverty or joblessness and make them depend on charities and relatives very Queen-like?

Yet I can’t help asking myself: Would these women be able to afford a car and its maintenance? Typically anywhere around the world this part of society, the “working class” so to speak, or the underprivileged as well, would prefer cheap public transportation like buses and trams and metro. But at the absence of those, it’s still safe to assume that making cheap monthly payments for a cheap car (and gas is cheap in Saudi as well) would be more economical and practical for them as well. Money towards a taxi or a driver is money down the drain, while installments will end in two or three years and maintenance is sometimes part of the car’s warranty and still – it empowers them to take control of their lives. Feel stronger and safer. And accept jobs that don’t pay that much, but enough to make a living, while with a driver her salary will go straight to him.

I found it really telling though that the 1st woman (for those of you who might not understand Arabic or if her accent was too heavy) couldn’t voice an opinion about whether there were and religious objections to women driving. To her, if the government approves it, then there its okay by God, and if they don’t then it’s probably not. And that says a lot about her generation. One that doesn’t question religious or ethical issues and instead, has complete faith that the governing powers will tell them what to think. Even when asked what her opinion was, she said ” if our rulers say its okay then it’s okay “.

Cute. But sad. Opinionated old ladies are a lot cuter.


1 year Anniversary – The fight against Ignorance

19 Jun

Two days ago, the 17th of July, marks the 1 year anniversary of the  “I’ll drive my own car” Campaign that started at the same date in 2011. The (active) ladies of Saudi Arabia had announced that on this anniversary, they were planning on going out about their business driving their own cars, urging other Saudi women with international drivers licenses to do so as well and men who supported this cause to sit alongside their female relatives. Sadly, our crown prince, Prince Naief bin Abdulaziz (God rest his soul) passed away on the 16th, making such a move tactless when the country is in mourning.

So What’s next for our right to drive?

Well, the show must go on… but it will go on after observing the traditional mourning period. Instead of Sunday, the date set for the country-wide initiative has become the following Friday. Human rights activist and organizer of “Baladi” campaign En’aam Al-Asfour has stated that not only does she plan on running for the municipality election when women will be allowed in 2015, but also that she will drive her car on Friday in hopes that the country will pass legislation that will protect female drivers throughout the kingdom.

Some Revealing Numbers

A recent Article published on the online newspaper 24/news gave some really indicative numbers as to the state of mind many saudi women are in. Some 5,000 Saudi women (yes, five THOUSAND) have produced drivers licenses in Bahrain, our little neighbor island to the east since JANUARY. That’s in the past six months. That’s like 850 or so a month. And Almost a thousand did the same in Dubai (985 to be exact… probably a thousand by now). This got me wondering how many Saudi women do we have in total that already carry drivers licenses from other countries?

We might not be able to get more than a few hundred or a thousand who are brave enough to sign their names on a petition, but it seems to me that there are many more than we think who are just WAITING for this- which supports me theory of Moderate silence. Have I explained that to you before? yep its the post before this one, linked to the name of the theory.

So, more and more women are just getting licenses to drive while on vacation…. till when?

The Real Enemy

An interesting development would be that more and more educated, moderate religious sheikhs (leaders) have been voicing their support for our God-given right to equality under Islam. One of the major hurdles up until now that it has been widely seen as a fight between the “liberals” and the “Islamists” (God I HATE labels). But slowly, more and more religious icons have been crossing over to the other side making it as Sheikh Ahmad al Ahmari states in the the interview below, a fight against fear and ignorance. Well, he didn’t exactly say that, what he said was “The ignorant is the enemy of what he doesn’t know”, that people who are fanatically opposed to women driving under the the excuse of religion do so because they fear the unknown. They are people who don’t know the modern world and don’t understand it, and therefore fear it and fight it.

One very fitting example ha gave was that of the late introduction of the printing press in the Arab world because the religious ottoman scholars feared it, as a result, most Arab nations are decades behind and are only barely catching up with the printing and publishing industry.

There are still many people who are tightly and stubbornly holding on to religion and tradition and “decency” as valid excuses to deny half their population their human right to the freedom of movement, and I personally think the struggle is nowhere near over, but at least the progress is noticeable, which is encouraging.

So… Friday… ?

So, what will happen on Friday remains to be seen. I feel a bit left out since I’m still abroad, but I shall be eagerly following any progress. I don’t think any major change will happen, but I do think its another step towards “breaking the taboo”, as Manal Al Sharif stated in her speech in The Oslo Freedom Forum.

My Theory of Moderate Silence

19 Jun

My theory is very simple, and I came up with it based on observations I’ve made over the years. I have no idea if there is any way to prove it statistically, but I think you’ll also think it makes a lot of sense. I also Illustrated it for your convenience. So here goes:

a simple visualization of the idea. sorry did it in a rush its not very pretty.

My Theory of Moderate Silence is based on the idea that most people are quite… normal. They care about their families and their jobs and sometimes read the newspapers or watch the news, but don’t really actively participate in letting their opinions be known. Either because they are shy/scared, they think their opinions don’t matter (that they are a minority), or they simply don’t care enough, because they are MODERATE. They simply don’t feel strongly enough. It then looks at fanatics at both ends of the spectrum, (“Liberals” v.s. “Religious Zealots” for example, though I hate labeling people) and how they’re always voicing their opinions very loudly. Religious zealots tend to be the louder, more active group simply because they truly think, nay not think God forbid, KNOW that God is on their side and its their duty to save the world from itself. In Saudi they are also very organized (because historically, they are the only kind of groups that were allowed to congregate, and thus have an older more established network) and make sure that if anything happens that signifies change or threatens the status quo, that EVERYONE knows about their displeasure. From sending telegrams to the King and all the top ministers, to calling TV stations, Radio stations, emailing, making threat calls, spamming, whatever. It fools the average Joe (or in this case, the average Abdullah)  into thinking that they are a lot more than they really are, and that he is in the minority and should be ashamed for his (or her) blasphemous “liberal” thoughts.

Now recently, more people on the other side, labeled “Liberals” by the “Islamists” (have I even mentioned how much I hate Labels??) have been getting fed up by the change-phobia and have started writing in newspapers, talking on TV and radio, and using online platforms to voice their opposing opinions. So they seem like a growing, yet smaller group due to lack of organization and a wide range of different stances on different subjects. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but I respect their right to say what they want, same as the crazy stuff we’ve been force-fed all these years. Its up to the moderate (or not) individual to make up their own opinions on issues. Bus I do not respect using God and Religion as a weapon against free-thinking, because that’s a contradiction in itself. But I digress… Back to my theory. Simply put: The majority, the masses are moderate, yet silent. The fanatics are loud so they seem like more. How to we find out what the MAJORITY really think/want?

And there it is, my theory. I think it can apply to many places, many countries, many different situations. If you can think of any other situations where My Theory of Moderate Silence applies, I’d love to hear about it!

The Latest Driving Petition

14 Jun

Hey All! I know I’ve been away for a while, sorry about that. I’m popping in to post a link to the latest petition to the King. Yes many have been signed already, but you never know maybe if enough people sign this one, it’ll get someone’s attention. It’s also good to get some big numbers out there. Try to sign your name in arabic, and spread it to everyone! xxx