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.