Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saudi human rights activist fined for driving herself to the hospital

Courtney Trenwith of ArabianBusiness.com filed the following report on 9/16/14. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.

A female member of Saudi Arabia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has reportedly been fined for driving herself to the hospital.

When police pulled her over, Aliyah Al Farid said she had a medical emergency and there was no one available to drive her to the hospital so she took her husband’s car.

The officers reportedly allowed her to continue driving. They followed her to the hospital and waited while she saw a doctor, before taking her to the traffic department where she was fined for driving without a licence.

Women are unable to get a driver’s licence in Saudi Arabia, despite there being no law against women driving.

Al Farid has been arrested for driving twice previously and has participated in campaigns to allow female drivers, but told Arabic daily Al Hayat on this occasion it was an emergency.

“I told the traffic officers that I had to drive because it was an emergency case,” she said.
“I didn’t do it on purpose and I’m not after fame or media hype. I was very sick and that was it.”

She said she also occasionally drove patients at her centre for persons with special needs when they urgent medical attention.

“We can’t leave an epileptic patient convulsing on the ground while waiting for our male driver to come and transport him to hospital,” she said.

“I have to get behind the steering wheel and do it.”

Al Farid has refused to sign an undertaking not to drive again, citing the fact there is no law prohibiting women from driving; it has become a cultural custom routinely enforced by the unofficial religious police (haia).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Memoirs of a Saudi Ph.D. student: Convenience of owning a car

Article by Hatoon Kadi, a Saudi PhD student living in London. Appeared in the English daily the Arab News on September 15, 2014. Link to the story is here,  and the story is pasted below.

It has been nearly five months since I acquired my driving license. I felt like sharing my feelings with my readers at the risk of being declared repetitive. I know I have written so much on this issue and it might not be a big deal for thousands of women driving cars across the world. To me, however, it is a different experience altogether.

I can confidently claim that being able to drive has transformed my daily life.

It is true, however that in the UK you can live without a car giving the fact that the public transport system is excellent. Not only that it is more environment friendly. Having said that I would like to say if you have a family nothing beats the convenience of having your own vehicle. I remember the time when I did not have a car, I used to abandon social gathering, as I did not wish to drag sleepy boys off the train to the cab and then to our home. The situation used to get ugly when I had to drag grocery bags to my home. It really used to become an uphill task in every sense of the word, as my house is situation on a hill and buses don’t reach there.

I also remember running down the hill to catch the tram and then reach the tram to see it moving in front of us, which means waiting for the next one and be late for school, and needless to say that my sophisticated Ph.D. student prestige was always disturbed when the principle give that look of “you-clumsy-late-for-school-mother.”

But now I can easily say that I am liberated. I am in charge of my life and I have the freedom to move around. I can see that some readers might think that it is so naive to think that having a car is a liberating experience but for me it is truly a huge relieve and kind of liberation. I remember back in Saudi Arabia when relying completely on drivers or any male member of the family to move us around was the norm. I remember how women bought cars with their own money and then hand them to drivers who could be manipulative and dishonest and very unprofessional but we had to put up with it because it was our only means of moving around. Now each time I sit in the driver’s seat I cherish it and appreciate the convenience. I pray to God that the issue of women driving is resolved soon. It is really killing when you are expected to be successful in life and to contribute to the economy of the country but yet you are not allowed to move around.

@HatoonKadi

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kuwaiti woman booked for driving in Saudi Arabia

Gulf News reports the following; a link to the story is here. Text below.

  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief
  • Published: 12:35 September 10, 2014

Manama: A Kuwaiti woman was fined and her car confiscated for five days after she was apprehended for driving in Saudi Arabia.

The woman, believed to be in her 40s, was spotted driving in Hafr Al Baten in the northern part of the country, with her husband as her passenger, local news site Sabq reported on Wednesday.
A traffic police patrol pulled the car over with the Kuwaiti licence plates and booked the woman for breaking the rules.

The police decided to impound the car for five days and asked the husband to sign a pledge not to allow his wife to drive again in the Saudi kingdom.

Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia even though there is no legal text that bans them from driving. However, women, if found driving, are pulled over by traffic police for doing so without a Saudi licence. They are allowed to go home after they sign a pledge not to drive again.

Attempts by women and their supporters to get permission to drive have become more intense lately, but the challenges in overcoming the stiff resistance of conservatives are proving singularly formidable.

Both camps have been using religious, economic and social arguments to support their positions.
Last year, a tweet by Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal in favour of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia sparked a heated debate on the local blogosphere.

“Allowing women to drive will result in saving at least 500,000 jobs held by foreign drivers and subsequent economic and social benefits for the nation,” Al Waleed posted on his Twitter account where he has hundreds of thousands of followers.

The business tycoon who insisted on the significance of reforms tweeted that the era of the “ostrich” was over and the era of “openness” has begun, in reference to the mythical ostriches that choose not to see problems by burying their head in the sand when confronted with difficulties.

The remarks by Prince Al Waleed have accentuated the arguments of the camp supporting the much anticipated breakthrough to allow women to drive in the socially conservative society.

The presence of thousands of male drivers to drive mainly Saudi women and girls has been regularly used by supporters of allowing women to drive to highlight negative social and economic problems.
The arguments have also been boosted by “grave concerns” felt by several women when riding with taxi drivers.

The nomination of 30 women to the Consultative Council last year has bolstered hope that the issue of women driving will be taken up and possibly approved.

The de facto ban on women driving has been at times challenged by women, but they were accused of “stirring up public opinion”.

King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, who has stressed on reforms, particularly on women’s rights, since he became ruler in August 2005, has emphasised that “balanced modernisation compatible with Islamic values was a significant necessity”.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Facing Bumps on the Road

Excellent article by Sabria Jawhar on the reality of working Saudi women and transportation. You can link to the story in the August 7, 2014 Arab News here,  and the article is pasted in below.

One of the hard lessons Saudi women learn when they get a new job in the private sector is the attitude among employers. They are told: “you got a job, the rest is up to you.”

More plainly put, female employees are required to show up at work on time and leave at the appropriate hour at the end of the workday. If you must do work-related errands during business hours, then find your own transportation.

Educated women from well-to-do families and working at high-level jobs can live with these requirements. They have their own drivers. But for the rest of us, those middle-class women who can’t afford to sponsor a full-time driver or don’t have access to a full-time driving service, it’s almost impossible to reliably arrive to work on time and leave at a reasonable hour at the end of the day.

There are many private employers — and I have run into plenty — that may offer company drivers to female employees only to pull the rug from underneath them when the time comes to actually drive women around.

A common method among some employers is to insist that the female worker and the driver work out a schedule between themselves. Yet many drivers loathe the idea of driving women from their homes to work, and then pick them up at the end of the day. Worse, they often become unavailable during working hours. Their attitude is they drive female employees to and from work at their convenience and not the workers.

It’s never a matter of “I won’t drive you” but rather simply not answering the phone or claiming a scheduling conflict. Employers prefer not to get involved, so the transportation issues disintegrates into a cat-and-mouse game where women workers are reduced to using a male colleague’s mobile phone so her so-called driver will pick up the phone, or catch him napping in an empty office somewhere in the building and making an awkward face-to-face demand. This daily exercise becomes so exhausting that the idea of hailing a smelly cab from a street corner is easier.
(Full disclosure: My employer contracts a private limousine company to take me anywhere I want to go. I no longer endure the indignity of begging drivers for transportation.)

The attitude of drivers in Saudi Arabia has changed dramatically in the past decade. Drivers, who were once prompt, courteous and respectful to female passengers has evolved an attitude that shows they are doing women a favor by simply allowing them in the back seat of their car.

The Ministry of Labor has a pretty good handle on the dilemma faced by female workers. No one realistically believes that Saudi women will receive the right to drive a car in the near future. At the same time more women are entering the workforce only to find that lack of transportation is not only hindering their work performance, but also encouraging them to stay at home rather than find employment. This will eventually have a significant impact on the Kingdom’s economy.

To solve the problem, the Labor Ministry now requires employers to provide transportation to Saudi women workers. Al-Sayyda Khadija Bint Khuwailid Center, which is part of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), conducted a study that found that 48 percent of Saudi women workers employ private drivers while 26 percent use the men in their families to drive them to work. Only12 percent use taxis and just 4 percent of the women use private minibuses owned by their employers.

So about half of the female workforce is without reliable transportation since using a dad or brother to act, as a chauffeur is hardly considered reliable.

The Labor Ministry has managed to do a lot to get employers in line since its crackdown on undocumented workers last year. It has successfully integrated retail shops with women workers and continues to find ways to make it easier for Saudi women to get hired in the private sector.

Their program to require employers to provide transportation is a logical step to keep women in the workplace. Enforcement, however, remains a sticking point if employers continue to take a passive attitude by not requiring their drivers to be available. Still, the Labor Ministry over the past year has been consistent in its directives, and women just might see a positive change in how their employers handle their transportation issues.

Sabria's e-mail: sabria_j@hotmail.com

Monday, June 23, 2014

Right to drive is just part of a bigger picture

Saudi journalist and blogger Sabria Jawhar wrote this in the Saudi daily Arab News on June 23, 2014. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.

There’s been some hoopla recently over a proposal from two Shoura Council members to allow Saudi women to obtain an international driver’s license in the Kingdom that would permit them to drive in foreign countries.

Possessing an international driver’s license at one time was seen as a path toward obtaining a Saudi driver’s license that would allow women to legally drive in Saudi Arabia. Authorities, however, refused to issue international licenses to Saudi women. It’s a good thing that the issue is now before the Shoura Council, but it is by no means the most important thing. In fact, it’s really a minor side issue to a much larger picture: The representation of Saudi women in government.

Both Saudi and western human rights activists have been preoccupied with the women’s driving issue as if it will cure all ills. While it is important that Saudi women have the right to drive a car, it does not solve the perplexing issue that many of us are denied some rights.

Instead, driving right is only a stepping-stone to full equality guaranteed to women in Islam. That is the thinking of Latifa Al-Shaalan and Haya Al-Mani, the two women Shoura Council members who introduced the amendment that would allow women to obtain an international driver’s license. And the fact the amendment is about driver’s licenses is irrelevant.
 It’s more about the power of these two women who drafted the amendment, introduced it to the Shoura Council and having it sent to the proper committee for approval before being put before the Council for a vote.
If there were an argument that it’s better to work within the system than externally, the work of Al-Shaalan and Al-Mani would be the perfect example.

As we have witnessed since 1992, female driving demonstrations have had limited impact on Saudi women’s rights, other than to antagonize certain elements and whip up western activists who project their own feminist ideals on a culture they barely understand. On the other hand, conservatives have cleverly found ways to tamp down on demonstrations by putting pressure on the men in families to curb their daughters and sisters, impounding cars and waging whisper campaigns.

But Al-Shaalan and Al-Mani force the issue of women’s rights to the surface. By introducing the international driver’s license amendment, they force every Shoura Council member to reveal his or her position on the issue. It’s unlikely that the amendment will ever pass, but there will be little doubt exactly where the Shoura Council stands. And if the amendment should pass and become a recommendation of the Council, then the tired argument that “Saudi women will drive when Saudi society is ready” will be put to the test.

But whether the amendment passes or fails is beside the point. The proposal and others like it drafted by female Shoura Council members will result in accountability at the highest levels. Every time a proposal is made to ensure Saudi women their Islamic rights, every man and woman on the council must stand by their vote to deny such rights and answer to Saudi society why they abdicated their public service and religious responsibilities.

This is the power of a consultative body that measures the wants and needs of the community it serves and comes at a decision via a vote. By appointing 30 women to the Shoura Council, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has introduced a new dynamic never witnessed in Saudi history: The voice of Saudi women — half of Saudi society — and accountability of those individuals who seek to silence that voice.

Email: sabria_j@hotmail.com

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Employee in Saudi Arabia fired over controversial cake

Gulf News reports - a link to the story is  here,  and the text below.

Pastry shop apologises, insists it has utmost respect for morals police

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief  - Published: 19:49 June 3, 2014
  • Image Credit:
  • Caption: The controversial cake - Sabq
Manama: A pastry shop in Saudi Arabia has offered its apologies after one of its employees made a cake that reportedly denigrated the moral police for tailing an open truck driven by a woman and transporting women.

Social media in Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving, promptly decried the cake and users said that “it was making fun of the highly respected members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice who were depicted as using a van to chase the all women truck.”

However, Sa’adeddine Sweets board member Omar Sa’adeddine said that they deplored the incident and that they fired the employee who conceptualised and made the controversial cake.

“It was an individual act by an employee who prepared the cake as requested by a female client,” he said in remarks carried by local news site Sabq on Tuesday.

“The company was not involved and we conducted a probe that resulted in firing the man who made it and the employee who took a picture. We do condemn this act even though he explained that he had acted in good faith and with good intentions.”

The company said that it did not normally accept such orders and that all employees regretted the lapse.

“We are fully committed to our religion and values and we fully reject the slightest attempt to denigrate the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice for whose members we have the utmost respects,” Omar said.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saudi Woman Killed Defying Driving Ban

AFP reports on May 8, 2014 - a link to the story is here, story below.
 
Riyadh:  A Saudi woman was killed in a car crash in the capital on Thursday as she defied the kingdom's long-standing ban on female driving, local media reported.

The woman, in her 20s, lost control of her vehicle and crashed into the wall of a youth club in Riyadh, according to the website of the local Al-Jazeera daily.

The car caught fire and she died, it said.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.

However, they usually get behind the wheel in desert regions away from the capital.

Thursday's deadly accident was not the first of its kind involving a woman driver. In January 2012, a female driver was injured and her companion killed when their car overturned in the northern Hael province.

And in November 2010, a woman driver was killed along with three of her female passengers in a similar accident.

Women in the kingdom who have the means hire drivers while others must depend on the goodwill of male relatives.

Women's rights activists make frequent calls to challenge the ban and those who do so post online videos showing themselves behind the wheel.

In addition to not being allowed to drive, Saudi women must cover themselves from head to toe and need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.

A woman who defied the ban on female driving in Saudi Arabia died in a car crash on Thursday, according to local media.
The woman, who is described as being in her 20s, was driving when she lost control of her vehicle, according to the local Al-Jazeera daily website.
The woman was killed after she crashed into the wall of a youth club in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital city, and the car burst into flames, the site said.
Saudi Arabia is ultra-conservative and it is the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving, the Agence France-Presse reports.
It's still unusual to see women driving in the kingdom, but they have been getting behind the wheel in desert regions away from Riyadh.
This is not the first time a fatal motor vehicle accident has occurred involving a female driver.
In 2012, a woman who had also protested against the driving ban was taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries and her companion died after their car overturned in the northern Hael province, according to The Independent.
A similar incident happened in November 2010 when a Saudi woman was killed along with three of her 10 female passengers.
Women in the kingdom who can afford to hire drivers do so, while others must depend on male relatives to drive them. They also need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.
Women's rights activists often come together to defy the driving ban and encourage other women to post online videos of themselves driving.
According to the Daily Mail, Manal al-Sherif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, who was part of the first driving campaign, was arrested and detained for 10 days in May for uploading a YouTube video of herself driving around Khobar.
- See more at: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/religion/saudi-woman-dies-car-crash-after-defying-kingdoms-driving-ban#sthash.S7qBvRUM.dpuf

A woman who defied the ban on female driving in Saudi Arabia died in a car crash on Thursday, according to local media.
The woman, who is described as being in her 20s, was driving when she lost control of her vehicle, according to the local Al-Jazeera daily website.
The woman was killed after she crashed into the wall of a youth club in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital city, and the car burst into flames, the site said.
Saudi Arabia is ultra-conservative and it is the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving, the Agence France-Presse reports.
It's still unusual to see women driving in the kingdom, but they have been getting behind the wheel in desert regions away from Riyadh.
This is not the first time a fatal motor vehicle accident has occurred involving a female driver.
In 2012, a woman who had also protested against the driving ban was taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries and her companion died after their car overturned in the northern Hael province, according to The Independent.
A similar incident happened in November 2010 when a Saudi woman was killed along with three of her 10 female passengers.
Women in the kingdom who can afford to hire drivers do so, while others must depend on male relatives to drive them. They also need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.
Women's rights activists often come together to defy the driving ban and encourage other women to post online videos of themselves driving.
According to the Daily Mail, Manal al-Sherif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, who was part of the first driving campaign, was arrested and detained for 10 days in May for uploading a YouTube video of herself driving around Khobar.
- See more at: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/religion/saudi-woman-dies-car-crash-after-defying-kingdoms-driving-ban#sthash.S7qBvRUM.dpuf

A woman who defied the ban on female driving in Saudi Arabia died in a car crash on Thursday, according to local media.
The woman, who is described as being in her 20s, was driving when she lost control of her vehicle, according to the local Al-Jazeera daily website.
The woman was killed after she crashed into the wall of a youth club in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital city, and the car burst into flames, the site said.
Saudi Arabia is ultra-conservative and it is the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving, the Agence France-Presse reports.
It's still unusual to see women driving in the kingdom, but they have been getting behind the wheel in desert regions away from Riyadh.
This is not the first time a fatal motor vehicle accident has occurred involving a female driver.
In 2012, a woman who had also protested against the driving ban was taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries and her companion died after their car overturned in the northern Hael province, according to The Independent.
A similar incident happened in November 2010 when a Saudi woman was killed along with three of her 10 female passengers.
Women in the kingdom who can afford to hire drivers do so, while others must depend on male relatives to drive them. They also need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.
Women's rights activists often come together to defy the driving ban and encourage other women to post online videos of themselves driving.
According to the Daily Mail, Manal al-Sherif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, who was part of the first driving campaign, was arrested and detained for 10 days in May for uploading a YouTube video of herself driving around Khobar.
- See more at: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/religion/saudi-woman-dies-car-crash-after-defying-kingdoms-driving-ban#sthash.S7qBvRUM.dpuf