Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Saudi woman driver reported killed in car crash is alive

A link to the story is here,  and the text is below.

Anti-driving ban campaigner Manal al-Sharif says unnamed desert woman was victim in fatal Jeddah crash

reddit this Martin Chulov, Wednesday 25 January 2012 09.57 EST larger

The woman reported killed in car crash in Saudi Arabia has told the Guardian she is alive, and the real victim was an unnamed member of a desert community.

Manal al-Sharif, the figurehead of a Saudi female driving campaign, said the woman who died in the fatal accident near Jeddah on Monday was not part of a group trying to overturn laws that ban women from taking the wheel.

Sharif and Rasha al-Dowiia, another woman who has defied the kingdom's laws banning female drivers, said officials largely ignored the small bedouin community to which the dead woman belonged, in an area named Ha'el. They said women regularly drove there but police left them alone because the bedouin were detached from mainstream Saudi society.

The dead woman's family is withholding her name. A second woman was injured in the accident and remains in hospital.

A slowly growing number of Saudi women are trying to force changes to laws that stop them from driving. Saudi Arabia enforces a hardline interpretation of Islamic law, and is one of the very few countries in the world to deny women the right to drive.

A vigorous internet campaign began last year, in which women such as Sharif, 32, a computer security consultant, were filmed behind the wheel. Videos posted to YouTube led to renewed scrutiny of the issue but failed to force a change to the law.

Sharif and Dowiia were both briefly jailed last year, and a third women who also drove was sentenced to 10 lashes. However, the sentence was overturned after the intervention of King Abdullah.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Saudi female driver defies ban, has fatal accident

A link to the story is here, and text pasted in below.

A Saudi woman who defied a driving ban in the kingdom was injured and her companion killed when their car overturned in the northern Hael province, a police spokesman said on Monday

AFP - Published: 17:18 January 23, 2012

Jeddah: A Saudi woman who defied a driving ban in the kingdom was injured and her companion killed when their car overturned in the northern Hael province, a police spokesman said on Monday.

One woman was immediately killed and her companion who was driving the car was hospitalised after she suffered several injuries" when their four-wheel-drive vehicle overturned late on Saturday, said police spokesman Abdul Aziz Al Zunaidi.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.
However, they get behind the wheel in desert regions away from the capital.
There have been several incidents reported in recent years of women being killed in accidents while driving despite the ban, one of a host of restrictions imposed on women in the kingdom.

In November 2010, a Saudi who defied the driving ban was killed along with three of her 10 female passengers when her car overturned in a crash.

A group of activists launched an Internet campaign last year urging Saudi women to defy the ban on driving.

The icon of the campaign, Manal Al Sherif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, was arrested on May 22 and detained for 10 days after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving her car around the eastern city of Khobar.

Since then, women regularly get behind the wheels of their cars, according to the activists.
Five Saudi women were arrested while driving in late June in Jeddah.

Women in the kingdom who have the means hire drivers while others must depend on the goodwill of male relatives. They are also obliged to be veiled in public, and cannot travel unless accompanied by their husbands or a close male relative.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saudi Women Shatter the Lingerie Ceiling

Big story in today's New York Times - about the lingerie law. By now, readers of this blog should know that a new law has taken effect in Saudi Arabia, making it mandatory for Saudi lingerie shops to be staffed by women. This is a huge step forward, and it is, in my opinion (as well as Thomas Lipman the author of this piece) a step to preparing Saudi society, and Saudi women for greater things, like driving. On the NYT page there is an interview with Reem Asaad who led the lingerie campaign. As Lippman mentions in the last paragraph, he expects women will soon be permitted to drive. Notice the graphic of a bra and car keys! A link to the story is here and the text is below.
Saudi Women Shatter the Lingerie Ceiling - Thomas Lippman

SOCIAL revolution began in Saudi Arabia this month, and it has little if anything to do with the Arab Spring. Women are going to work in lingerie shops.

(drawing by Kelsey Dake)

The Ministry of Labor is enforcing a royal decree issued last summer ordering that sales personnel in shops selling garments and other goods, like cosmetics, that are only for women must be female. More than 28,000 women applied for the jobs, the ministry said. Anywhere else in the world, it would not be news that sales assistants in shops selling panties and bras were female. In Saudi Arabia, where women have always been excluded from the public work force, it is a critical breakthrough. This is not just about intimate garments; this is a milestone on the arduous path to employment equality for women in a country where they are systematically excluded from retail activity.

Saudi Arabia’s economic planners recognize that if women are going to be educated at public expense, as they now are in increasing numbers, they will expect to work and the country will need their economic output. Society has increasingly accepted the idea that women will work outside the home. They have long been employed in medicine and education. Retail commerce, however, has generally remained closed because such work usually requires interaction with men, which is prohibited. The lingerie shops are breaking that taboo.

One of the oddest sights in Saudi Arabia is that of fully veiled women, hidden from others by their enveloping garments, going into the Saudi equivalent of Victoria’s Secret stores in the many upscale malls and being greeted and assisted exclusively by male sales clerks, most of whom are from South Asia. This absurd situation so embarrassed many women that they waited until they were out of the country to buy their underwear and nightgowns.

The campaign to change the rules began several years ago, and was led by Reem Asaad, a fashion-conscious financial adviser who speaks flawless English and is comfortable with the Western media. It appeared to have succeeded in 2006 when the government ordered that the sales jobs be transferred to women. But social conservatives and the religious establishment objected, arguing that Islam prohibited women from working outside the home and that putting women in retail shops would expose them to the view of any passing stranger. If the sales clerks were female, the shop windows would have to be covered, the opponents said.

Shop owners objected, too, saying that no women were trained to do such work. In addition, the 2006 decree failed to address the transportation problem: if women were going to work in those shops, they would need a man to drive them because they are prohibited from driving. Saudi cities have virtually no public transportation. So the decree was never enforced. Ms. Asaad then used Facebook to organize a boycott of the shops, and arranged for some women to be trained in retail work.

This time, King Abdullah has put his personal authority behind the new decree. Last year he also installed a new minister of labor, Adel Fakieh, who had embraced the idea of employing women at a supermarket chain owned by his holding company. Under the new rules, the country’s thousands of lingerie and cosmetics shops have until June to replace their male employees with women. The feared religious police, who are really the behavior police, have been ordered to cooperate.

King Abdullah generally supported an expansion of opportunities for women, but steps in this direction can’t be traced to any burst of enlightenment within the royal family. They are happening because the kingdom’s women need and want jobs and are learning how to make themselves heard — and because, in an increasingly expensive country, their husbands often want them to work.

Over the coming generation, this is likely to be the farthest-reaching transformation in Saudi society. While women are still constrained by law, religion and custom, more and more are likely to enter the work force. They will be better educated than their predecessors, will marry later and will have fewer children. The range of jobs and professions open to them will expand. The Ministry of Labor is already compiling a list of jobs women will be permitted to hold. It won’t include all jobs — no female miners or construction workers here — but it will be a much longer list than in the past, including some positions in law enforcement.

These changes will meet entrenched opposition, but the economic and demographic forces behind them seem irresistible. The transition would be easier if women were permitted to drive (the 2011 decree failed to address that issue), but that is bound to come, too — if not this year, then soon, if only because growing ranks of employed women will build pressure for it. Thousands of Saudi women have driver’s licenses issued by other countries; they will be ready when the day comes.

Thomas Lippman is a scholar at the Middle East Institute and the author of “Saudi Arabia on the Edge: The Uncertain Future of an American Ally.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

VOA seeking interviews with Saudi women involved in driving campaign

Today I received an e-mail from David Arnold of the Voice of America. His message is as follows. If you are willing to speak with him, please contact him by e-mail at:

I would like to interview by telephone 2 or 3 Saudi women who are making a substantive effort to change Saudi custom regarding the ban on women driving cars in the kingdom. Perhaps Manal al-Sharif, a lawyer, someone who has access to a member of the royal family who would be available for interviews on Thursday or Friday of this week. I'm interested in learning of a practical political strategy that effects change and how they hope to accomplish it. Please reply to my e-mail address:

David Arnold
English for the Middle East
Voice of America