Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saudi women subvert sexist discrimination with their own 'cyber civil society'

Story from Wire Magazine about Saudi women using cyber space to promote the women driving campaign. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Saudi Police deny report woman arrested for driving

Gulf News reports about a Saudi woman driving incident in Al Baha, in Saudi Arabia's southwest.

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

Daughter drove car after father felt incapacitated and needed help
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief
  • Published: 12:45 October 17, 2012
Manama: A Saudi police spokesman has denied claims that a woman has been arrested for driving her father’s car.
“The reports that a woman was seen driving a car with her father sitting next to her are true,” Sa’ad Saleh Tarrad, media spokesman for Al Baha police, said. “However, the investigation concluded that the father felt ill and could not drive, so he asked his daughter to drive the car. Both the man and his daughter were released immediately after they were questioned and there was no arrest,” he said, quoted by Al Madina daily on Wednesday.
Reports claimed that the woman was held by the police after she was caught driving in the Saudi Arabian southwestern city. No legal text bans Saudi women from driving, but deep-rooted customs have not allowed women to sit behind the steering wheel as a bitter standoff between activists calling for granting them the right and conservatives who see it as a gateway to serious social problems has intensified.
Reports about women arrested for driving have invariably mobilised forces in both camps to call for their release or to condemn their challenge to the local customs. In the absence of legal texts regulating the matter, punishment for women who were “caught” driving ranged from signing pledges not to drive to corporal measures.

Last year, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz overturned a sentence of 10 lashes handed down to a woman who defied the driving ban.
Several bloggers said that the sentence against the woman, Shaima Jastaina, had to be condemned as an expression to stall a pro-women reform drive launched by King Abdullah that included giving women the right to vote and run in municipal elections and becoming members of the Shura Council, the country’s highest advisory authority.

Friday, October 12, 2012

“We cannot go back to the fifteenth century” says Princess Basma bint Saud

Interesting article about and interview with Princess Basma bint Saud, who gave a talk at Cambridge University in the UK. She comments on women driving toward the end. She is against the idea right now - as she believes it would put women in danger. A link to the story is here, and it's pasted in below.

Isabella Cookson meets the Saudi Princess after her talk at the Cambridge Union Society
This summer saw the first women from Saudi Arabia compete in the Olympics. Yet the domestic picture of the 11 million women who live in Saudi Arabia remains largely unchanged. They have no political rights, must have a male guardian (regardless of their age) and are the only women in the world prohibited from driving. The call for change is being championed by an unexpected and polemic figure.

Cambridge Union Society

HRH Princess Basma Bint Saudi claims that her family are not pleased with her stance

HRH Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz is the niece of the current ruler King Abdullah and the 115th child of King Saud. Despite being one of the most elite royals in the country, she is using her prominent position to speak out for women in a culture where they have no voice. She writes copiously as a journalist and blogger tackling issues of poverty and women’s rights both in the press at home and more recently across the globe. The divorced mother of five also owns her own business, a chain of restaurants, which she hopes to expand to the UK soon. Sitting in front of me, wearing no veil, trousers and a pair of heels, she seems a world apart from the stereotypical image of a woman in Saudi Arabia.
Yet that is exactly what she is: a world apart, the exception, not the rule. “I am very much a woman of high privileges. I have been educated; I have traveled the world. Whatever I say, it can never be as honest as if you had heard it from them. I can try and draw you a picture however, but it isn’t a very rosy one. A woman in Saudi Arabia lives on a daily basis in fear. There’s nothing she can count on. She lives under the tyranny of the man; she has no rights; nowhere to go if she’s abused. She lives in darkness and some light must be shed in her way.”
The Princess is, however, very keen to defend the royal family. She wants reform not revolution. She claims that the King is in fact a reformist who desires change. I wonder, therefore, who and what, prevents progress for women? Her explanation is not black and white, something she herself was keen to emphasise. “The King is a Bedouin man and he gives a big role to women. In that culture, the women tend to raise the children and do the housework, do the fieldwork and drive the camel or the horse. The men are there for protection from other tribes. The woman has her role in this tradition but it’s not modern and it’s in a completely different shape to that in the West.”
Her tie to her family is evidently strong but it does place her in a difficult position, both intellectually and personally. I wonder what her family’s reaction has been and her answer is frank and heartfelt. “Everyone has a price to pay. My family are not against me, but they are not pleased. They have not done anything to stop me. It would not be fair to say that they do not have a hand in what is happening on the ground. Women’s rights would threaten their position with the religious authorities. There are so many grey areas, so many areas that must be reformed.”
Her campaign is directed principally against the Mutawa, the draconian religious police force who in 2002 refused to allow schoolgirls to leave a blazing building because they were not wearing the correct Islamic dress. “I am a very religious person but for me the Mutawa does not represent Islam, they represent extremism and Islam is a religion that forbids extremism. They misinterpret the Qu’ran. Unfortunately, they are getting more and more power.
King Abdullah, since he is a reformist, has been giving money to lots of other organisations in the country. One of the organisations is the religious one, and they’ve taken advantage of that power. King Abdullah wanted to give more rights, more freedom for other organisations to form, to be socially active. Like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, they have taken the reign.”
The battle she is fighting is not just against the patriarchy. Women themselves have proven to be an enemy to reform. “They are playing into the mindset of the culture. It’s the same in Egypt now- you have Egyptian women in the parliament who are saying that women should go back behind doors, raise their family, wear their veils. I am not saying that women shouldn’t play their role but they should play their role within the twenty first century. We cannot go back to the fifteenth century.”
Unexpectedly, the Princess publicly declared that women should not be able to drive. Progress, she thinks, needs to happen over time: “It’s not safe. They would be beaten up by men on the streets which would merely reaffirm that women driving is bad for them. First of all we need to change the constitution, men and women need to be made equal on the streets, in the law courts, in the home, in the workplace, in all rights. Then we might be ready, then women should drive.”
This is not a simple problem, nor one without its contradictions. Yet the unlikely advocate of change must also be a seed of hope for the future of women in Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Woman held for driving and crashing in Saudi

Emirates 24/7 is reporting on the arrest of a Saudi woman caught driving and crashing a car in Riyadh. A link to the story is here, and the text is below.

Saudi Arabia’s feared religious police arrested a woman for breaking a long-standing ban and driving a car in the capital Riyadh, where she caused an accident with two other vehicles.

The woman, in her 20s, rammed into another car and sped in the wrong direction to escape police but hit another vehicle on the road. 

“She was not wearing any head cover or a gown over her clothes…..after the accident, she rushed out of the car and tried to run away but was caught by the drivers of the two damaged vehicles,” Alsaudeh daily said. 

It said the woman was arrested by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, who arrived in the scene along with the traffic police. 

Women are not allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia but there have been online female campaigns over the past two years to end the ban.

Women to Drive, a battle for dignity

Saudi women rights activist Manal al-Sharif speaks with ANSAmed, a European Union news source, a brief story about the women driving issue. A link to the story is here, and is pasted in below.

(ANSAmed) - ROME, OCTOBER 8 - She's young, beautiful and feisty, and she is the founder of the Saudi Women To Drive campaign, which is part of a larger action called My Right To Dignity: her name is Manal Al Sharif, and ANSAmed interviewed her in Italy, where she attended the International magazine journalism festival in Ferrara.

She reached the festival at the wheel of a car, from the UN High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, for the right to drive in her home country of Saudi Arabia is symbolic of the larger issue of full citizenhood.

''In my country, a man comes of age at 18, a woman never: she needs permission from a male guardian for every life choice, from studying abroad to looking for a job,'' Sharif told ANSAmed. And, while no law expressly forbids Saudi women to drive, they are de facto banned from getting behind the wheel.

The motor registry software does not issue licenses to female drivers, and women have in the past been sentenced to flogging for being caught at the wheel.

Having become famous for posting a YouTube video in which she is seen driving a car, having started a national women's mobilization and paid for it with nine days in jail, Sharif sued Saudi authorities. That legal battle has been stuck in a civil court for six months, although the floggings appear to have stopped, Sharif pointed out.

On June 17, the second anniversary of her campaign, which has thousands of Facebook and Twitter supporters, Sharif co-signed an appeal to King Abdullah, in which she points out that denying women the right to drive is ''based on customs and traditions that do not come from God.'' Sharif, married and with a child, now lives in Dubai, from where she continues to fight her battle for women's rights in her native Saudi Arabia. A country which, she points out, is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. (ANSAmed).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Saudi women drive, but not in the Kingdom

Story from the Saudi Gazette by Jihad Mohammad about Saudi women driving in the nearby United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. A link to the story is here, and the story is pasted in below.
Jihad Mohammad
Saudi Gazette

AL KHOBAR —The roads and communications body in Emirates registered more than 113 Saudi women drivers’ licenses, accounting for 36 percent of Saudi female residents in the Emirates.

 The body said that Saudi women have to prove their residency in the Emirates before they can obtain a license.

In addition, driving schools in Dubai have witnessed an increase in Saudi women candidates, as 55 trainees receive a license every month.

They receive 46 one hour driving sessions, extending over a three month period, with costs reaching 10,000 Dirham. 

Many Saudi women have taken residency in the Emirates, and some have started business investments.

On the same note, the Bahraini general directorate of traffic said that it has issued more than 6000 driving licenses for Saudi women during the past two years, as they use it to drive in the rest of Gulf countries, which allow women drivers. 

A number of Saudi women said that they prefer driving their own cars rather than having a driver, and that they feel some independence this way.