Women in Saudi Arabia still can’t drive.

A group of Saudi women have formed a committee to lobby the government and petition King Abdullah to stop the ban on allowing women to drive.

The government is unlikely to respond because the issue remains so highly sensitive and divisive. But committee members say their petition will at least highlight what many Saudis — both men and women — consider a “stolen” right.
“We would like to remind officials that this is, as many have said, a social and not a religious or political issue,” said Fowziyyah al-Oyouni, a founding member of the Committee of Demanders of Women’s Right to Drive Cars. “And since it’s a social issue, we have the right to lobby for it.”

I find it interesting that a country that leads in the export of petroleum, a country who’s economy is based on the consumption of oil, does not allow women to drive. Furthermore, you would think that one of the Western interests that are so supportive of the Saudi economy and building sustainable relationships with them, would say something about the fact that women in Saudi Arabia CAN’T DRIVE.
Does anyone else find that to be strange?
via AP.

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  1. ccchild
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, it’s always amazing when people would rather hold on to prejudices than make some money. I’m not one of those people who think making money is the be-all-and-end-all in life, but if appealing to their wallet is the only way to get some basic human rights, I say go for it. You’d think somebody would’ve seen the missed economic opportunities here. But, you never can underestimate the stupidity of assholes.

  2. SarahMC
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes woman-hating is even more important than gold!

  3. Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    This was actually a huge issue during the buildup of the Gulf War, when US troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia. The US complied with requests not to have alcohol, porn, etc. (or, weirdly, almonds, IIRC) on-base, or sent to troops (my brother was in the Gulf, and there was a whole list of things we couldn’t send him).
    But the US did put their collective foot down when the Saudis forbade female US soldiers from driving. It’s one thing to respect the wishes of your host with respect to personal conduct, but driving was part of these women’s jobs, and the military couldn’t afford to cave on that. So eventually, the Saudis gave a special dispensation to US women in uniform.

  4. Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I should also mention that this was an issue for all of the other militaries who were stationed in Saudi as well. I think they pretty much all objected, and pretty much all got the dispensation.

  5. JPlum
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    ccchild, why do you think it would be good for the economy if women drove? I would think it would do the opposite-the live-in drivers would be out of jobs, and the taxi drivers would get less business. Plus, I’d imagine that a family that can afford to have a car for the wife already has one, so it’s not like allowing women to drive would create a new market for cars.
    It would be interesting to see if the Saudi government has addressed this from an economic angle.

  6. Shells
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Considering the source of the vast majority of Saudi Arabia’s national revenue, I highly doubt a few unemployed live-in drivers will considerably mar the Saudi economy. Also, in my experience growing up with ex-pat parents overseas, both personal and taxi drivers rarely have a shortage of work in overcrowded, difficult to manage cities. The true issue here is that these adult women are treated like children in need of a chaperon. Worse yet, those who don’t have the economic means to hire a driver to get around the restrictions on their personal freedom experience limited access to basic services, like medical care. And I agree that it is ironic that the government of an oil-driven economy would limit their citizens’ ability to drive cars, but it just goes to show that in this case, religious fundamentalism is even stronger than a capitalistic desire for revenue at any cost.

  7. Posted September 18, 2007 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I think the US would turn a blind eye to Saudis feasting on newborn babies, as long as they will sell us their oil.
    As it is, we turn a bling eye to them crashing airliners into the WTC, don’t we? ANd stoning 17 year old girls to death for being raped? RIght? RIGHT?

  8. Posted September 18, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I think the US would turn a blind eye to Saudis feasting on newborn babies, as long as they will sell us their oil.
    As it is, we turn a bling eye to them crashing airliners into the WTC, don’t we? ANd stoning 17 year old girls to death for being raped? RIght? RIGHT?

  9. SarahMC
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh, snap, kmtberry.
    And I kind of like the phrase “bling eye” hehe.

  10. DaveNJ17
    Posted September 18, 2007 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s not that shocking. For people with no concept of gender equality who might as well be using medieval law in many instances (and in fact are doing just that), there is no hypocrisy here. The sad thing is, even if women could drive, they’re still not allowed out of the house without a male chaperone in many places, there are modesty police, and it’s nigh impossible for a woman to get a job good enough to pay for a car. Jeez, that’s depressing. I just bummed myself out. Oh well, I guess the message is, avoid using gas unless you’ve got to. Put a little less money into the Saudi pockets and maybe this will eventually change, though I don’t think this is even primarily economically based.

  11. Alison
    Posted September 22, 2007 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    I like this campaign. I especially like their committee’s name.
    Anybody want to send a big box of keyrings to Saudi Arabia?

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