Within the region of Saudia Arabia, women have been unable to drive and/or hold a license due to the ultra-conservative nation’s laws prohibiting such from occurring. However, Saudi King Salman has issued a decree that now permits women to drive from next year onwards. Responses to the decree have been both positive and negative, with individuals from both sides seeking to raise their perspectives over social media. Particularly Twitter.
Alyazya from Yazzeus gives an in-depth perspective into the region through her own research and the thoughts of others and explores how the change will affect the lives of women.
Allowing women to drive is a historical step for Saudi women; however, the extent to which this law will be effective is questionable. There’s no doubt that some women will drive but how many will they be? What role will the guardianship system play? What consequences will they face for practising this newly given right?
The Guardianship System
In Saudi Arabia, women are systematically oppressed under the guardianship system. There is no question that the guardians will abuse their power to prohibit women from driving. The kingdom took note of that and set regulations to limit the guardians’ power. In an article published in Makkah Newspaper, Saudi Lawyer, Naif Al Mansi stated that disallowing one’s wife, daughter, or sister to drive is an abuse of power. In such case, the woman has the right to ignore his refusal and get her license. If he responds with verbal and physical abuse, she may file a lawsuit against her guardian.
There is no denying that some women will not rebel against their guardian, and hence, the guardianship system is going to act as a barrier to women wanting to drive. Regardless, taking precautions is a big step for Saudi women. Hopefully, it will continue to head in the right direction.
The rise of activism that in Saudi in the past few years came with a lot of backlash, anger, misogynist remarks and degrading comments on social media. Similarly, a few hours after King Salman’s announcement the hashtag “الشعب ضد قيادة المراة” or “the people are against women driving” was trending, #1, in the region for 2 consecutive days. Numerous people used this hashtag to defend a women’s right to drive; however, a large number of them were either various jokes about women driving or complete anger and backlash.
Top tweets found under the hashtag “الشعب ضد قيادة المراة” or “the people are against women driving” in the region of Saudi Arabia.
@nowrah77: “It’s a sad night for my country. I’m afraid of the demise of the blessings [An Arabic expression which translates to the fear of the repercussions that the blessings may bring] God has given to us: the blessings of Islam and safety.” (Translated)
@awee25: “Since this hashtag has been number 1 since yesterday, I am assured that the entire population is against women driving, not just the majority.” (Translated)
@tj59yJkuFk8FUQL: “How many girls will get raped? How many women will get divorced? How many kids will get lost [In life]? How many men will deviate [This insinuates that men will lose their “holiness”]? How many accidents will happen? How many murders will occur?” (Translated)
These few examples are enough to showcase some of the mentalities that exist in Saudi Arabia. Many people blame a lot of problems in the liberation of women, whether it is freedom of work or movement. This is not the only hashtag that was trending on Twitter, another one was “نحن بنات سلمان لا نريد القيادة” or “We are the daughters of Salman and we don’t want to drive.” It is not uncommon for women to stand against women in Saudi Arabia. It was seen throughout the years, as social media activism rose. Of course, Saudi Arabia is not a democracy that can be criticized by its people. As a result, anyone who objects to the King’s orders will be faced with 5 years in prison.
In the past, a woman walking outside in Saudi Arabia will get harassed, surrounded and terrorized by a herd of men. Which made me wonder, what will the consequences for being seen driving in the streets of Saudi be? However, with the new sexual harassment laws in Saudi that followed women driving laws, I’m positive that men will be criminalized for harassing Saudi women, and thus, it will reduce.
The central region of Saudi Arabia is said to be the most conservative in comparison to the eastern and western regions. This naturally grew my curiosity regarding the driving trends that we’ll witness in Saudi Arabia and so I took the opinion of two Saudi women regarding the topic. Sarah, from Mecca, stated, “I think people everywhere will start teaching their daughters because I’ve seen Bedouins who are the most conservative stand with women driving. I’m not sure about people in villages though or children who have not been exposed to an open-minded community.” Rania, from Khobar, believes that there will be more women driving in the eastern region of Saudi because the central region is extremely conservative and the west is home to Holy Mecca as well Madinah.
Further questions were asked in relation to the “allowance” of Saudi women to drive. These questions consisted of:
- Given that some regions are more conservative than others how do you see the women driving patterns in Saudi in the near future?
- The guardianship system is obviously still in place, how will this impede women driving?
- How long do you think it will take before we see a rise in women drivers in Saudi?
Three women from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, were interviewed using these questions. These were their responses.
(Individuals name are kept anonymous for purpose of their own security)
The responses of these women indicate that it will only be a matter of time before change is noticed in nearby regions. The Saudi region is very adaptive to change and will thus change rapidly due to a large amount of individuals on board.
It is only a matter of time before women are enabled further rights in the region and neighbouring regions. Hopefully, the time for this comes sooner rather than later.
Equality for all.
Alyazya from “Yazzeus.com” has written many pieces and articles on her website. Be sure to check it out.