Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review of DARING TO DRIVE by Saudi Blogger Iman al-Nafjan

Saudi blogger Eman Fahad al-Nafjan reviewed Manal al-Sharif's book DARING TO DRIVE, which was released today.  Here is the link to her post:  Saudi Woman's Weblog. 
Lovely review.

Manal al-Sharif's Memoir Rated #1 Summer Read by O Magazine

Congratulations to Saudi author and women's rights activist, Manal al-Sharif! Her book DARING TO DRIVE comes out this week. She is on a book and speaking tour. And...just now, Manal posted on her facebook page that O Magazine has  rated her book the #1 Summer Read!  I couldn't find it on-line yet but am posting in a photo she took from the magazine. Bravo! We need to read more first-hand accounts of life from Saudi women (and men too). 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Manal al-Sharif interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air

Saudi women's driving activist Manal al-Sharif is in the U.S. for the launch of her new book, DARING TO DRIVE. She is making appearances and sat down with Terry Gross of Fresh Air. You can link to a podcast of the interview on the right side of the site linked here. 

Below is an article about the interview. The link above also will take you to a book excerpt.
Manal al-Sharif's path to activism began simply enough: In 2011, the Saudi woman filmed herself driving a car, then uploaded the video to YouTube. Ordinarily such a video might not get much notice, but because it's not socially acceptable for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, where there is a de facto ban, Sharif's video went viral.

Sharif describes driving as an act of civil disobedience: "For me, driving — or the right to drive — is not only about moving from A to B; it's a way to emancipate women," she says. "It gives them so much liberty. It makes them independent."

Initially arrested for driving, Sharif was released when her story elicited outrage from around the world. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, with her second husband and son.

Though she is no longer in Saudi Arabia, Sharif remains outspoken about women's rights: "When I see something wrong, I speak up," she says of her advocacy on behalf of Saudi women. "It should be the norm, not the exception." Her new memoir is Daring to Drive.

Interview Highlights

On the guardianship system for women in Saudi Arabia
We have the guardianship system and that is the one that imposes a lot of restrictions on me, as a woman. ... A woman cannot choose her guardian. So when you're born, your father is your guardian. When you get married, it moves to your husband. If you get divorced, it either moves back to your father if he's alive; if he's not alive, it could move back to your brother.
If you don't have a brother, it could move back to your adult son, as young as 18 years old. He could be your own guardian issuing you permissions ... for important things like going to school, getting a job, leaving the country, going to the court, even going to the police and complaining. They always ask for a man's consent and permission.

On why she decided to advocate for Saudi women's right to drive
I think it chose me. I didn't choose it. As a single mom, I was divorced with a son and I had a car and I had a driver's license, but I couldn't drive my car. I was paying the installments for this car for five years. That was very frustrating. I almost got kidnapped once because I couldn't find a car to take me back home.
It's a daily struggle to find a car to do anything in your life in a country where there's no public transportation and our cities are not pedestrian-friendly. It was a continuous struggle, and it was very empowering that I know how to drive. I have a car and I have a driver's license. When I knew that there is no law, I was thinking, "Well, if there's no law, so why are not driving?" It was accumulating, it didn't just happen overnight.

On Saudi women's reliance on foreign drivers

[Private drivers] get paid around $500 a month. No Saudi would accept this salary, and no Saudi will be 24/7 available ... to drive you around. ... [Drivers] work long hours with you, because they drop the kids at school, they drop you at work, when you need to go for grocery shopping, all these things — you will not find Saudis accepting these jobs.
The private sector itself in Saudi Arabia, 90 percent of the people working there are non-Saudis, so also the contradictions here make me mad, because you don't allow me to mix with Saudis or men in general all my life, but then you enforce a perfect stranger to be living in my house, to be driving my own car and have my own phone number. ...
Most of them don't even know how to drive! My first driver, I had to teach him how to drive. He didn't even know the signs. ... He didn't know the city. He didn't speak Arabic.

On how her protest helped inspire others to drive

I know a girl, she's 14 years old. She's so young, but in Saudi Arabia, you can drive as a boy as young as 14 years old. She dressed like a boy and I met her mom and I met her other sister, and they said [the police] stopped her so many times and they found out she's a girl, and she would plead with the police officer and explain to him that she doesn't have anyone. But she continued driving.
She always posted videos of herself driving, and that was amazing. She said, "We never thought of buying a car, because we were three girls in the house," — they don't have a man — "until we saw you driving."
Her mom ... kept saying, "Don't stop." Her daughter said, "They stole Mom's life. We'll not allow them to steal my life."

On the hard-line views she encountered as a student

In the '80s in Saudi Arabia, you were radicalized. We were radicalized in the '80s and the '90s. There was one source of information, the books were censored and we had all these wars going on around in the Islamic world. ... I was brought up in this era or in this time. ... We've been through this. ... Destroying our photos, stopping everyone from listening to music, questioning the beliefs of the others, the hate against the infidels, we were brought up this way. ...

I always questioned them, even when I was practicing to be a "good Muslim" and I was trying to please God and stay away from hellfire and go to heaven, I was still questioning these things. I wasn't really happy. The more I was trying to follow the rules we had been taught, the more miserable I became.

On undergoing female genital mutilation as a girl

The one, really, who circumcised us was a barber. He was my father's friend. My mom herself was circumcised and she told us the story that she ran away when they cut one labia and the other one they couldn't cut, and she was bleeding and she hid in the neighbor's house.

It was shocking to me that [my] mom, she put us through the same thing. But the pressure from the society is huge ... that a mother and a father can put their own daughters through so much pain just to abide by the society rules. This is how dangerous it is, that your own children, you put them through so much pain because you need to be obedient. ...

I think the worst was not the pain, the worst is losing trust in the people you love. ... It's very difficult even to talk about today. ... They didn't explain to us what was going to happen. ... These things bother me so much, that we put women through this pain.

Saudi woman driver activist released after second arrest

Nadine Dahan of Middle East Eye reports (June 8, 2017) that Saudi women's rights activist Lujain al-Hathloul, has been released from detention in Saudi Arabia. She was arrested  in recent days as she attempted to leave the country through an airport. A link to the story is here, and the text is pasted in below.

A Saudi Arabian human rights campaigner who was famously detained for 73 days in 2014 for defying the kingdom's ban on female drivers, has been released after being held in Dammam on Sunday.

Lojain al-Hathoul's husband tweeted on Wednesday that she had been released after being detained at King Fahad International Airport, thanking all those who'd supported them.

The reason for her arrest this time was unclear, however Hathoul had not been allowed access to a lawyer, nor her family, according to Amnesty, which believes the arrest was made in relation to her human rights activism.

Before her first arrest in 2014, Hathloul had attempted to drive into Saudi Arabia from the UAE in defiance of Saudi’s ban on female drivers.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which it is illegal for women to drive.

“Loujain al-Hathloul is a prominent Saudi Arabian human rights defender who was detained for 73 days after she defied the kingdom’s de facto driving ban for women by attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates on 30 November 2014,” Amnesty International said this week.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities’ continuous harassment of Loujain al-Hathloul is absurd and unjustifiable," added Samah Hadid, director of campaigns at Amnesty International in the Middle East.

"It appears she is being targeted once again because of her peaceful work as a human rights defender speaking out for women's rights, which are consistently trammeled in the kingdom." Twitter users shared their joy at her release, and their support for what the couple is doing.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Loujain al-Hathloul: Saudi women's driving activist arrested

Story in the 6/6/17 BBC website about Loujain al-Hathloul. A link to the story is here,  text pasted in below.

A Saudi rights activist who was detained for 73 days for flouting the country's ban on female drivers has been arrested again.

Loujain al-Hathloul was picked up at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam on 4 June, the human rights group Amnesty International says.

It says Ms Hathloul has been denied access to a lawyer or her family.
Ms Hathloul was arrested in 2014 when she tried to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that forbids women from driving.
Authorities have not disclosed the reason for Ms Hathloul's latest arrest.

Amnesty International's Samah Hadid called for her immediate release, saying her "continuous harassment" was "absurd and unjustifiable".

"It appears she is being targeted once again because of her peaceful work as a human rights defender speaking out for women's rights, which are consistently trammelled in the kingdom."
While it is not technically illegal for women to drive, only men are given driving licences - and women who drive in public risk being arrested and fined by police.

Ms Hathloul was arrested in December 2014, when she tried to drive into Saudi Arabia from the neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In November 2015, Ms Hathloul stood for election in Saudi Arabia - the first time the conservative kingdom had let women vote, or stand as candidates. However, her name was never added to the ballot paper.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Saudi prince supports women driving

The Gulf Daily News of May 31, 2017 reported this story, which you can read at this link, and the text is pasted in below:
Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah - Photo Credit: Sabq

Manama: A Saudi former minister said that allowing women to drive was bound to happen and that women would be driving society, not just cars.

“The ban on women driving has been imposed on us, and women in the past used to lead their own camels. Women need to be empowered because they represent more than half of the society and they are highly dependable,” Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah said.

“Maybe some people are afraid of change, but it is inevitable. Change in all cases must start from within and women need to prove their success and their positive influence on society,” he said during a talk show on Rotana Khaleejia Television.

Prince Faisal who held the education portfolio in the Saudi kingdom from 2009 until 2013, said that he held Saudi women in high esteem and respected their achievements.

“I have great pride in Saudi women. They are mothers, wives and daughters and I take immense pride in them and in their faith, beliefs and commitments in our modern times. Women in Saudi Arabia are the bases of society and they hold a significant place in the Islamic civilisation. I am confident they can succeed whenever they have the opportunity,” he said, quoted by Saudi news site Sabq on Tuesday.

Prince Faisal is the latest of Saudi princes to call publicly for allowing women to drive.
In 2013, billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal tweeted in favour of allowing women to drive in the kingdom, sparking a heated debate on social media.

“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,” the billionaire prince posted on his Twitter account.

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 associated with the ban on women driving.

No legal text bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia and the issue is related mainly to social traditions.

The de facto ban has been at times challenged by women who, if spotted behind steering wheels, are pulled over by traffic police for driving 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 to overcome the stiff resistance of conservatives are proving singularly formidable.
The camps supporting and opposing lifting the social ban on women and allowing them to drive have been using religious, economic and social arguments to reinforce their positions.

The chasm between them is invariably clear in their reactions to reports related to women driving.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Teach Your Daughters How to Drive

This opinion piece by Maha Al-Shehri appeared in the Saudi Arabic daily Okaz and was translated and printed in the English daily Saudi Gazette on May 14, 2017. A link to the story can be found here,  and the text is below.

By Maha Al-Shehri
SEVERAL incidents of women being saviors or heroes, especially when their men developed sudden health problems while behind the wheel, have been reported in the media.

Recently a female university student became the hero when she rose to the occasion and took the wheel after the driver of her university bus fainted. Ashwaq Al-Shamri of Hail University took the bus and the driver to safety. The news of the incident was widely circulated on social media.

The female student was able to avert an accident and save the bus driver by driving him to hospital because she had learned driving despite the ban on women driving existing in the country.

There is no legal basis for preventing women from driving but the Kingdom has so far failed to allow its female citizens to exercise this legitimate right.

I believe that every woman should learn driving as a skill even if she does not own a vehicle or may not obtain a driving license in the near future. We have seen men learning cooking even though they do not cook on a daily basis.

The mastering of a skill will enable us to use it whenever a need arises. It will help us deal with various life situations boldly and efficiently.

It is high time that we overcome the mentality that women are incapable and inferior beings. We have limited women’s roles treating them as weak despite their capabilities, aptitude and decision-making prowess.

People have to recognize that women are no less than men in terms of qualifications and efficiency. Women are partners of men in every walk of life.

Even while considering women as mentors of new generations and protectors of families, some of us wrongly believe that they are incompetent in most matters, which they think are reserved for men.
In a nutshell, we should teach our women how to drive for the sake of themselves and others. A situation may arise at any point of our life where we will not find anyone except women as saviors as has occurred in the case of the Hail bus driver.