The MBC channel had to cancel a Twitter opinion poll it was planning on conducting about women driving cars in Saudi Arabia because it was condemned as ‘incitement’ by the authorities. Social media activists had already re-tweeted the tweet and, once it had been removed, posted pictures of it to show both that it existed and that it has been removed!
The debate about women driving cars has been re-ignited in Saudi society and a campaign has been launched for 15 June urging women to come out in great numbers and break the ban en masse. The campaign, conducted on social media, carries the headline “I will drive my car on June 15.” Now the authorities have launched a counter-campaign under the slogan: “I will enter my kitchen on June 15.”
Judging by activity using the Twitter hashtag bearing the name of the campaign, female support seems much higher that male rejection of the idea.
The authorities, most clergy and conservative citizens are against women driving for a variety of reasons, some more fanciful than others. They claim that “strict” societal customs and values in Saudi Arabia cannot possibly accommodate the sight of women driving freely through the streets. Women in turn reject this idea as “masculine” and emphasize the necessity of being able to drive for practical, rather than recreational, reasons…
In December 2014, two female campaigners – Loujain Al Hathloul and Maysaa Al Amoudi – were jailed for defying the driving ban.
According to observers, there’s an ongoing reform campaign in Saudi Arabia with political, economic, and social dimensions. However, one way or another, the campaign is neglecting women’s rights, and at the moment the key issue here is their right to drive. The conservative movement in the Kingdom is trying to downplay the importance of this right by saying that there are many rights that women need to obtain first before demanding the right to drive. In turn, the authorities are trying to pass the buck, saying that they have no objection to seeing women behind the wheel but the people will not tolerate it.
According to parties following Saudi affairs, the government has no intention of starting a confrontation with the conservative element or enabling a ‘revolution’ against the religious dictats which underpin Saudi society. The whole establishment is founded on the belief that the House of Saud is the guardian of Islam and the Two Holy Places. Any attempt to change things might be the beginning of a wider unraveling and the House of Saud dread an ‘Arab Spring’ style revolt although letting women drive would hardly lead to chaos and anarchy.
Conservative Saudi preachers recently issued a fatwa against women driving, claiming that it would lead to health problems, particularly in the reproductive organs, causing female drivers to be infertile.
Medics have confirmed that this is not a scientific point of view and that women the entire world over drive their cars, have never suffered any problems, and are constantly having babies…