Saudi Arabia Lifts its Ban on Women Drivers
September 26, 2017: a truly monumental day for many. One hundred and thirty two years after the invention of the automobile, women of Saudi Arabia can finally drive. A royal decree allowing women to drive will go into effect next summer, but the fight for women’s rights is far from over in the kingdom.
Women have been fighting for the right to drive for decades, and they finally won, partly because of their opposition, but many other factors led to this decision. The Saudi government intends to enhance its economy, and by allowing half of it’s population to drive, they hope to increase women’s participation in the workplace. The kingdom has also been receiving increased opposition from prominent nations regarding its treatment of women, and although women finally won a long fought battle, they still have a long way to go. Women still cannnot leave the country or open a bank account without a male guardian’s permission, and most public areas remain gender segregated.
As Saudi activist and author, Manal Al-Sharif, stated“ Your rights are taken, not given”, women shouldn’t be fighting for these rights in the first place, but the struggle they’re going through will lead to advancements never before seen in the kingdom.
As a Saudi citizen, I know what oppression feels like, and as an American citizen, I know what freedom feels like. Oppression goes beyond whether women can drive or not. The Saudi Interior Ministry states, “Regulations in the kingdom forbid categorically all sorts of demonstrations, marches and sit-ins, as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society.” It’s literally forbidden to protest against the Saudi monarchy, therefore, it can be understood why it took decades for women to simply gain the right to drive. As a matter of fact, freedom in the kingdom is not something that only women are obligated to fight for; men that don’t fit the traditional Saudi definition of “Muslim man” often face vigorous discrimination. Human rights are out of sight for all of Saudi Arabia’s civilians, freedom of religion is obscured and there is no freedom of speech nor freedom of the press, which explains why the kingdom is always portrayed as a supreme nation in the media.
In order to gain success for the oppressed, major reform is required in Saudi Arabia. It will be a lengthy and grueling process, but it will take place eventually. As MLK said, “People can not be oppressed forever, the yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself”.