Saudi Arabia drives in new direction

Women will ‘take the wheel’ in near future


MCT Campus

FINALLY. A women in Saudi Arabia waits for Uber to pick her up. The royal decree released on Tuesday will allow Saudi Arabian women to drive in June 2018. Until then, women will continue to pay for drivers or ask male relatives to drive them places.

On Sept. 26, the kingdom announced its plan to allow women to drive in June 2018. It seems like the years of protest from Saudi Arabian women have finally been answered in the form of a royal decree.

Driving may seem small in the eyes of those who enjoy the freedom in the United States.

“Driving is definitely more of an extension of the rights we have. I’m grateful that the United States gives us so much freedom in different aspects of life,” said Christine Zou, 11.

However, in ultra-conservative countries like Saudi Arabia, having the right to drive represents a large-scale victory for women.

In Saudi Arabia, women are currently prohibited from driving any sort of vehicle. Women who work have to hire drivers or ask male relatives. On the other hand, the women who had tried to drive in spite of the restrictive law faced the risk of arrest and losing their jobs.

Reasons for the ban ranged from driving being inappropriate for women to claims of health-related endangerment. Now, Saudi leaders hope that lifting the ban will increase women’s participation in the workforce, thus helping the economy as well as improving the kingdom’s reputation among other countries.

On the other hand, while Saudi activists are applauding the change, the question of whether or not the conservatives can truly accept it remains. However, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States, seems only optimistic about the change.

“The issue of women driving was never a religious or a cultural issue. In fact, the majority of the members of the Council of Senior Scholars in the Kingdom agree that Islam does not ban women from driving.

“This was a societal issue. Today, we have a young and vibrant society and the time had come to make this move,” Al-Saud said in a press release.

Although the driving ban is only a small part of Saudi Arabia’s guardianship laws, which include restrictions like women needing male consent to travel, the lift of the ban represents a much-applauded move to reform.

“In a country where there is a strict regime on women’s rights, this is a big step forward. I think that women being able to drive in Saudi Arabia will be really great,” said Anushri Menon, 11.