Sunday, May 20, 2018

Women from the village waiting for the 10th of Shawwal

On May 19, 2018, the Saudi English language daily, the Saudi Gazette reported on village women in Saudi Arabia's southwestern region. You can link to the story here, and it's pasted in below. Rural women have learned to drive over the decades, but are glad to have it become officially legal. The date, the 10th of Shawwal, is June 24, 2018.

A number of women from the southern part of Saudi Arabia are waiting for the 10th of Shawwal when women will be allowed to drive.


NAJRAN — A number of women from the southern part of Saudi Arabia told Okaz that they are waiting for the 10th of the month of Shawwal when women will be allowed to drive.

That date will mark the end of the era of driving in fear and secrecy in rural areas and far away from the road. This time, they will be driving in city roads without any fear.

They told Okaz that they would be adhering to the rules and regulations of the road, and they even consider themselves strict followers of the rules than men.

A Saudi women, who did not mention her name, said that she has been driving from when she was 16 years old, but she only sat behind the wheel if the car was far away from the city and away from police eyes. When she became old, she was the only one who was able to drive.

She was transporting her parents to the hospital and health centers and to the social insurance department. Her younger children are also dependent on her to driverthem to school every day.

She said, “I am proud that I am driving the car and carrying out my duty toward my family. I feel proud when I am driving and serving my parents and helping my children to get their education.”

Another old woman who has been driving in a village south of Saudi Arabia, said, “Every time the traffic department stops me on the road I tell them who is going to transport my parents to the hospital or take me to the shopping center to buy groceries? Who is going to take care of our daily needs?”

She said that driving the car was a dream for women living in villages until the decision by the Custodian of the Two Holy mosques came. She said now women can take care of their daily needs.

Saudi Arabia women's driving activists 'targeted in smear campaign'

The BBC reports on a smear campaign against Saudi women driving activists who have been detained. Manal al-Sharif is interviewed in the story. Link to it here, and the story is pasted in below.

The woman behind the movement to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia says she and her fellow activists in the kingdom are being targeted in a smear campaign.
Saudi native Manal al-Sharif said she has been receiving death threats online ahead of the ban's removal.
She was speaking after several activists in the kingdom were arrested.
They have been accused of being "traitors" and working with foreign powers - charges Amnesty International called "blatant intimidation tactics".
The group is accused of "contact with foreign entities with the aim of undermining the country's stability and social fabric", the human rights group said.
Manal al-Sharif, who is currently living in Australia, said the "organised defamation campaign" targeting the activists was similar to the campaign that targeted the movement in 2011.
as similar to the campaign that targeted the movement in 2011.
The ban is due to be lifted on 24 June.

'Crackdown on dissent'

Seven people - men and women - were arrested earlier this week. They are believed to include Loujain al-Hathloul, a well-known figure in the campaign for women's driving rights.
Ms Hathloul has been detained previously, including once in 2014 when she attempted to drive across the border from the United Arab Emirates. She served 73 days at a juvenile detention centre as a result, and documented many of her experiences on Twitter.
Image copyright Jason Schmidt
Image caption Loujain al-Hathloul (far right) attended the One Young World Summit along with Prince Harry's now-wife Meghan Markle, Pakistani author Fatima Bhutto and former Irish President Mary Robinson (C) in 2016
Amnesty said it believes that women's rights activists Eman al-Nafjan, Aziz al-Yousef, Dr Aisha al-Manea, Dr Ibrahim al-Modeimigh, and Mohammad al-Rabea have also been arrested.
Saudi Arabia's laws require women to seek male permission for various decisions and actions, and that extends to the ban on women driving.
Previously, that meant that families had to hire private drivers to transport female relatives.
Influential Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has widely been credited with a range of social reforms in the traditionally conservative kingdom.
He was, however, singled out for criticism in a statement from Amnesty.
"Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has presented himself as a 'reformer', but such promises fall flat amid the intensifying crackdown on dissenting voices in the kingdom," it said.
"His pledges amount to very little if those who fought for the right to drive are now all behind bars for peacefully campaigning for freedom of movement and equality."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia detains women's rights activists weeks before female driving ban comes to an end

On May 18, 2018 the Washington Post broke the story that activists supporting women driving in Saudi Arabia had been detained. This story from the UK's Telegraph has now published it to. A link to the story is here and the text is pasted below. 



Saudi Arabia has detained several prominent female activists who campaigned for women’s right to drive, taking them into custody just weeks before the decades-long driving ban finally comes to an end.
Human rights groups said Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef - three of the most prominent voices demanding women be free to drive - were all detained on Thursday. Two male advocates for women’s rights were also detained, activists said.
The activists were detained as Saudi Arabia prepares for the driving ban to come to an end on June 24. The policy shift has become a symbol of the modernising drive of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the Saudi government is eager for positive media coverage of the move. 

The detentions appear to be an effort by Saudi authorities to make sure they do not have to share credit for the end of the driving ban with activists who spent years campaigning for it.
They may also be concerned that the women right’s campaigners would use the end of the driving to call for further advances in women’s freedom - like an end to the male guardianship system that severely limits Saudi women’s ability to travel independently.


A woman in a black niqab drives in Saudi Arabia
A woman in a black niqab drives in Saudi Arabia
Neither Ms Narfjan nor Ms Hathloul could be reached for comment. Ms Hathloul told The Telegraph earlier this year that shortly before Saudi authorities announced the end of the driving ban in September she was warned not to speak publicly about it.
Instead, she Tweeted just the word “Alhamdulillah” in Arabic, or “Praise be to God”.
“Shutting up or submitting to these threats is unacceptable to me, it is not an option to stay quiet any more,” she said, breaking her silence in January. “We have been quiet for too long.”
Ms Hathloul had been detained twice before for her activism. She and other Saudi women sometimes filmed themselves driving in defiance of the ban and published the videos online, to the fury of the government.
Ms Hathloul was voted the third-most powerful Arab woman by Forbes in 2015, but was forced to quit her job that same year because of driving restrictions. Her husband, a well-known Saudi comedian who acts as her male guardian, was often out of the country meaning she had to pay for taxis to and from work.


Saudi women tour a car showroom for women on January 11, 2018, in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah.
Saudi women tour a car showroom for women on January 11, 2018, in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah. Credit: AFP
“The Uber and Careem applications would take more than 30 per cent of my salary. For instance I would pay 2,000-3,000 riyals (£375-560) a month to get around, while my salary was 6,000 riyals,” she said. “At the end of the month I basically had nothing.”
It was not clear if she or any or any of the other activists had been charged with a crime. Prisoners of Conscience, a human rights group, said that two men - Mohammed al-Rabjah and Ibrahim al-Mdmyegh - had also been arrested.
The driving ban has been in place since 1979 and women’s rights activists have been fighting it against for it for decades. In 1990, around 50 women launched the first high profile protest by driving in a convoy around Riyadh. They were eventually stopped by police.
The Saudi government under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed has shown itself willing to use detention as a tool against political rivals. Dozens of princes and prominent businessmen were arrested in November and detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh on allegations of corruption.
Most were released only after agreeing to pay large sums as part of a settlement with the authorities.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Saudi women drivers express hopes and fears as countdown begins

On May 17, 2018, al-Arabiyyah reports how Saudi women are reacting to and preparing for the upcoming change in the law regarding women driving. A link to the story is here, and the text is below.

The countdown has started in Saudi Arabia for women to sit behind the wheel, when females will be allowed to start driving in the kingdom starting from June 24.
While many Saudis are waiting to see this new scene on Saudi roads and which has been long awaited by women, many of whom are preparing for this day, while others are taking driving lessons in order to obtain driving licenses
A female driver in a training center in Saudi said a large number of applicants are ladies in their sixties compared to a trickle of applicants from among university students and teenagers. She said that’s because they rely more on their drivers and that some families would not prefer their daughters to drive at this young age. The situation is different with working females, as they prefer to be independent.
The trainer added that the older females become easily tired during the driving sessions, and they tend to fail the field tests.
When  Saudi women were asked about the first drive they will take on June 24 and what is their biggest fear, answers varied between taking a simple drive in the neighborhood, or to drive accompanied with family members or to drive to do some grocery shopping,  most of them agreed that meeting with an accident on the road was their biggest fear.
Sherin Bawzer, said that her first drive will be “to go to the supermarket” but she is scared of speedy drivers and from motorists who overtake from the right side. For Fatima al-Nisan it will be a family affair, who says: “On the first drive I will be accompanied by those who are close to me, whom I trust that they will be joining me in celebrating this day, while road curves and sudden breakdowns are very worrying and scary.”
Amani al-Salimi said she will drive to work on that day without waiting for the driver to pick her up, adding that she is terrified of traffic congestion and road accidents.
In a confident tone, Khulood al-Harithi says that the first time she will be behind the wheel she will take her family out and would tell them she does not need anyone with her anymore, but she is scared that a tree will fall on her or she will fall asleep while driving.
For her part, Khulood al-Ebrahim said she is mostly worried about motorists who do no respect the law, while Mariam al-Hasan is not fearful of anything and the first trip she will take will be just to wander around aimlessly.
Najat al-Majeed said shopping malls will be her focus when she starts driving, especially those around her home, and that she is scared of driving up hills, or of running out of petrol or a breakdown in remote areas which will put her in an embarrassing situation calling for help from others.
Mouna al-Qadri prefers to delay getting a driving license for a while and would watch the situation despite the fact that she is convinced that this experience is very good, but not necessarily she will take part in it.
Lubna Mohamed mentioned that women will be divided into two categories after driving lessons:  working females who will drive to their workplace and  “housewives” who can drive in emergency situations to hospitals, adding that she is “scared of breakdowns and flat tires. A situation will force me to order a cab and I do not like to be driven by a stranger.. also I am scared of running over animals..”
Fatima Outhman said her first drive will be with family and friends and she is scared of motorists who do not know driving laws, while Tahani Attif pointed out that her first time behind the wheel will be for grocery shopping while she fears narrow roads and accidents.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Meet ‘Captainah’ Enaam, Careem’s first female driver in Saudi Arabia

The May 16, 2018 Arab News reports the Careem (a ride service like Uber) has named and hired its first female driver. A link to the story is here and the text is below.


  • Enaam Gazi Al-Aswad was selected to become the first “captainah” — the female version of the Careem “captain,” as the firm calls its drivers
  • The 43-year-old learned how to drive in her native Syria
Careem, the Middle East’s ride-hailing firm, has named its first female driver in Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom prepares to allow women behind the wheel from next month.
Enaam Gazi Al-Aswad was selected to become the first “captainah” — the female version of the Careem “captain,” as the firm calls its drivers — from among around 3,000 women looking for employment with the company. “When the authorities announced in September that women would be allowed to drive, I wanted to be the first and contacted Careem straight away,” Al-Aswad told Arab News at a media event in Dubai.
“It is wonderful to think that after all this time we will have the freedom to drive. It will help all of us build the future together in accordance with the Vision 2030 strategy.”
The 43-year-old divorcee learned how to drive in her native Syria, and has a driving license from that country. She expects to be able to obtain a Saudi license when she has completed 10 hours of driving tuition under the new laws.
“I already have my own car, a Kia I bought in 2013, and I hope to be able to do the 10 hours of lessons in a few days,” she said.
She has already received all the necessary training from Careem to enable her to become a “captainah,” having been hand-picked by the Dubai-based company soon after last year’s royal decree on women driving.
“It is good for women’s career enhancement, and for their social lives. But also I think it is our national duty. It is a job to do for the Kingdom,” she said.
Al-Aswad trained as an airline flight attendant in Saudi Arabia before studying management science at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, where she lives. She expects that being a Careem driver will be the stepping stone to a better life for her and her two sons.
“For a woman on her own, it is a good way to earn a living and pay the bills. My sons are excited and very supportive of me. Careem drivers earn good money, I know. I am telling lots of my female friends to think about it too. I would like to be a guide as well as a driver,” she said.
Mudassir Sheikha, the co-founder and CEO of Careem, said that he expected new business to eventually make up for any short-term fall-off in revenues when women — who previously formed a majority of the firm’s passengers in the Kingdom — are able to take to the roads themselves. About 95 percent of drivers in the Kingdom are Saudi nationals, he added.

Saudi women gear up to hit the road, test simulator

This article appeared in the May 15, 2018 Khaleej Times. You can link to the story here, and the text is below.

Women in Saudi Arabia are all gearing up for the red-letter day on June 24 when they will hit the road for the first time in a generation. The popularity of the ruling to allow women to drive was clear this week at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center from the scurry of activity at the venue of the Saudi capital's first women's exhibition for cars, dubbed 'Pinkish'.

The first day of the three-day show on May 13 drew curious visitors in droves, who carefully examined the many new vehicles on display, interacted with car dealers and insurance-company representatives, learnt about special offers and checked out car accessories. They also enthusiastically discussed with their relatives and companions which car would suit them best as they spent time on simulators to get a feel for the experience they expect to have in a few weeks when the Kingdom opens the way for them to take the wheel.

The organisers, who have braced themselves for at least 80,000 visitors over the course of the show, have arranged for special lessons for attendees on driving skills and how to choose the right car.

The event is organised with the support of General Directorate of Public Security, the administrative authorities of the Riyadh region, the Saudi General Department of Traffic Department, the General Entertainment Authority, the Ministry of Commerce and Investment and the Ministry of Culture and Information.

With the long-awaited start date for issuing driving licences to women in the Kingdom just around the corner, the General Department of Traffic's Director, Major General Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Bassami, has announced last week that all requirements for women in Saudi Arabia to start driving were in place.

‘My driver sisters:’ New traffic signs in Saudi Arabia address women drivers

The May 13, 2018 English daily The Arab News reports on new road signs going up around Saudi Arabia that explicitly mention female drivers. A link to the story is here, and the story is pasted in below.



CAIRO: Saudi social media users were widely sharing pictures of redesigned traffic signs that address both men and women drivers, according to Sabq news site.
The signs carried messages that read: “My brother driver,  My sister driver, abiding by traffic regulations protects your own life and the lives of others from danger.”
The traffic signs grabbed wide attention because they are for the first time directed at drivers from both genders.
In September 2017, Saudi King Salman issued a historic decree that lifted a driving ban on women.
June 24 of this year has been set for the implementation of this reform, to meet all requirements for women to begin driving, Director General Mohammed al-Bassami of the General Department of Traffic said on Tuesday.