Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saudi Woman Pilot and Driver in

Photo by Thomas Ondrey

At right, and below, I've linked to a story in about Nawal Alhawsawi, a Mecca-born Saudi woman who lives with her American husband in Cleveland. She's going for her pilot's license. In this, she's not the first, since Prince Waleed bin Talal has a Saudi woman pilot to help fly his aircraft. But Nawal is doing it on her own, with support of her husband and family. I'm including her story here because, first, she tells the journalist writing the story that she's done a midnight drive back home, which I believe is much more common than generally known outside Saudi Arabia. And second, because the issue of driving is on her mind, which she's not afraid to speak.  Here's a quote from the article by Robert L. Smith.

"...Alhawsawi loves her new home but she loves her homeland, too, and she moves between the two worlds like a time traveler, at once tourist and guide -- a modern American Muslim and a daughter of Mecca.

Which is why she says things like, "King Abdullah is a really awesome king. I think it's just a matter of time before women will drive cars, actually."

She drives a 1999 Hyundai around Northeast Ohio. Her goal of flying jetliners will have to wait. A new dream emerged from her work with battered women as a social worker for Cuyahoga County. It's a quest that will again break taboos back home...."

I totally recommend the story, and wish Ms. Alhawsawi all the best in both her worlds.
Here is the link:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Please Let Us Drive - Link to Blog by a Saudi Woman

Here is a link to a wonderful blog entry about Saudi women driving from the Saudi Woman blog written by a Riyadh native and mother of three named Eman Al-Nafjan. The blog is great. The entry on driving has two wonderful video clips and many comments.

As an aside, to pile on arguments in favor of Saudi women driving, a few years ago, I met a prominent Saudi female economist. She told me that the sheer amount of cash flowing out of Saudi Arabia to foreign drivers would be so much better reinvested locally...if families didn't have to pay for drivers. It would help diversify the economy, and would give those with fewer means the wherewithall to consider doing things like opening a service business.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Saudi National Day - Happy KAUST Inauguration

September 23rd is Saudi national day - and a fitting day on which to officially inaugurate the founding of the King Abdallah University of Science and Technology. Within its walls, the university has similar, if not identical social rules to that of Saudi Aramco, the Saudi oil company that is managing the university. Women can drive, and men and women mix on campus and in the classroom. I think the press has been paying more attention to this than to the academics of the place. I have to say it intrigues me, but having visited Aramco's Dhahran headquarters and known friends who lived and worked there, I'm confident that it will be an amazing place. I hope they can transplant the Aramco ethic of behavior to the new university campus.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Feeling like a Saudi Woman - American Bedu

Feeling Like A Saudi Woman - American Bedu

Below is a wonderful posting on the well-known blog "American Bedu". The writer asks for comments from Saudi women who drive while abroad. Be sure to check out the comments!

Here is the link:

Saudi Arabia's vice squad eases up — but just a little | McClatchy

Saudi Arabia's vice squad eases up” but just a little McClatchy

At right and above is a link to an interesting article about the so-called 'religious police' in Saudi Arabia. I'm including it because it opens and closes with a member of the police explaining to his daughter why society is not ready yet to allow women to drive, even though he admits that Islam does not forbid women from getting behind the wheel.

He cites the circular argument - that there would be too many young men harrassing young women drivers. In my opinion this circularity works the other way as well. If there were women drivers, everyone in society would behave better on the roads!

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Saudi Gazette Editorial in Support of Saudi Women Driving

At right is the link to "Right to Drive," an editorial piece from the Saudi English language daily, The Saudi Gazette. The editors are in favor of women driving. I particularly like the ending of the editorial.

"It is both impossible and unwise to encourage women to get an education and then stunt their opportunities to employ it fully in service to their nation by not allowing them to determine when they will go somewhere and how they will go somewhere without first consulting a male driver. If we are to utilize our greatest asset, we must give them the freedom of movement. And that means the right to drive. "

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Women's Transport Solutions Needed by Laura Bashraheel

Another nice piece by Laura Bashraheel in the Arab News, discussing many aspects of the driving issue such as the cost of drivers and the difficulty of getting visas for them. This from the 6/27/09 Arab News. I think the piece is insightful because it gets below the surface issues usually covered in stories about Saudi women driving.

You can read the full story by clicking on the title of this post. It is also listed on the right side of this page with all the other news stories.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Your Car Is In the Lift, Madam" - An Interesting Article on Women and Cars in Riyadh

The latest link at the right is to a story about women in Riyadh and their cars - about how they buy cars, and how women are helping to sell cars to well-heeled clients. The article also has some good quotes about the issue of women driving. This article is by Caryle Murphy, and it appeared in The National. I like the photograph too, by Alex Maalouf.
To read the story, click on the title of this post.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saudi Women's 'Brain Drain'

It's been a while since a major story about Saudi women driving has appeared. I've just added a link to a story from the Arab News earlier this month, by Laura Bashraheel, about young Saudi women moving to neighboring Gulf countries. There, they can pursue their careers while avoiding customs about gender separation. They can own and run businesses without having a male agent. They can deal with government institutions directly. And yes, they can drive. I'm including this article because it has several quotes from young women who mention that being able to drive is a plus. Also, the writer says there are many young Saudi women who are living in neighboring Gulf countries, waiting for things to change back home in Saudi Arabia.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

TV interview with Areej Khan, force behind campaign promoting Saudi women driving

Areej Khan's campaign to promote discussion about women's driving was featured on New York TV on 5/15/09. I'm going to include this interview in our list of news links, but also wanted to feature the interview since it's great to see and hear her. Best of luck Ms. Khan!

Here is the link to the television interview.

Monday, May 4, 2009

First American Woman Driver to Obtain A License - 1900

Yesterday I visited the town of Concord, near Boston, with my book discussion group. We had all read an interesting book about the great writers and thinkers who lived in Concord in the 1800's - Ralph Waldo Emerson, HD Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Fuller, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. We wanted to visit their homes and then discuss the book, American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever. First we visited the Alcott's home, and the Emerson's home. At the Alcott's home, we had women tour guides who played the roles of friends and family who would have been at the home in the 1860's. There was even a young lady, dressed in traditional costume, playing the harp.

What does this have to do with women driving you ask? One of us wanted to visit the graves of the famous Concord authors, which are all on the same hill in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. It's known as Authors' Ridge, and is definitely worth a visit. As we walked into the cemetery, we came across a sign pointing to the grave site of Anne Rainsford French Bush. She was born in 1878 and died in 1962. She is believed to be the first American woman to have a driver's license. According to records, she was granted a license on March 22, 1900. The type of license she was granted was for a "Steam Engineer's License, Locomobile Class".

Who will be the first Saudi women to get a Saudi driver's license? Since Saudi women are so modest, I doubt anyone will step forward to claim that achievement. Yet I hope that one day, those who get the first licenses will find their sons and daughters, and their grandsons and granddaughters, bragging about their courage.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How would you implement Saudi women's driving?

We haven't seen any articles recently about the issue of Saudi women driving in the world press. For a while there were almost weekly stories about the issue, now nothing. In the quiet between bursts of news, why not think positive and try to visualize the actual process of women getting permission to drive.

OK, imagine you've been given the job of implementing a new law permitting women to drive. So how would you do it? Instead of thinking about how many obstacles you'll face, all the conservative males who will be in an uproar, just concentrate on how to implement the new law.

Obviously, no one has asked me, but this is how I'd do it if I were put in charge.

1. Open a driving school for women in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam; and hire and train a staff of women to teach there. The women teachers could be Saudi women who have international drivers licenses and pass a driving test. The schools would be on the outskirts of the city and would have practice streets where the women could get used to driving, parking, etc.

2. Design a driving test, written and practical, to be administered to ALL young drivers, not just women. For women, the test would be given on-site at the schools. Perhaps in this way, young men can be trained to be respectful and responsible drivers.

3. When the driving schools are up and running, permit advanced women student drivers to be on the roads with their instructors in marked cars.

4. As women pass their driving exams, give them their licenses and voila, slowly, they will appear on the roads. And hopefully, it will turn out to be a smooth transition.

There has been talk about limiting the times of day when women can drive, and also the ages of women drivers. If I were in charge, I would not restrict such things. Each individual family can be as careful as they like.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The YouTube Video That Could Change Everything

In March of 2008, some women in Saudi Arabia made a
YouTube video, in Arabic. Nothing new about that, but
it was revolutionary in that it was footage of a
Saudi woman named Wajeha al-Huwaidar driving.
While driving, she asks, in very eloquent Arabic,
for the authorities to permit Saudi women to drive.
They made the video in conjunction with
International Women's Day, 2008.
You can view the video in its entirety here, with English subtitles.

She has not suffered any repercussions from speaking out on this video.

Maybe this is the year.....?

Here is a link to a story from that quotes a government official that the ban on women's driving is expected to be lifted this year.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

First Post ----- New Beginning

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim.
In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Well, here goes.

Women all over the world, and indeed people all over the world, support the idea of Saudi women gaining the legal right to drive because it is simple common sense.

I haven't found any websites about this issue, though yes2womendriving has a presence on Facebook.

God willing, this blog will help inform concerned people about the issues and news related to driving.

I believe that one day, Saudi women will gain the right to drive. And what an amazing day that will be. Until then, hopefully this will be a useful tool to help people learn about the issue.

I only want good to come from this blog.