Women at the Wheel

Advocates and international human rights groups criticized Saudi Arabia for their policy forbidding women to drive because it violated women’s basic rights. Their efforts to change the law were met with intense resistance starting in 1990. One Saudi woman recounted that “‘the mutawa (military fundamentalists) demanded that the women be beheaded,’” and their own relatives threatened them with death for the shame they brought upon their families. Stripped of their jobs and their travel papers, the government effectively detained the women, tapped their phones, and threatened their families. Over twenty years later, trying to lay claim to the freedoms promised by the “Arab Spring” that emerged in 2010 and building on the hope created in 2005 when the King of Saudi Arabia surmised that it would only be “a matter of time” before women drove, women in Saudi Arabia planned a 17 June 2011 protest. Their efforts, however, revealed no momentum for the movement, as only about 50 women reported driving with only minimal attention from the authorities. The international attention, however, continued to expose the Kingdom’s denial of human rights and they remain the only country in the world that did not allow women to drive.

Until today, as the King of Saudi Arabia has now decreed women can be at the wheel.




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