Was it really five years ago that some brave Saudi women dared to drive their own cars to protest the blanket denial of basic human rights to women in the Kingdom? Not much has changed since, despite a few cosmetic measures. Women are still minors for life, under the legal control of father, husband, uncle or even son. Shocking abuses of power are routine. Theocracy still reigns. And women are still banned from getting behind the wheel.
Here’s a dispatch from Wajeha al-Huwaider, one of the organizers of the driving protest:
Five Years Since I Drove My Car on Women’s Day
We were five women who launched a campaign for women’s driving in KSA. We were able to collect around 3,000 signatures for a petition which was sent to King Abdullah Bin Abulaziz. Around 80 percent of those who signed the petition were women.
On Women’s Day, March 8, 2008, I drove my car and made a video clip to support the driving campaign which was released on YouTube. That video clip ensured that the driving campaign became known around the world. I thought at the time that it would be a matter of a few months before the KSA authorities let women drive cars.
Five years later, there are no indications that this right will be granted to women. So, the fact is women might have to wait for years to gain the right to drive cars. Moreover, the situation is getting worse for women now. The Saudi authorities have limited the number of countries whose citizens can work as private drivers for Saudi families. This has raised the cost of hiring drivers.
Women suffer every day in order to get basic things done, like going to work or buying groceries. Also, many can’t work because they can’t find a driver at an affordable price.
Under these circumstances, we are demanding a transportation allowance from the Saudi government until they provide reliable public transportation in every Saudi city. The Saudi government has plenty of money and they can easily afford it. The government is preventing women from driving, so they should pay us so that we can survive.
In the US, Katrina vanden Heuvel says, women bear the brunt of federal budget cuts.