Saudi women are being driven to rebellion

Nesrine Malik writes:

While all eyes are on Libya, Syria and Yemen, a different kind of rebellion is taking place in Saudi Arabia. A group of Saudi women have set up Women2Drive, a right-to-drive campaign, with a launch date of 17 June.

Last week one of its members, Manal al-Sharif, took to the streets and drove a car for a couple of hours, filming her trip (her father assisted) and posting it on YouTube. On Sunday, she was arrested along with her brother, who reportedly has now been released.

This isn’t the first time that there has been a push to drive in the kingdom. In the early 1990s, members of a similar campaign were arrested and some were fired from their jobs.

Against the backdrop of the Arab uprisings, it might seem like a frivolous thing to ask, especially when we are told that Saudi women do not need to drive, as they are so covetously protected and provided with drivers to save them the trouble.

The irony is that although the entire system is constructed to prevent men and women finding khalwa, or privacy, together, it is permissible to be alone in a car with one’s non-Saudi driver – the perfect confluence of racism and patronage that exposes the absurdity and confusion behind arbitrary laws of public female deportment in Saudi Arabia.

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