Saudi women get the right to drive

Kezia Joseph, Staff Writer

Learning to drive. It’s something every typical American high school student has to go through eventually; it is like a rite of passage. Maybe you are at that point in your life right now as you read this.

What you might not know is that now, you actually have that in common with the women of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi women were not allowed to drive until September 2017, when a royal decree from the King of Saudi Arabia stating that next year, women will be allowed to get their driver’s licenses. Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world with this restriction. Before, families had to either hire a driver for them if they had enough money or depend on a male relative to drive for them.

The reason for disallowing women in Saudi Arabia to drive until now were questions about whether it violated the Quran or not, as driving would require the removal of the headscarf, along with other such concerns, and the fear of the erosion of traditional values that are deeply enriched in Saudi Arabian culture.

The women in Saudi Arabia have been fighting for the right to drive for a long time. Women’s rights activists such as Wajeha al-Huwaider and Manal al-Sharif have filmed themselves driving in rural areas (where the rules about women driving are usually stretched due to necessity) to bring awareness to this issue and to ask for this right from the government. In 2011, a woman was sentenced to be whipped for driving in Saudi Arabia. After much protesting, she was pardoned, but this situation illustrates the seriousness of this law.

Of course, Saudi women are overjoyed. Many believe that this is an influential step in gaining more rights for women and equality in Saudi Arabia. And, after all, everyone gets excited when they take their first turn behind the wheel.