Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Arrested for Driving

According to recent news reports, five women in Jeddah have been arrested for driving.  Once they, and their male guardians, signed documents stating they will never attempt to drive in KSA again they were released.  I wonder what would have happened if they had not signed the documentation?
A fairly long languish in jail for....what? 

The King himself has said women driving is not a religious or legal issue but a social one, so how long can one be kept captive for making a few people unhappy?

And if there is no legal law that says that women can not drive, which there aren't and, I gather there never can be because back in the day women used to 'drive' the available transport (ie camels), how binding is any piece of paper you sign that says you will not drive again if you have broken no law.

There's an arguement that women cannot drive because they do not have a Saudi drivers license, which they are not able to get because Driving Schools can't or won't, accept women.  If there is no law prohibiting women from driving, are these schools acting illegally?

I believe all the women who have been driving in response to the recent Woman Can Drive campaign  hold international driver licences, which a driver is within their right to use in this country for up to three months, after which time they should get a local license.  So, in theory, a woman with a recent International license should be able to drive for three months at least, can't they?

Although the legal age for obtaining a license in Saudi is 16 years, I understand boys under this age often drive here without being detained for no license and they are able to do so partly because that's just the way life is in Saudi, but also (apparently) under the guardianship rules.

Which brings me to my final query...

Saudi's guardian system has a basis in Islamic religion (so I've been told), though Saudi has given it a special Saudi twist.

Basically, all Saudi women (actually all women) must have a male guardian.  These being fathers, husbands, brothers or uncles depending on your situation...ie single, married, divorced, widowed, orphaned etc.

Women require 'permission' from their guardians to do almost anything - open bank accounts, travel, enrol for education courses, work....anthing.  I know ladies who are not to leave their homes unless the whole episode is pre-planned with details such as when, why, to where, with whom and expected time of return - and this to go the mall or coffee with friends.  Then they have to co-ordinate between husbands, fathers or brothers, to see who has an available vehicle and spare time, to run them on their errands at their intended destination and picked up again.  Women getting out of the house in this country is not, in many cases, a spur of the moment thing.

Women are expected to adhere to a guardians directive - after all, he knows best.

What does this have to do with driving? 

When Manal al Sharif was detained for driving some weeks back her brother, an acceptable guardian, was in the passenger seat. 

Here is my query? 
If your guardian has given you permission to drive and he is sitting in the car with you how can the Promoters of All Things Good and Preventers of All Things Bad call for your detention?   You (the woman) have not contravened a legal law and he (the guardian) is within his religious rights to allow, or direct, you to drive.

The Powers That Be said she was detained for driving without a license.

Which has more clout, the legal law or the religious rule?  I have gathered since moving here that religious rule supercedes legal law.  Therefore in Manals situation, the legal requirement for having a licence should have been negated by the religous position that a woman  is expected to act in accordance with a guardians instruction, shouldn't it?

So, if driving with your guardians permission does not contravene religious rule and negates the weak legal licence issue, what right do the police, the PVPV, or in fact anyone, have to intervene.

More importantly, what right does the PVPV have to make the guardian sign documents if he has definitely not broken any laws and is also acting well within the bounds of religious rules.  In fact, in making a guardian who has given a woman permssion to drive (and especially if he is in the car with her) sign documents aren't they (the PvPv) undermining his role as guardian?   Are Saudi men happy knowing their rights can so easily be eroded?

And if the Powers That Be start undermining the guardians role are they not then in effect stating that the whole basis for the guardian system is shaky wrong faulty needs re-thinking?

These are questions I have asked myself over the past few weeks that the driving issue has been at the forefront of newspapers...I still don't have sufficient answers.  Everything keeps going round and round.

Not that I have to have answers, being only a visitor to this country, but I'm sure the ladies who keep getting arrested for driving would like to know exactly why it is they keep getting arrested, don't you think?

Ka Kite,


  1. It all sounds very archaic to me! I certainly would hate to be a woman in that country.
    Do YOU drive?

  2. Not very often, but yes I do drive...in disguise :)

  3. sorry im not sure if it went through the first time just wanting to say KIA ORA and ask i you guys are still here in the kingdom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. We're on an extended break over Ramadan and Eid, but will be back.


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