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Driving Change in Saudi

Driving Change in Saudi

When it comes to women taking to the wheel in Saudi Arabia, who’s court is the ball really in right now, asks Saeed Attiyah Al-Ghamdi

May 25, 2011 10:58 by

I once asked a director general of traffic in the Kingdom: If a woman who had a valid driver’s license from a neighbouring country drove a car here, what action would you take against her? He answered: “There is nothing I could do.”

Manal Masoud Al-Sharif drove her car on the road with her brother. She was full of confidence and responsibility. She was not joyriding, was not speeding and did not commit any traffic violation.

She was surprised to be caught. She suddenly found herself being treated like a hot potato. Each party concerned wanted to get rid of her as quickly as possible. Whoever read Tuesday’s newspaper would find that every newspaper had a different account of the story. Some papers said she was released while others said she was jailed for five days. Some also said it was the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia) that arrested her. There were other stories attributed to Haia.

The accusations reported by the newspapers were: Disturbing public order and violating rules and regulations. However, not carrying a valid driver’s license is the main reason to stop any driver. This violation did not slip Manal’s mind. She must have thought of this while expecting what would happen. The problem was the great havoc created after that.

This whole matter altogether needs a solution that suits the needs of the people.

An official reportedly said: “The government has no role in the issue” and the question as a whole was a social problem. The director general of traffic reportedly said: “Ask the legislative bodies.”

We do not know in which court the ball is now, even though the issue at hand is much simpler than what parties involved are making it out to be.

Saeed Attiyah Al-Ghamdi’s opinion piece was originally published in Arab News and was adapted for Kipp.

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