Safe Driving Is A Rare Luxury For Many Iraqi Women

When I think of Iraq, I tend to think of the "obvious" tragedies: unwarranted deaths, the fate of children growing up in a violence-torn community, the increasingly tyrannical insurgents. I never ponder the quotidian liberties that have fallen by the wayside, like the freedom to joyride down a sun-dappled street, a mild wind wafting through an open car window. According to this NPR report from today's "Morning Edition" program, driving is not something most Iraqi women have the luxury to do safely anymore, and most of them miss it deeply. College student Samar Nihad, who lives in South Baghdad, tells NPR that insurgents "have stopped women in the streets and warned them not to drive again, because as far as they were concerned, it was forbidden in the Koran. We are afraid." Ahlam al-Wakeel, an Iraqi doctor, says she stopped driving after she was shot at by American servicemen for getting too close to their convoy.

"Iraq won't be back to life again until I can drive without fear," al-Awkeel said. "Until I can stop at a red traffic light and can drive away when it turns green. Only then I can say that everything is back to normal."

The only woman interviewed who still and drives consistently and without a headscarf is Azhar Abbas. Abbas is a real piece of work — she wears tight leopard print shirts and huge gold jewelery and only dons the scarf when she gets gas (gas stations are controlled by the Mahdi Army and women will not be given petrol with bare heads). Abbas drives children to school and when her son asks her why she won't stop driving, she says she can't — it's in her blood.

For Iraqi Women, Driving Poses Unique Challenges [NPR]