Amid Driving Campaign, Saudi Woman Says She Was Raped By Chauffeur

Illustration for article titled Amid Driving Campaign, Saudi Woman Says She Was Raped By Chauffeur

A Saudi daily reported that a businesswoman in Medina had gone to the police, saying her driver had raped her at gunpoint.


Further details were scant, but the story took special significance in a country where women are forbidden from driving in Saudi Arabia, and where those who can afford it hire drivers. The long-simmering issue has returned to the fore after a Saudi female activist was detained by authorities for her campaign to get women to flout the driving rules on June 17.

Thirty-two year-old Internet consultant Manal al-Sharif, who had uploaded a video of herself driving to YouTube and started a Facebook group called "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself," was released on bail Monday after ten days in custody. Her detention had led to a Facebook group called "We are all Manal al-Sharif," with over 24,000 members.

Her release came with a catch: The declaration that she would end her campaign. Her lawyer said, ""She wrote a pledge that she will not drive a car and after what has happened she has decided to give up the campaign and not be part of the protests." But her friends and associates doubt this is the end of her activism.

Saudi Woman Accuses Chauffeur Of Rape Amid Row [AFP]
A Saudi Activist In Her Own Words [NYT]
Saudi Arabian Woman Freed After Quitting Campaign [WP]
Earlier: Saudi Activist Detained For Telling Women To Drive



It will be interesting to see if this issue is the tipping point. There has to be one eventually - young Saudis are far more liberal than their grandparents, the current system can't continue forever. But for a lot of more conservative people it's going to take something really extreme to make them willing to consider change, and maybe finally acknowledging that the driving ban is actually exposing their wives/daughters/sisters to strange men rather than "protecting" them from strange men might be what's needed to open some eyes.

Also - just FYI, folks, the garment that women wear over their clothes in Saudi is an abaya, not a burqa.

We never hired a driver in Saudi when my family lived there precisely because we were all too paranoid about how hard it would be to screen out men who only wanted that job because it would give them access to vulnerable women. It's worth noting that we didn't have the same concern in Thailand, and hired a driver there right away (lovely guy, too), but the specific social dynamics of Saudi are such that you kind of have to be a bit wary of any man who'd apply for the job of driver for the ladies. We weren't the only family we knew who didn't hire a driver for that reason.