Early this morning, the Associated Press reported that the Shura Council, the advisory body to the king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, recommended easing the driving restrictions placed on women in the country, which is some pretty great news.
The AP reported that a council member, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated the proposed new guidelines does not allow all women to drive—only women over 30 would be allowed and only with permission from their male guardian. They would be able to drive between 7am and 8 pm Saturday through Wednesday and between noon and 8pm Thursday and Friday. They would not be allowed to wear makeup behind the wheel, and if they drive outside cities, a male must be present. The council also added that a "female traffic department" would have to be set up.
In wake of the ban, women have taken to the streets driving as a means of protest, (technically they've been staging protests every now and then since 1990) and some have been arrested. All of these stipulations are ridiculous, but it is a step forward.
[The Shura Council] recommended the female traffic officers be under the supervision of the "religious agencies."
The council placed heavy restrictions on interactions between female drivers and male traffic officers or other male drivers, and stiff penalties for those who broke them. Merely speaking to a female driver, it said, was punishable by a one-month prison sentence and a fine.
Now this is all heartwarming and great, but Al Jazeera has reported that local media claim this isn't the case, that the driving ban faces no threat whatsoever and the AP article is a damn dirty lie.
Local media in Saudi Arabia have said a story published by the Associated Press news agency stating that the advisory council to Saudi Arabia's king had recommended easing a ban on women driving in the country is a "fabrication".
Media quoted Mohammed Abdullah Al-Muhanna, the head of the Shura council, as calling the report "misinformed" and clearly showing a "lack of authenticity".
Obviously it's hard to tell seeing as AP's source spoke on anonymity, and I am sure such an extreme thing like allowing women to drive may be very unpopular with some folks who would want to discredit the movement. But I suppose it may just be a matter of time before we see if AP report is true.
Image via AP.