Saudi Ministry Warns Women Not to Defy Driving Ban

Activists in Saudi Arabia have planned an organized action this coming Saturday to protest the ban on female driving, and the government is NOT PUMPED. "It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support," said an interior ministry spokesman.


Technically it's not illegal for a woman to drive a car—the Saudi government simply doesn't issue driver's licenses to women (making it, you know, illegal for a woman to drive a car). But on Saturday, female protesters plan to get behind the wheel in large numbers.

Via USA Today:

Two weeks ago, three female members of Saudi Arabia's Shoura Council introduced a recommendation to the body to lift the ban.

On the other side, more than 100 conservative Saudi clerics gathered this week at the Royal Court in Riyadh to protest what they called "the conspiracy of women driving," the Riyadh Bureau reports.

There have been a few major challenges to the ban in past three decades. In 1990, police cracked down on 47 female drivers, firing many of the protesters from government jobs and barring them from traveling outside the country. In 2011 a Saudi woman was sentenced to 10 lashes for driving, the Riyadh Bureau notes.

In case you missed it, that's 10 lashes. For driving. In 2011.

Eman Al Nafjan, a Saudi woman who's been vocal about the driving ban, writes about the ban's effect on women's day-to-day lives.

If there was one word to describe what it is like to be a Saudi woman, it would be the word patronizing. No matter how long you live, you remain a minor in the eyes of the government.

...The de facto ban on women driving is one of the main things that perpetuates this governmental patriarchy. Currently there is no public transportation system available. You cannot walk to the corner and catch a bus or take the subway except in Mecca. Thus for any woman to get from point A to point B, she doesn’t only have to buy a car but convince a male relative or employ a man from South East Asia to drive that car. This day-to-day obstacle has proven to be a demoralizing deterrent for many women from pursuing an education, a career and even maintaining their own healthcare.

Despite the government's vague threats, Saturday's protest is still set to proceed as planned.



The company I used to work for was headquartered in Israel. Early on in my time at their US office, we had (male) visitors from Saudi Arabia in the office for a week. One of my coworkers came into my office on the second day and said that the gentlemen had requested the "pretty blonde" come join them for coffee. I politely declined. As the week went on, one of the gentlemen became more bold and would stop by my office often for small talk. He asked if I had ever been to Saudi Arabia, and I told him I had not. Then, with a wink and nod told me I should come to visit him and he would be my guide. And ended with "you know, women aren't allowed to drive there, so you would need me." It was all I could do to not throw up in my mouth.