Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Prince Says Saudi Arabia Not Yet Ready to Allow Women to Drive

For those thousands of people who were expecting an announcement about women in Saudi Arabia being able to drive, disappointment.

Article in the April 26, 2016 Bloomberg.com about the issue and the Deputy Crown Prince's interview, by Dima Almashabi and Vivienne Nereim. A link to the story is here and the text is pasted in below.

Saudi Arabia isn’t ready to end the world’s only ban on women driving, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said, arguing it’s not just a matter of ending strictures imposed by the kingdom’s austere form of Islam.
Allowing women to drive is “not a religious issue as much as it is an issue that relates to the community itself that either accepts it or refuses it,” said the 30-year-old prince, who has amassed unprecedented powers since his father, King Salman, ascended to the throne. “The community is not convinced about women driving” and sees negative consequences if it’s allowed, the prince said on Monday after outlining a plan to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil.
The prince had signaled his support for more freedom for women during an interview this month, saying “we believe women have rights in Islam that they’ve yet to obtain.” But when asked about the driving ban by a reporter on Monday, he said reform couldn’t be rushed. “Changes could happen in the future and we always hope they will be positive changes,” he said.
Attempts at broad social liberalization could jeopardize the closer ties that the Al Saud family struck with Wahhabi clerics after armed fundamentalists in 1979 seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque and demanded an end to efforts to modernize the Saudi state. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh recently said allowing women to drive was “a dangerous matter that should not be permitted.”

Rapid Change

Yet the sort sort of industries Prince Mohammed wants to lure to Saudi Arabia to wean it off its oil dependency are unlikely to come to a country with major strictures on women. Saudi women also need a guardian’s consent to receive a passport, travel outside the country or marry. A 2015 gender gap index by the World Economic Forum ranked Saudi Arabia as among the worst countries to be a woman, placing it at 134 out of 145 nations.
King Abdullah had expanded the rights of women in the world’s biggest oil exporter before his death in early 2015. Amid opposition from traditionalist clerics and their followers, the late king opened the first coeducational university, named the first female deputy minister and said women can vote and run in municipal polls. Many Saudi women want more rapid change.
“We were very disappointed,” said Muneerah Sulaiman, a 26-year-old lawyer in Riyadh, after the prince’s comments on Monday. “I don’t understand the argument of people who appose it on religious grounds,” she said. “How is it OK to have a strange man drive women around, which is against Islamic teachings, but not OK to drive yourself around? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Social Media - Announcement on Saudi Women expected on April 25th

Social media is buzzing with a rumor that the Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman will make an announcement about women's rights in Saudi Arabia on April 25th. The official announcement will be sent out on Twitter (in addition to other more traditional means) at  #SaudiVision2030. There is some thought that the issue of women driving will be mentioned. There was also another rumor circulating (apparently now denied) that King Salman directed the Shura Council to issue a law that will permit women to drive.

This blogger will try to keep you posted on anything happening on the 25th. Meanwhile, if you are a twitter follower you can also follow events at the hashtag:  #women2drive

It would be delightful, in my opinion, if we are at the point when the change is announced, God willing.

Saudi women to have all their rights, prince says

On April 22, 2016, Gulf News bureau chief Habib Toumi reports on statement of Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia about women's rights. Rumors that the Shura Consultative Council voted to approve women driving are apparently a rumor, per this article. A link to the article is here and the text is pasted below.
Manama: Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman said women, who represented half of the country’s population, should have all their rights granted by Islam.
“We believe women have rights in Islam that they have yet to obtain,” the crown prince told Bloomberg in an interview on Thursday.
One major obstacle is tackling the attitudes and changing the mindsets of people who “distort the facts of the religious establishment so that women do not get their complete rights granted them by Islam”.
Aware of the complex and intricate situations dominating perspectives and issues in the conservative Saudi society, Prince Mohammad in an earlier interview insisted on the significance of time as a crucial factor in changing long-standing views and mindsets.
“I just want to remind the world that American women had to wait long to get their right to vote. So, we need time. We look at citizens in general and women are half of this society and we want it to be a productive half,” he said in an interview last month.
The issue of giving more rights to women, including the right to drive, has dominated social and online debates in Saudi Arabia.
The political empowerment of women received a great boost when former King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the Shura Council in 2013. The powers were consolidated with the election this year of 20 women to the municipal councils. The elections were a breakthrough as women were allowed for the first time to cast ballots and run as candidates.
In the battle for the possibility for women to drive, all types of social, political, economic and religious arguments have been used by the camps supporting and opposing women taking to the roads.
False report
A report that the Shura Council finally approved the right of women to drive was denied late on Thursday by a spokesperson who said the allegations widely circulated online about allowing women to drive were not facts.
“The allegations that the Shura allowed women to drive are baseless and lacked credibility,” the spokesperson said. “The issue was not even put on the agenda of the Council.”
The reports posted on social media alleged that the Shura Council responded positively to calls to allow women to drive and travel using their cars.
The reports alleged that Council Speaker Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Shaikh said that upon directives from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, the Shura issued a decision to allow Saudi women to drive privately owned cars in Saudi Arabia and without any conditions.
According to the report, Al Shaikh said that all members of the council approved the decision and that it would be applied starting on May 8.
However, women could apply for licences starting this week, the report claimed.

2 Saudi deputies call for lifting driving ban

It has been reported that two deputies to the Saudi consultative council, the Shura Council, have called for the issue of women driving to be debated again. This story is from Emirates 24/7 and was posted on April 19, 2016. A link to the story is here and the story is pasted below.

Two female members of Saudi Arabia’s appointed Parliament have called for lifting a long-standing ban on driving by women.
Haya Al Manei and Latifa Al Shaalan, members of Shura council, said there should be a fresh parliamentary debate on the issue following the council’s failure over the past years to approve a decision to permit women to drive cars.
“There should be a new debate on allowing women to drive cars…the Shura should refer the issue to the concerned authorities before it votes on it. We have formally requested a debate,” Al Manei said, quoted by the Saudi Arabic language daily Sada.
She said there is a need to lift the ban on driving by women following a series of decisions allowing them to join Shura, vote in election and work in most sectors.

Saudi Arabia's top cleric defends female driving ban saying women would be 'exposed to evil'

This news story came out on April 12, 2016. This blogger has been reluctant to post it, as it seems like nothing new. However, events have  followed on this opinion so I am posting it. A link to the story in the UK's Telegraph is here, with the story pasted below.

Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric has defended a ban on women driving by claiming it would "expose them to evil".
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh said men “obsessed with women” and with "weak spirits" could end up causing female drivers harm and that male relatives would not know their whereabouts.
Although women driving in Saudi Arabia is not against the law, in practice women are unable to obtain driving licences.  Exceptions are occasionally made in rural areas if a woman needs to drive for her family life.
Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh
Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh Credit: AFP
According to The Independent, the grand mufti made his comments on a Saudi television channel.
The kingdom's most senior cleric is well known for his outspoken positions and earlier this year issued a fatwa saying chess was forbidden in Islam as it promoted gambling.
Saudi Araba has made some recent progress on women's rights. Last year women were allowed to vote for the first time.
Allowing women the freedom to drive remains a distant hope.
Last year  Loujain al-Hathloul was jailed for 10 weeks after violating the ban by driving from the United Arab Emirates to the Saudi border.