Photo courtesy of Reuters | Saudi Arabian women are now allowed to legally drive. For decades, the kingdom was the only country in the world that did not allow people of both genders to drive cars.
The long criticized law that forbade women from driving in Saudi Arabia has been reversed by royal decree. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed the decree now allowing women to drive “in accordance with the Islamic laws.”
Nouf Alanzi, a sophomore entrepreneurship studies major from Khobar City, Saudi Arabia explains how she first heard the news.
“My brother texted me, and I said ‘no,’ I didn’t believe it,” Alanzi said. “Then he shared the website from our government on Twitter. Then I thought ‘oh my God, this is true this is true!’ I cried.”
Alanzi said that even if the government applies strict rules in the beginning, she is content with it because they are moving in the right direction.
“Today is a very special day for all Saudi women. I am so happy, so, so happy. I was stressed because I had a lot of exams and I had to study, but I am so happy!” Alanzi said, smiling and laughing.
Abdulelah Yamani, a sophomore from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, had a different interpretation of the day’s events
“I drove a lot back home, and it’s nothing against the ladies, but traffic is going to be really bad,” Yamani said. “People don’t know how to drive back home. The streets are going to be packed, and I don’t want to deal with that.”
He went on to explain that he believes there is a difference in driving culture between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. He explained that in the U.S. women are integrated into the culture of driving, taking classes and learning the rules alongside men. This, he claims, is not the same situation in Saudi Arabia.
“If a car breaks down, women are going to be all over the street, getting harassed, experiencing sexual harassment, it happens a lot,” Yamani said. “I prefer if they don’t drive because I don’t want the streets to be more packed when I drive.”
In 2016, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal called for an end to the ban, citing economic necessity and women’s rights. He called the rule against women driving an “unjust act… far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion.”
The prince claimed that Saudi families spent up to $1,000 a month on drivers, money that he thinks could be better spent on families.
Deena Dakhiel, a senior who is also from Jeddah, is curious as to why this change happened so quickly.
“I think it’s a great move for our country and it’s a huge move for women’s rights,” Dakhiel said. “Women would have to quit their jobs or work from home or not work at all because they could not afford transportation if they did not have a family driver or a male family member to drive them. I am also curious as to why this came so suddenly. There have been talks about allowing women to drive, but nothing anyone could take seriously.”
A student who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of repercussions explained that she believed this might be part of government policy to start removing foreigners from the country.
“I think they may be trying to get rid of foreigners because none of the family drivers are Saudi,” the student said. “I know for a fact that they don’t care about women’s rights, because if they did, they would get rid of the Mahram system where a woman needs a man to travel and etcetera. I can’t get my official papers without my dad’s approval.”
Dakhiel echoed this skepticism but was still happy that she believes the country is moving in the right direction.
“It seems like an aversion of some sort, so I’m cautious,” Dakhiel said, “but that won’t take away from my excitement.”
By: Savin Mattozzi ~Staff Writer~