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Saudi women first got behind the wheel of a car

Saudi women first got behind the wheel of a car

25 2018 June
Tags: Saudi Arabia, Women, Transport, Rights, Middle East

Saudi women on Sunday morning massively drove their cars to the streets of the cities of the kingdom after the entry into force of the permission of the king, allowing them to manage the vehicles themselves for the first time.

Judging by the frames broadcast by Arabic satellite channels from the largest cities of Saudi Arabia, dozens of women left the first minutes of the entry into force of the permission to operate the car, drove out on their cars to the street.

"I even hesitate a bit, it's so strange for me to sit down and ride the streets of our city like this," the inhabitant of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Asma, shouted joyfully at the microphone of the Al Arabiya TV channel.

The right to steer Saudi women was provided by the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdul Aziz. In September of last year, he signed a decree. Before that, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where a ban on driving a car by women was in effect. The decree entered into force on 24 June. By this day, according to the authorities of the country, all preparations had to be completed.

History of the struggle

Officially, no one forbade women to go to Saudi Arabia, but here are the rights of the local sample, but only for them it is possible to move along the roads of the kingdom, no one gave out to the fairer sex. The authorities referred to a fatwa (religious decision), adopted in 1991 year - then the local clergy, based on the text of the Koran, ruled: women do not have a car behind the wheel. There is no public transport in the country, and therefore the local ladies moved either by taxi or with the help of close male relatives. Often, on the streets behind the wheel, you could see very young boys 12-13 years, carrying their moms and sisters for shopping. The young ladies richer have their own drivers, as a rule, come to work for the citizens of the Philippines and India.

"We do not all have drivers, not all of us have brothers and fathers who can take us when we need to, and what do we need to stay at home?" And then why should we pay money to drivers from Asia, because they leave the country without would it be more logical to allow us to use our right? " - told RIA Novosti earlier one of the Saudi civil activists Sarah al-Qahtani.

Attempts to talk about their right to drive in Saudi Arabia were undertaken by women for several decades, but each time they faced powerful criticism from state bodies and clergy.

This scandal erupted in Saudi Arabia in 2011 year. A storm of resentment in the ultra-conservative monarchy was triggered by a video posted on YouTube by one of the organizers of the 17 June Internet campaign, which calls on women to drive cars to the streets of the city en masse.

On the staff - the pride of the kingdom, the first woman in the country, a computer security engineer, excellent pupil Manal ash-Sharif drives a car through the streets of his city Hobar. The next day, policemen came for her and put the girl in jail. The parents' persuasions and the word of honor that she will not do it any more, acted - after a week she was released.

This incident and several other similar incidents have revived violent discussions in the society about the right of women to drive cars. To realize the dream of the fairer sex of Saudi Arabia took another seven years and the change of power in the kingdom.

Are you ready, lady?

The day before the entry into force of the decision to abolish the ban on driving cars by women, Saudi Arabia's Egyptian Ambassador Osama Nugali wrote in a social network: "Another day, Saudi Arabia is making history." Lady, are you ready? "

However, this question can be addressed not only to women in Saudi Arabia, but also to men. Immediately after the publication of the decree of the Saudi king in social networks, several videos with threats of Saudi men appeared to women who dared to sit behind the wheel. "By Allah, I will not allow any woman to drive," one of the fierce opponents of the appearance of women on the roads of the kingdom of women driving a car, showing a gun.

However, the Saudi authorities quickly reacted to such threats and promised to punish all those who disagreed with the king's decision.

However, concern about the possible discrimination of women on the roads by men remains, as evidenced by the question posed by journalists to the Saudi ambassador to Bahrain, Abdullah Abdul Malik Al Shaykh.

The ambassador said that Saudi women could not only travel independently on the territory of the kingdom, but also travel outside of it, in particular, to visit the Bahrayn automobile bridge on the road by the name of King Fahd. He noted that women will have the opportunity to enter Bahrain by car on the first day, when the ban on driving cars will be lifted. At the same time, the diplomat assured that the behavior of drivers of any gender on the roads and the attitude of other traffic participants and traffic police towards them will be determined only by how they observe the rules of driving, therefore, women drivers should not be afraid of male prejudice.

A resident of Riyadh, 35-year-old Sarah al-Vassiya told RIA Novosti that she too could not resist the temptation of one of the first in the country to leave this morning driving her car to the streets of the city. Driving license she received in the US, where she studied, eighteen years ago, and now she exchanged them for a local certificate. The girl is worried that she, like thousands of other women who got behind the wheel of the car, "can face the misunderstanding of men who are not accustomed to seeing women at the wheel."

"I urge all to support Saudi Arab women and not to oppress them, we are the same citizens of this country as men, we have the same rights, and this is one of the most fundamental - the right to freedom of movement," Sarah said.

All for women

According to the forecasts of the international consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), by 2020 on the roads of Saudi Arabia there will be up to 3 million women drivers. According to local experts, independently drive the car want more than 80% of Saudi. However, they believe, this process will be gradual.

"The figures are constantly updated, but I can say that thousands of driving licenses have been issued, thousands of foreign exchanges have been exchanged for local ones.I believe that women's driving schools are equipped to the highest world standards and we are convinced that their graduates will be worthy of the rights and ready to drive their cars ", - told the journalists the head of the Main Road Administration of the Kingdom of Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Basami.

For women driving cars in the country, a special infrastructure has been created. In the capital of the Kingdom of Riyadh, an exhibition of cars was held, which only women of the fair sex could visit. Official dealers of the world's leading automakers in the kingdom in recent months hired hundreds of sales consultants in their car dealerships to help women when choosing cars. Women also began working in a number of shops selling parts for cars.

In addition to the conservative circles of Saudi Arabia, numerous foreign drivers may be unhappy with the new law. According to local media, their number in the kingdom exceeds 1,3 million people. On average, as calculated in Saudi Arabia, to this day, Saudi families have spent up to 25% of their income to pay for a personal driver.

It is expected that in the coming years at least half the drivers who come mainly from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines, will lose their jobs. Saudi economist Abdullah al-Maglus in an interview with the newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat said that a decrease of 50% in the number of foreign drivers in the country would leave about 20 billion Saudi riyals (5,3 billion US dollars) per year in the economy of the kingdom.

Plan for the transformation of the kingdom

Sharp indulgences in the public sphere of the once conservative kingdom began after King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud came to power in 2015 and appointed last year his 31-year-old son - Mohammed bin Salman - heir to the throne.

Ben Salman, becoming heir, adopted an ambitious strategic development plan - Vision 2030 - for the radical transformation of the kingdom. Reforms concern both economic and public spheres. Prince intends to sharply reduce the dependence of the country's economy on oil and develop the private sector. In public life, he plans to make the kingdom more open and progressive, without giving up the traditional values ​​of Saudi society.

A few months ago in the country for the first time in 40 years cinema theaters have opened, it is expected that soon the Saudi theater will appear in Saudi Arabia. The social status of women also changes. In addition to driving the car, they were allowed to attend sporting events and serve in the army. The society is discussing the issue of allowing women to play professional football and the obligation to wear a traditional Arabian dress-abay. According to Muhammad bin Salman, "women themselves have the right to decide what clothes to wear, provided that it is decent and acceptable."

Reforms of the Crown Prince have touched even such a sensitive area for Saudi Arabia as religion. The heir announced the need to return to moderate Islam and intolerance of extremist ideas.

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