Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Licensed to drive: Saudi women

How nice. A bunch of men have decided to let women drive without being beaten or imprisoned:
Women in Saudi Arabia will be permitted to drive in the kingdom, according to a royal decree issued in Riyadh on Tuesday that overturned one of the most widely criticized restrictions on human rights.
The decree, signed by King Salman and broadcast on state television, said that the “majority of senior scholars” had deemed the change legitimate under Sharia law, and ordered applicable government ministries to make whatever legal adjustments are required to implement it by next June.
The change aligns Saudi Arabia with virtually every other country in the world, including other conservative monarchies in the Persian Gulf region that have long allowed more freedom for women.
It was unclear how the permission to drive would relate to other remaining restrictions, including laws requiring women to be accompanied by a male “guardian” when leaving their homes.
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I should try harder to avoid snark. This is a major, positive step for hundreds of thousands of Saudi women.  Activists have been pushing for this for years, and paying a heavy price.
One of the activists, Manal al-Sharif, was arrested in May of 2011 as a grassroots Saudi campaign to overturn the ban gathered momentum, and spent nine days in prison. “As a result of my protest, I was threatened – imams wanted me to be publicly lashed – and monitored and harassed,” Sharif wrote in a first-person account of her arrest and exile from Saudi Arabia, that appeared in June in the New York Times.
Other activists also faced long term harassment for defying the ban. Loujain al-Hathloul, who was detained for 73 days in 2014 after attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the UAE, was rearrested earlier this year and held for several days. Shortly before her arrest, she said in an interview with the Post that she had not tried to drive since her arrest three years ago.
On Tuesday, following the news that the ban had been overturned, Sharif, in a Twitter post, wrote that “Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop.”
Now, let the rain fall on other communities of restricted women.

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