Saudi Arabia: Will the Saudi Women Drive on 17 June?

nb:  Manal Al-Sherif has been released about 6 hours ago!  I have chosen not to change the post below which was written before Al-Sherif’s release although I (happily) did not predict her fate accurately.  Al-Sherif did issue a public apology and stated she would not attempt to drive again.   Issuing such words was likely a condition for her release (in my personal view).


The blog of Saudiwoman gives an excellent account and understanding on the plight of Saudi national Manal Al-Sherif and the impact resulting from her orchestrated plan that 17 June will be the day Saudi women go behind the wheel.  The initial campaign, initiated on a now defunct Facebook page, encouraged Saudi women who were in favor of gaining the right for women to drive in the Kingdom to peacefully start driving on 17 June.  These women were not planning a driving convoy by any means across the Kingdom but rather women would start driving themselves to conduct common errands such as transporting children to school or going grocery shopping.  As the campaign gained momentum some Saudi women, including Manal Al-Sherif, began driving ahead of the official date of 17 June.  Some of these women, including Manal Al-Sherif, posted videos on youtube of their epic journey on the public roadways.  Since her incarceration in a Saudi prison, the Saudi government applied leverage and Manal Al-Sherif’s video was removed from youtube.  However more videos of women driving in Saudi Arabia continue to appear on youtube in support of Manal Al-Sherif and for women to gain the right to drive.

The following video is of a woman driving in Jeddah during the daytime hours. She goes about her business without incident.

The next video is a young woman in Qatif.  She chose to take to the roadways under the cover of darkness. She drives for a longer duration than the first video but seems to carefully avoid well lit intersections and traffic lights.

However as Saudiwoman illustrates and explains so well on her blog Manal Al-Sherif’s initiative and the video which was taken while she drove has resounded with ripples just  like a stone being skipped across the water.  Some Sheiks and Imams are now speaking out in mosques and to newspapers about women driving and using their positions to influence men that women behind the wheel is evil and against Islam.

Will 17 June still be the day when Saudi women demonstrate their desire to have the right to drive?  Or will it be like the “Day of Rage” that never happened?  It seems to me that the strategy of the Saudi government is to keep Manal Al-Sherif imprisoned until 17 June has passed.  In the meantime the religious clerics have free rein to speak on the evils of Manal Al-Sherif and any women who would attempt to drive in the Kingdom.  They also address the honor and respect a family loses within the tribe and the society to consider or allow a female relative to drive.  Not all clerics oppose the right of women to drive and publicly voice support for Manal Al-Sherif.  However in my view the Saudi government is not going to allow or tolerate any attempts of women driving in the Kingdom.  On 17 June policeman and religious police will likely be out in large numbers prepared to apprehend any female seen behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Saudi Arabia: Tribute to Manal Al-Sherif and the Women Who Wish to Drive

My friend Aafke has created one of the most compelling videos bringing the plight of Manal Al-Sherif and for all Saudi women who simply wish to drive to the forefront.




Saudi Arabia/USA: A New World Order


On 28 May I wrote a general analysis on changing alliances with emphasis on Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring.  Yet it is not only Saudi Arabia which is undergoing significant changes.  Robert Steele, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) clandestine case officer, is very vocal about a New World Order with emphasis on the changes within America.  He believes traditional media is not doing its job of fair reporting and that bloggers are becoming the true sources of information.  He further encourages Americans and others to start blogging.

I found Steele’s video below enlightening although must warn anyone who views the video that it does contain strong language.


I would be curious to hear your viewpoints after watching the video.  Do you believe there is a New World Order?  Do you believe bloggers are a better source of information than traditional media?

Saudi Arabia: Can’t People Detect the Smile?

My immune system is presently compromised.  I am unable to easily fight off infections and highly susceptible to germs or viruses.  As a result I wear a mask when I leave my residence…which nowadays is just to the hospital where I receive daily injections to give my bone marrow much needed boosters.  I am finding that people are more wary of a person wearing a medical mask than wearing a niqab.

I’m by nature a gregarious person who enjoys the company of others.  I have no difficulty to give a smile of welcome.  Smiling was something I had to learn to curtail in Saudi Arabia where a simple smile could be misperceived.  However in North Carolina most people do smile.  Now that I havr to wear the mask people can not see that I am smiling in spite of the medical challenges.  I look at an oncoming person and find that most tend to avert their gaze down to the ground when they see I am wearing a mask.  Can they not detect there is a smile behind the mask?

It is also a natural instinct I think to look down when passing a woman wearing the niqab.  In her case she has chosen to cover her face and thereby silently states she wants her privacy protected.  Yet I have also noticed how expressive women who wear a niqab can be with their eyes.  I guess years of practice make a difference.  Or perhaps when random folks see a mask they do not bother to look at the eyes.  I guess next time I go out I’ll draw a smiley face on the outer side of my mask.

Saudi Arabia: The Era of Changed Alliances

There’s an ancient Arab saying that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and this may best sum up what is happening now with Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring.  Saudi Arabia and the United States remain allies yet there is now a new layer of separateness between the two nations.  The cracks of the former close relationship opened up wider when the United States publicly supported the ouster of former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak.  The United States had to stand by and silently simmer when Saudi troops entered Bahrain to crack down on demonstrators and a feared Shii’a uprising. The Saudi action violated the United States stance on human rights but not enough to take actions which could risk jeopardizing the base of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.

Yet the glue that now keeps the two countries closest together is their common enemy, Iran.  Neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia wishes to see Iran achieve a full nuclear capability.  It is in the best interests of both countries for the United States to provide Saudi Arabia with US$60 billion worth of military equipment.  Saudi Arabia is better equipped for any potential conflict against Iran and the sale is a much needed boost to the American economy.

Politics do indeed make interesting bedfellows.  Countries will ally themselves in spite of actions either side may deplore.  Yet in spite of alliances on mutual issues each country will always take the unilateral actions in the best interest of itself regardless of the others stance on a matter.  Saudi Arabia is slowly surprising the world emerging as a more vocal and stronger leader.  Rather than its previous stance of subtle actions or background negotiations, Saudi Arabia is now rearing its head as a proud lion and letting the world know its views, policies and alliances.  Saudi Arabia remains an ally to the United States while it has also forged new levels in its relationships with China and Russia.

While public turmoil continue to take place in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain and other Arab States, Saudi Arabia quickly stifles and silences any indication of unrest or dissent.  Saudi Arabia has and will continue to demonstrate to the world that it will take any appropriate actions believed to be in the best interests of preserving its equities.  The lamb is quiet no more.

What REALLY Happened to Usama bin Laden

Saudi Arabia: How Should a Saudi Woman Demand HER Rights?

The carefully orchestrated plan for Saudi women to begin driving on 17 June has hit a road block with the arrest and detention of its organizer, Manal Al-Sherif on 22 May.  It is now uncertain whether Saudi women will actually take to the roadways as planned.  For someone not familiar with Saudi Arabia it is likely mind-reeling to learn that women, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, are prohibited from driving.  Saudi Arabia is the only country which legally prohibits women from driving.

Yet when King Abdullah was asked during one of his first television interviews when he became King in 2005, his response was “I believe strongly in the rights of women… I believe the day will come when women drive.”  Even King Abdullah cited how women presently drive in rural areas and the desert.

Tariq Al-Meeana wrote an insightful article in Gulf News in which he explains why women do not drive in Saudi Arabia.  He cites the reason women have not been able to drive in Saudi Arabia is due to the views and influence of Islamic scholars in the Kingdom who are opposed to allow women to drive.  These scholars have influenced their followers that it would be wrong for women to drive. There seems to an underlying fear that if women were to drive in Saudi Arabia it would result in a degradation of the country and its culture.

Tariq’s suggestion is to begin introducing the concept of women driving in baby steps such as opening up driving schools for women and employing women in the traffic department of towns around the Kingdom.

In actuality the issue here is more than women driving.  It is women wanting the natural rights of Muslim women around the world.  There is no law or surah or hadith which prohibits Muslim women from driving.

In today’s society in Saudi Arabia it is more practical for a woman to be able to drive. If a poll were taken most women in the Kingdom do not have drivers and either rely on their male relatives or public transport such as taxis to convey them where they need to go.  Women who do have drivers are being driven all around the Kingdom oftentimes alone with the unrelated male at the wheel.  Why do the Islamic scholars accept that it is okay for a woman to be in a car with an unrelated driver yet are opposed for a woman to drive?  I don’t understand or see any logic in this.

So now we wonder whether women will take to the roadways on 17 June.  Would women from around the Kingdom who dare to go behind the wheel on 17 June be rounded up and jailed like Manal Al-Sherif?  Would they be coerced to sign a statement agreeing that their actions were wrong and they had been led astray?  Or will women with strength in numbers AND support of their families make themselves additional trailblazers in Saudi history for reform of women’s rights?


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