Saudi Arabia: Her Bravery Led to a New Life

manal alsharif



She never sought out attention for herself.  She was a quiet individual but fiercely dedicated to what she believed in.  One of those beliefs was that women should not be controlled by the culture of Saudi Arabia.  She would be the first of the new generation to go out and drive.

If you have not figured it out already, this article is a tribute to Manal Al-Sharif.  Her choosing to drive back in 2011 in Khobar, Saudi Arabia kind of reminds me of the “shot that was heard around the world” during the American Revolutionary War.

Manal’s video of her driving went viral, she was apprehended by the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Muttawa), she got forced out of her job at Aramco and life has never been the same.

The first time Manal drove, in May 2011, there was little activity or stir.  She drove around Khobar by herself in her Cadillac SUV.  She was not detected or stopped. Yet when the video made of her driving was put up on youtube, it immediately went viral and her name and her daring act became known around the world.  She did not let that attention or the subsequent threats that followed phase her.

Instead, she decided to drive again and with passengers.  She, her brother, his wife and her child took a drive together with Manal again behind the wheel.  All was fine and calm until when stopped at a traffic light she was confronted by the Muttawa.  When Manal asked them outright what law had she broken she was informed while having not violated any legal law, she had violated Saudi custom.  Both she and her brother were apprehended.  Her brother was subsequently released but Manal remained in custody for more than a week until King Abdullah granted a plea made by her father to release her.  Her father promised the King his daughter would never attempt to drive in the Kingdom again.

After her bold actions and attention she was forced out of her job at Aramco.  Manal left Saudi Arabia and created a new life for herself in Dubai where she can legally drive whenever she wants with no worry of apprehension by the Muttawa.  However, Manal paid a price for her brave and historical actions.  She is a divorced woman with a young son.  Her former Saudi husband refuses to allow her son out of the country.  As a result, Manal will travel back to Saudi Arabia whenever she can on weekends to see and spend time with her son.

She has, however, found love again!  After moving to Dubai she eventually married a man from Brazil who was one of her co-workers when she worked at Aramco.  They are very happy and much in love.  Yet, ironically, in order to marry the new love in her life, she had to obtain permission from King Abdullah to marry a foreign man as she wanted her marriage to be legally recognized in Saudi Arabia.

New life old life road sign on background clouds and sunburst.



Manal is a young woman from Makkah who came from a conservative but open-minded family.  She looks upon herself as a normal woman wanting to do things, such as driving, that a normal woman would do.  She has shown to the world over and over that she is a strong woman with a resolve of steel for what she believes in.

Manal Al-Sharif is without a doubt a trailblazer.  It may not be there now, but when all woman are legally able to drive in Saudi Arabia, and eventually they will, her name will be cited in the history books.  She is the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia: When Is Permission Required for Women?


I remember when I arrived in Riyadh as the wife of a Saudi things were somewhat different than what they are now.  I could not open my own personal bank account without a permission letter from my husband.  I could not work at King Faisal Specialist Hospital, National Guard Health Affairs or Saudi Arabian Television without a permission letter from my husband.  We laughed together about these regulations while he drew up and signed the requisite letter.  Ironically though, since I was a foreign woman, I was never challenged on traveling (by air) by myself even though my iqama cited my husband as my sponsor.

I reached out to a friend in the know to learn if any of the requisite permissions had changed.  Had there been any lifting of restrictions within Saudi Arabia for women needing their mahram (male guardian) approval prior to a specific activity.  Here is what I learned:

1) She can open a personal and private bank account without permission.  But she can only open a bank account for her children without permission only if she is the legal guardian of the children.

2) No advanced permission is required for a Saudi women to get treatment at the hospital.


3) No advanced permission is required to apply for a job.  However, permission may be required in order to be employed, especially if she is accepting a position in the Governmental sector.


4) Permission is required for a Saudi woman to travel and stay at a hotel by herself.  However, this law has since been relaxed for “older women.”  However, what is “older” is not clearly defined.

Saudi Arabia: Honk if You Support Women Drivers


A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor struck a chord with me simply by its title.  Honk if you support Saudi women drivers.  This is a great opportunity for Saudi entrepreneurs to have some bumper stickers produced in both Arabic and English.  Start showing some visual support in Saudi Arabia if you are in favor of Saudi women gaining the right to drive.   No doubt an enterprising individual can produce such bumper stickers and have individuals sell them at many of Saudi’s busy intersections.  Then again, why stop with Saudi Arabia?


Why should Saudi Arabia remain the ONLY country in the world where women are prohibited from driving?  Let them have the choice on whether or not they may drive.

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: Saudi Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Gains International Awareness

It is with pleasure to inform American Bedu readers that the Saudi Arabia Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign was chosen as the best media awareness campaign during the EMEA region SABRE awards dinner in Prague.  The campaign, ‘A Woman’s Stand’, focused on the importance of early detection of breast cancer.  The campaign was conducted by Adalid Public Relations on behalf of HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud.  HRH Princess Reema is one of the driving forces behind the Zahra Breast Cancer Association which is the premier source on information and resources about breast cancer in the Kingdom.

Towards raising awareness of breast cancer in the Kingdom, HRH Princess Reema and Zahra Breast Cancer Association launched ‘A Woman’s Stand’ in October 2010 which called on all females within the Kingdom to support breast cancer awareness month by participating in the attempt to break the record for the largest human chain in the form of an awareness ribbon as stated by the Guinness Book of World Records.  On 29 October 2010 the Guinness World record was broken within two hours at the Education Ministry Stadium in the Faisaliah district of Jeddah with more than 5000 women showing their support and donning a pink poncho towards raising awareness of breast cancer.

Please join me in congratulating HRH Princess Reema, all the powerful women behind Zahra Breast Cancer Association and Adalid Public Relations for their success of ‘A Woman’s Stand.’

I think HRH Princess Reema’s own words encapsulate the honor and excitement of the Saudi campaign recognition in Prague, “We won!!!! Not only the Turkey/Middle East Award, but we also won the Platinum award for the WHOLE EVENT!!! I proudly hand carried both back from Prague this evening!!

Mabrook Reema!!!!

Saudi Arabia: Anniversary of Women’s Skills Bureau

It is always with pleasure to make announcements which showcase initiatives and opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia.  The Women’s Skills Bureau has recently passed its first year anniversary  and is continuing to grow even bigger and better!  


Without your help this last year would not have been possible, we have been pleasantly overwhelmed with the responses, enquiries, feedback and information.  Please receive our sincere thanks and well wishes for your support.

We consider you as ‘friends’ of WSB so you are already aware of who we are and who we are seeking to address, however, if you refer to our website you will be nicely surprised at how we have been able to grow our online focus and information for the benefit of our user-base, sponsors and registrants.  The original dilemma’s facing the expat spouse in the kingdom we hope will become a thing of the past as we grow our site and its potential to reach out to the target communities.

It is therefore with great excitement that we enclose our new media kit with this year’s sponsorship opportunities.  The kit has been designed to provide you with the latest statistics and information on our audience and target market and a range of opportunities in which everyone can benefit from.

We have introduced a monitoring and evaluation process around the organisations outputs so we can better inform you of the tangible advantages but also opportunity areas you may wish to consider at any time throughout the year.  This will also include the seasonal opportunities we have with our cultural and religious events and gatherings in the kingdom.

Please have a look at some our new introductions: the monthly newsletter, which enables us to have direct marketing opportunities to our registrants with a distribution covering most of the active network groups and organisations in the kingdom in our target area.  We have a new community events calendar and a dynamic new classified section.

We hope to connect the organization to professional on-line networking sites to allow our professional members to connect and assist each other with the challenges of business and employment here in the kingdom.

We are growing, improving, reaching out more every week and are lucky to have attracted a group of young, professional women to our volunteer committee to connect with all the various cultures we are lucky to have here in Riyadh.

We have only two sponsorship opportunities left to fill and we also want to encourage organizations and individuals who support our efforts to donate whatever funds you would like to keep this community based service afloat.  Our budget is small but realistic and we appreciate all the donations we are fortunate to receive.
We hope you choose to support of our organization. We honestly have access to a unique group of up market, professional expatriates who elude traditional marketing campaigns.

Thanks for all your support,

Sarah Kennedy and the WSB committee

(we enjoy the benefits of an international committee of progressive individuals and we continue to welcome all nationalities and cultures to our site and all feedback they may offer)

Women’s Skills Bureau
Bringing people together for the good of all


Saudi Arabia: Breast Cancer Support Group in Riyadh

It is with the greatest joy for me to share with American Bedu readers that a Breast Cancer Support Group has been established in Riyadh!  I encourage…endorse….plead…PUSH that any woman facing a diagnosis of breast cancer, in active treatment of breast cancer, a survivor of breast cancer attend this meeting.  She will not only help herself but be a great resource and support to others in attendance.  Family members and caregivers and friends who have someone battling breast cancer are also encouraged to attend.

The first meeting will take place on Thursday, 14 April 2011, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm at Kingdom Hospital.  The meeting will be held in the hospital’s Training Room which is located on the first floor.


The discussions are in the English language and for this debut meeting, Olympic psychologist, Felicity Heathcoat, will speak to the group on ‘Stress Reduction Techniques.”


There is NO CHARGE to attend and participate in the support group.


For additional information, contact any of the following:


American Community of Riyadh:  director (at symbol)


or call Kingdom Hospital:  275.1111 extension 3 or 4

Consulting Clinics:  465.9100 extension 1




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