Saudi women want debate on driving

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi women on the ultraconservative kingdom’s top advisory council have called for a discussion on the sensitive issue of allowing women to drive, a move that could embolden reformers pushing to lift the ban.

The official request was made this week to the head of the Shura Council, council member Latifa al-Shaalan said, to address all “excuses” raised to keep women from driving since Islamic law and Saudi traffic laws do not forbid it.

Women seeking the right to drive in Saudi Arabia have been energized by a campaign calling on them to drive on Oct. 26. Saudi law does not explicitly prohibit them from driving, but religious edicts by senior and influential clerics are enforced by the police, effectively banning it. Authorities do not issue driving licenses to women.

The campaign started as an online petition last month and has so far garnered nearly 15,000 signatures.

In 2011, a Saudi woman was detained for posting an online video of herself driving, though her arrest launched wider protests.

The country is guided by an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism. Women cannot travel, work, study abroad, marry, get divorced or gain admittance to a public hospital without permission from a male guardian — typically a husband, brother, father or uncle.

Hard-line clerics have opposed the driving campaign and recently a prominent Saudi cleric caused a stir when he said medical studies show that driving has adverse effects on women’s ovaries because it forces the pelvis upward.

Al-Shaalan, the Shura Council member, told journalists that the recommendation for the discussion on women driving is not meant to coincide with the campaign and that it has been studied for a while.

“It is flawed that a woman cannot drive a car after reaching the position of deputy minister, becoming a member of the Shura Council, managing a university and representing the country on international bodies,” she said.

She said it is also counterintuitive to force a woman to ride in a car with a male driver who may be a stranger because it contradicts the kingdom’s strict rules on separation of the sexes.

While the Shura Council does not have legislative powers, the 30 women council members made history this year when they became the first females appointed to the body. The move by King Abdullah to give women a voice on the body was seen as part of a larger reform effort by the monarchy.

In 2011, King Abdullah said women can vote and run as candidates in the 2015 municipal elections. Last year, the kingdom began enforcing a law that allows women to work in female apparel and lingerie stores.

More in Local News

Army nurse from Everett has vivid memories of ‘forgotten war’

Barbara Jean Nichols, 95, served near the front lines in Korea and Vietnam, and in Germany.

In county overdose crisis, nasal spray has saved 100 lives

About 900 local law enforcement officers have been trained to use naloxone to revive opioid users.

Second former student files abuse claim against teacher

The woman says Cascade High School’s Craig Verver had sexual contact with her on campus.

Man arrested after allegedly threatening people near EvCC

The community college was briefly on lockdown Thursday morning.

Edmonds to add bike lanes in two areas

Crews will begin the first phase of work Thursday and Friday, weather permitting.

Woman fatally shot at home near Everett

Another woman and three children, who were also in the home, were not injured.

Woman injured after losing control of her pickup

A 50-year-old woman was injured Tuesday after her pickup lost… Continue reading

Freshwater invertebrates found in local water bodies

Bryozoans are tiny invertebrates that live in jelly-like masses, and their presence is a good thing.

Front Porch

EVENTS Sk8 Fest returns to Arlington The Centennial Sk8 Festival celebrating longboards… Continue reading

Most Read