Saudi women have defied the ban by launching a campaign on Facebook and Twitter under the motto ‘I will drive, starting June l7’.
Recently the authorities arrested a woman who did indeed challenge the ban in a major street of Khobar. She was released a few hours later, but her brother had to sign a statement, promising the misdemeanour would not be repeated.
While the campaign is drawing massive support from many women and a number of men, there is now a counter campaign, launched by men who threaten to use their iqal (headgear) and whip women who drive openly.
Saudi women have frequently called for this right over the past years, but this is perhaps the first time that the rebellion occurs on such a wide scale.
The ban seems quite illogical and absurd. It prevents Saudi women from driving, claiming to protect them from likely trouble with strangers, while the same women are allowed to be driven by private chauffeurs who are complete strangers.
It is no secret that the kingdom traditionally follows hardline social practices, in many cases based on flawed religious interpretation.
Hopefully, the Saudi authorities will give this driving debate some thought and contemplate on the pros and cons of giving women driving licences.
Women’s pressure for more freedom is not expected to abate, considering that more and more women are getting a good education and access to information technology. Saudi women are not likely to remain content for much longer, considering the restrictions imposed on them by a male-dominated society.