No Woman, No Drive
Put Your Car Key Away
Saudi King Abdullah has been making subtle reforms to Saudi Arabian law in recent years. But his efforts have been slow and cautious. He is very wary of pushing his nations’ influential ultraconservatives too far.
Given the huge restrictions on women in the kingdom, where the strict interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism is effectively the law of the land, even his small changes have a resounding effect.
In a long running attempt to gain a measure of independence and equality Saudi women have relaunched their efforts to take to the Saudi roads, in defiance of both the powerful clerics and the prevailing opinion of many Saudi men.
Hey Little Sister, Don’t Touch That Wheel
Whilst there is no specific Saudi law that bans women from driving in the country, women are simply not issued licenses. As a result Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where a woman may not legally drive on the roads in that country.
Besides being unable to be legally licenced to drive, Saudi women have also had to deal with the ridiculously archaic opposition of clerics.
Outside one of King Abdullah’s palaces this week, 150 clerics staged a noisy protest, while a prominent cleric caused a stir last month when he said that medical studies show that driving a car harms a woman’s ovaries.
The powerful clerics, who hold far-reaching influence over the monarchy, enforce the ban on women drivers, warning that breaking it will spread “licentiousness.”
No Woman, No Drive
The driving ban has become the most symbolically weighty of the restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia. But it’s hardly the only one.
Genders are strictly segregated, and women are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public.
Guardianship laws require women to get permission from a male relative — usually husband or father, but lacking those, a brother or son — to travel, get married, enroll in higher education or undergo certain surgical procedures.
The government has given mixed signals about how it will deal with the campaign, illustrated by a statement put out this week by the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police.
The ministry warned against marches or gatherings under the pretext of the driving campaign. It said violators “disturbing public peace” will be dealt with firmly.
Now, in a show of solidarity and support for his female country(wo)men, a male Saudi artist and social activist has released a satirical version of Bob Marleys’ classic “No Woman, No Cry“. Hisham Fageeh has retitled the song “No Woman, No Drive“.
I’m an artist and social activist. I don’t really listen to music, but while studying in the US I heard this song by this Jamaican guy that caught my attention. I decided to do my own rendition, with lyrics relevant to my culture.
Fageehs’ versions opens with the reworded lyrics:
I remember when you used to sit in the family car,
Ova-ovaries all safe and well,
so you can make lots and lots of babies.