Activist: Women still can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, but ‘things are changing’


By Bonnie Washuk, Staff Writer

Lewiston-Auburn |

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 11:35 pm

LEWISTON — There’s a New England connection to the woman who
received worldwide attention in 2011 for being being jailed for driving in
Saudi Arabia, a country where it is illegal for women to drive.
Activist Manal al­Sharif spoke to a packed Bates College audience
Wednesday night. She’s been named by Time magazine one of the 100 most
influential people of 2012, written about by the New York Times, CNN and
the Wall Street Journal, been given international awards for freedom and
called “fearless.”
Al­Sharif said she started the “Women2Drive” movement after living and
working in Nashua, N.H., for a year.
The right for Saudi Arabian women to drive is symbolic, she explained, for
the guardianship system that exists in Saudi Arabia, where women are
considered “minors” all of their lives. Women must ask permission to do
anything, even leaving the house, from their male “guardians” — fathers,
husbands or, for widows, even their sons.
When she came to Nashua in 2009 on a work exchange program, the
computer engineer discovered there was no public transportation. She
needed a car, but first needed a license.
She signed up for drivers ed, learning how to drive with teenagers.
Beaming, al­Sharif showed off her drivers license to the audience to
applause. After living like an American for a year, she returned to her
country and became frustrated by not being mobile.
Saudi women travel the world, work as doctors and save lives, yet they
need a man for transportation. “Something is wrong here,” she said.
Instead of complaining, she acted.
In May of 2011, on Facebook she called on women to drive. She got support
and threats that women who drove would be raped. Women were scared. In
June, al­Sharif took the lead saying, “’I’ll show you, I’ll drive.” She drove
her car for 10 minutes as a friend shot video. “I had no clue what would
happen after that,” she said.
The video was posted on YouTube and became a worldwide hit. She was
arrested and jailed for nine days.
Bonnie Washuk, Staff WriterNews of the arrest went out on Twitter. “It was really amazing what social
media created,” she said. “It created a global support system.”
It was the time of Arab Spring. The world reacted in anger to a woman
jailed for simply driving.
“People around the world called for my release. This small act created a
huge wave.” Al­Sharif showed a picture of a Romanian woman protesting
with a sign, “Cars for women, camels for men.”
Al­Sharif’s family went to the king and apologized for her behavior. She was
released. Al­Sharif suspects it was the pressure from social media that
contributed to her release.
In the United States, people use social media to meet old friends or keep in
touch with family. “In our world, we use it to start revolutions.”
Saudi conservatives slammed her and the idea of women driving. “This is
my favorite,” al­Sharif said, showing a newspaper article with a headline of
a cleric warning if women were allowed to drive, the virginity of unmarried
women would be lost. He said there’d be illegitimate children and more
divorce.
Supporters of the “Women2Drive” campaign posted the story online. “It
was all over the news,” al­Sharif said. “The whole world was mocking
them.”
Eventually, she ended up losing her job and had to move. Today she lives in
Dubai. When she goes back to Saudi Arabia to visit her son (her ex­husband
has custody), she gets detained at security. When public speaking, “it’s
balancing when to say so much,” she said. “Sometimes you say something
huge and you disappear for two months.”
Saudi women still cannot drive. They are still “minors” of their fathers,
husbands and sons. But a change is underway, al­Sharif said.
She’s written against the guardianship system, expecting flack. That didn’t
happen. Some men agreed, saying they were sick of their woman depending
on them for every single thing.
“It’s changing, slowly,” al­Sharif said. “It’s not going to happen today, but
maybe it will happen in my daughter’s generation, if I ever have one.”
Her son will hear bad things about what she’s done, she said. Someday he’ll
ask her about it. “When he comes that day, I will have an answer,” al­Sharif
said.
But if her son ever becomes her guardian, “I’ll kick his butt,” she said to
laughter.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

http://www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn/2013/09/18/activist-women-still-cant-drive-saudi-arabia-thing/1424989

فيديو

كلمتي في مؤتمر تيد العالمي – My talk in TED Global 2013


الكلمة مترجمة بالعربي

Posted by: Karen Eng

June 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm BST

Two years ago, as she put her 5-year-old son Aboody to bed, Manal Al-Sharif faced an unexpected question from him: “Mommy, are we bad people?” Earlier in the day, she had noticed bruises on his face. He didn’t want to tell her why. Now, in the evening, he confessed that boys at school had hit him because they’d seen his mother on Facebook. They said, “You and your mom should be put in jail.” This was a sudden moment of truth for women’s driving rights activist Al-Sharif: She’d created a situation that was bigger than herself or her family. For handing her his car keys, her brother had been detained twice, harassed and eventually forced to leave the country, and her father had to listen to his imam call women drivers prostitutes. It was not about driving, she realized, but a punishment for daring to challenge society’s rules.

It all began in 2011, when Al-Sharif complained to a friend about the Saudi ban on women driving, which had not been challenged for 20 years. The friend pointed out, to her stunned amazement, that there was no real legal ban — it was merely a custom enforced by religious fatwas. According to Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative system of beliefs, she says, women need guardians to protect them, and are treated as minors until they die. Her friend’s revelation was enough to prompt Al-Sharif to start a campaign to get as many women as possible to get behind the wheel and drive on June 17, 2011, spreading the word using social media.

In the weeks leading up to that day, Al-Sharif tested the waters by filming herself driving in Khobar and posting it on YouTube. The video got hundreds of thousands of views on the first day — and she received threats of death and rape. The authorities, however, were eerily silent. Trying a second time in the company of her brother, she drove past a police car, and the response was swift: Al-Sharif was arrested and sent to jail for nine days.

Undeterred, on June 17, 2011, some one hundred courageous women came out and broke the ban, driving in streets packed with police cars. Incredibly, no one was arrested. “We broke the taboo,” says Al-Sharif.

Al-Sharif describes what followed as a fragmented time of having to live with two opposing images of herself: the villain within her own country, and the hero outside of it. When she traveled to Oslo to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum, she was embraced warmly. On her return home, she was met with a nationwide Twitter attack with the hashtag #OsloTraitor. In a poll that asked, “Do you consider Manal a traitor after her speech in Oslo?” 90% answered “Yes.” Yet, Al-Sharif says, fighting tears, “I’m a proud Saudi woman and I do love my country. It’s because I love my country that I’m doing this. I believe a society will not be free if women of that society are not free.” Her statement gets a long standing ovation.

Al-Sharif has continued to face controversy by taking action: getting back on social media as soon as she was released from jail, filing a lawsuit against the Saudi General Directorate of Traffic for not issuing her a driver’s license, and filing a petition to the Shura Council asking to lift the driving ban. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia today is taking small steps towards enhancing women’s rights, she says. Last year, 30 women were assigned to the Shura Council, the monarchy’s advisory board; women now make up 20 percent of the membership. The Council has accepted Al-Sharif’s petition — which had 3,500 signatures — and the traffic police have announced they will only issue violation tickets to women drivers. Meanwhile, the Grand Mufti recently issued a fatwa softening its hard line, stating it’s simply “not recommended” for women to drive.

But, Al-Sharif says, it’s not so much about rule of law as it is about women’s attitudes about themselves: The danger is internalizing an oppressive society’s insistence that women are inferior. She’s not sure how she became an activist, but she says she will always be proud to be one of the women who was part of the ban and fought to overturn it. She concludes that change can only happen “if women stop asking when, and start taking action now to drive our own lives.”

San Francisco Freedom Forum Speech


Good morning, my name is Manal al Sharif, I come from the kingdom of Saudi men…

It is an immense and totally unexpected honor to be here, among all of you, and in the presence of so many people I admire and have looked up to. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Yang Jianli, Marina Nemat, you are all role models for me. You are living proof that the struggle is worth it and that it takes both determination and patience to move the mountains that hinder our path to true freedom and prosperity.

If someone told me a year ago that I would be standing here today I would not have believed it. Back then I was just a single mom who worked as an information security specialist to support her family. Although, I am unemployed today, I am happier and more filled with purpose than ever.

Recently I have I learnt that speaking out against the status quo is indeed the most difficult thing to do.

In my case, the status quo I had challenged was my nation’s ban on women driving. For outsiders the issue is hard to grapple with. Few can understand the depth of the issue as it is such a non issue in the rest of the world. But in Saudi Arabia women driving goes beyond the mundane matter of a woman getting her hands on the wheel. It is all about the political, social and economical consequences of lifting such ban.

The freedom of movement that lifting the ban implies is what has the conservative factions within our society so rigid about maintaining it. The money raked from importing over a million foreign drivers from South East Asia to drive women around is an opportunity for profit that many are not willing to relinquish. And more importantly, calls for change from the people are not welcomed at all in an absolute monarchy that demands allegiance from its citizens by professing to be the sole protectors of their faith and well-fare.

This might explain the backlash I got when I uploaded a YouTube video in which I talked – while driving – about lifting the ban and proposed June 17th as a day to begin getting our country used to seeing women in the driver’s seat. I was under the false impression that Saudi society was opening up and that the government was also pushing towards more opportunities for women.

But I guess I miscalculated. For my ‘crime’ I was jailed for nine days while the whole country went into a frenzy, some criticizing and some in support. Many within the religious establishment took the Friday prayer sermon as an opportunity to condemn me. They called me a traitor, an evil doer, a conspirator and one cleric went as far as to say that I should have been flogged.

Those who saw fit to jail me unintentionally did a great deal to insure the success of theJune 17th movement; tens of women across the country took to the wheel with many of them uploading their own videos on YouTube. These were women I had never met, and who had never heard about me before I was jailed. They went out to join theJune 17th initiative and risked jail themselves. I am happy to say that sanity prevailed and not a single woman was jailed that day, yet we did get the first ever ticket issued to a woman in the history of Saudi.

For all my tech savvy, just a few years ago, I would never have been able to reach out – or to offend – so many of my countrymen and women. In an absolute monarchy where people are imprisoned without charge – sometimes for years, for starting an NGO, protesting in the streets or even publishing an essay that questions the government, there were no platforms from which average citizens could air their views.

Not until social media came along. What most in the world use for information, recreation and to stay in touch with family and friends, in Saudi Arabia has become a democratic sandbox, our personal bully pulpit, and yes, our comfort blanket and shield.

Social media has played a pivotal role in ensuring that the June 17th initiative grew into a whole campaign that encompassed not only the ban on women driving but so much more. Through social media a fluid and grass-root campaign was born, the Right to Dignity campaign, whose members have grown to thousands of Saudi men and women across the country. The only way that the campaign communicates with its members is through social media.

And since the local press will not cover our demands, we send our press releases, petitions and statements through Twitter. We would not have gotten very far without Twitter.

Some people have called our movement the Saudi Women’s Spring. But, let’s be serious, we are still way behind the starting point of those revolutions. 50% of our population is yet to achieve basic rights that others take for granted as they fight for real democracy.

Yet, I’m happy to report some positive changes have accrued in the last year:

Although physical education is still not a part of the state girl schools’ curriculum and access to sports facilities is rare for Saudi women, I’m happy that we’ve finally, as you’ve all probably heard, had the historic achievement of opening the door and having Saudi women compete in the Olympics.

In June 2011, King Abdullah decreed that women would be allowed to work openly in retail and take jobs such as sales clerks and cashiers. Although transportation and guardianship laws remain an obstacle in the way of women empowerment, this decree has allowed over 40 thousand women a means of supporting themselves and their families.

In September 2011, King Abdullah issued another landmark decree that women will have the right to stand and vote in future local elections and join the advisory Shura council as full members. Though there is no denying that it remains a stick in the throat for most Saudis that all 150 members of the council are appointed by the king rather than voted in by the people.

As of 2012 we have had 131 thousands undergraduate and postgraduate students studying abroad, almost half of them are girls despite the fact that many of the professions they are studying for are unlicensed for women in Saudi, such as practicing law. I hope that by the time they finish and come home that obstacle will be removed and the nation can take full advantage of their investment.

Beyond our borders we have received all kinds of solidarity that I hope Saudi authorities do not interpret as a challenge but as encouragement. Among many things I’d like to mention two:

I’m particularly proud of being the recipient of the Havel Prize which I received in Oslo earlier this year. And was move by the work of many artists who showed solidarity with our movement such as the beautiful pop star MIA and her song “Bad Girls”.

Like I said before, in this young absolute monarchy of only 80 years there is very little room for average citizens to voice their concerns or gain a platform. There are no representatives of the people with executive power and a push for change has traditionally either been imposed from the top down or pushed for through tribal and religious establishments that women are completely excluded from.

Social media and speeches like the one I’m giving right now are the main tools that are available to Saudi women who want to absolve the gender apartheid and build a better and stronger Saudi Arabia where every citizen, regardless of sex, is treated with dignity and respect.

The Right to Dignity campaign and I work towards a Saudi where an adult woman won’t have to need her son’s permission to travel, where women will not need the escort of their guardian abuser to leave the safe house they escaped him to, a Saudi where women can easily obtain a means of supporting themselves, a Saudi where it is unquestionable that a girl has a right to her childhood. All we want is a Saudi Arabia that respects the humanity of women.

I have been told before ( it’s not the right time, if you love your country you must wait)..

I would like to answer them:

I’m proud to be a Saudi women and because I love my country I will not wait. Women rights is not a special interest or a privilege. Women rights or lack of them affects the whole society! Societies that keep women in the back seat, will always be on the wrong side of history.

Driving for Freedom – My Speech in Oslo Freedom Forum


“The struggle is not about driving a car,

the struggle is about being in the driver’s seat of our own destiny”

I would like to explain the life of my generation through 2 chapters in my life:

Chapter I

1979: The year that changed the world as we knew it

Fire in The Holy Mosque in Mecca, 1979

Our generation is called the Sahwa or Awakening Generation. Our story starts with the year I was born in, 1979.

that same year a group of men led by the militant Juhayman seized the holy mosque in Mecca, the holiest shrine for Muslims in the world. The siege was to protest the House of Saud’s policies of Westernization. Saudi authorities used heavily-armed forces to end the siege. They publicly beheaded Juhayman and other 46 men.

This overlooked episode of modern history was described as the deadliest terrorist attack prior to 9/11. This forgotten event shaped my generation’s life and changed the world, into the one we know today.

A Very Rare Picture of Juhayman (means Angry Face)

Before this event, Saudi the recent founded country was changing rapidly and adopting the modern civilized life (1). Things were moving forward in this part of the world until the shocking event of Juhayman and his men. The Saudi rulers, anxious to maintain the loyalty of the extremists and to prevent another uprising, quickly moved to roll back the “immoral” liberties that had been tolerated in previous years.

Just like Juhayman, those extremists had long been upset with the gradual loosening of restrictions on women. In the weeks after the Mecca uprising female announcers were removed from Saudi TV, pictures of women were banned from appearing in any printings, employment of women was narrowed to very few places (like education and health care), cinemas were closed, music was banned, and separation between genders was strictly enforced everywhere from public places, government offices, banks, schools, to even houses. Every Saudi house now has two entrances, one for men and one for women.

Petrodollars poured into the extremists’ budgets, and they spread religious education and missionary organizations around the world, many of which preached hatred of the infidel, dedication to global Jihad, and rejection of anyone who does not share the same ideals.

The Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice—the religious police—was also given a free hand in society.

They beheaded a monster, but enshrined his ideology of hate!

A Bullet in Time

Ka’aba in Hajj Time

Saudi authorities tried their best to make people forget the Siege of Mecca. They removed all articles and reports talking about it. We were not allowed to even ask what happened. It was one of the first taboos in Saudi.

The first time I heard of Juhayman, I was a kid performing tawaf with my mother, where you walk in circles around the holy Ka’aba. It was Hajj time when the Ka’aba’s curtains are lifted up. My mom pointed to a hole on the walls of Ka’aba and said, “That’s a bullet hole from Juhayman’s time”. Juhayman was the name that brought terror to the people of Mecca and the Muslims around the world.

For me that hole went much deeper than walls. It was a hole in time we all fell in, and kept going backward.

The 80s: The awakening of the beast

The new extremists were very powerful, promoting their ideas and enforcing everyone to abide by their strict rules. Free leaflets, booklets, cassettes, books calling for dismissing non-Muslims from the Arabian peninsula and proclaiming Jihad in Afghanistan an individual duty of every Muslim, were distributed everywhere.

We used to distribute those materials to please God. Thousands of young men were encouraged and financially supported to join the holy jihad in Afghanistan. A 22-year-old man was amongst those fighters; his name was Osama Bin Ladin.

Those fighters at that time were our heroes!

The Queen

According to Saudi Ulema’s Interpretation of Sharia Laws,

women should be covered head to toe in black

As women, we were raised to listen, follow, and never ask why. If you don’t follow the rules, we were taught that we would burn in hell fire in our grave and in the afterlife. Many nights I spent in tears, trying to do all I could to please God, to follow the rules. I thought it would have been much easier to just die, because living with these rules was simply impossible:

-As a woman I was taught that if I left home I would be fully responsible for any evil that happened, because men can’t control their instincts. I am the seductive fruit, they said, and I would seduce men in all my shapes and forms. So, my place should be home.

-I was taught that as a woman I am only Awra (sinful to expose). My face was Awra, my voice was Awra, even my name was Awra. I started covering fully top to toe in black when I was 10 years old.

-It was shameful to call the woman with her name or to know someone’s mother/sister/wife’s name. So women are called “mother of” her son’s name or “wife of” her husband’s name. (the society is trying hard to break through it)

-Women had no identification papers with a picture on it except passports.

-We have to get permission from our appointed male guardian in every aspect of our lives (to get healthcare, to study, to work, to get government papers, to travel, to marry, even to exist) (All still effective except the permission to work that was lift recently)

-No women couldn’t play a sport (still effective)

-Only two professions were licensed for women: pharmacist and doctor. There are no Saudi female lawyers, no civil engineers, no engineering schools for females. (still effective)

-And of course, women couldn’t drive (still effective)

They stole our lives with one lie: we are doing all this to protect you from the prying eyes of men; you deserve to be treated like a “Queen”, and this is how a queen is treated.

We were faceless, voiceless, and nameless, we were the invisible women.

Nov 6th, 1990

I was just 11 when the news broke all over the country that 47 women had challenged the ban on women driving in Riyadh. The announcer on TV announced days later that, according to the recent Fatwa of Sheikh Bin Baz, the grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, that women driving was haram–forbidden in Islam. The Ministry of Interior warned everyone that women were not allowed to drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Horrible rumors were spreading about those 47 women, and they were called awful names. We, as kids, had been told those women were bad and we should never be like them. For the next 22 years, talking about this subject was banned.

Another taboo was created: Women Driving

1996: Khober Towers Bombing

The Khobar Towers were bombed on June 25, 1996, and according to the Saudi government, the attack was carried out by “Saudi Islamic militants, including many veterans of the Afghan War.” 19 U.S. air force personnel and 1 Saudi were killed, and 372 people were injured.

I remember my mother gasping: “Juhayman is back!” I remember not sympathizing with the deaths.

I was only 17, but I used to think like a terrorist.

2000: Our 1st window to the outside world

Public access to the Internet in Saudi finally debuted in 1999. I had access to the Internet for the first time in 2000. I was thirsty to learn about what was out there. I kept reading about other religions and cultures. I met lots of people from all over the world on the Internet.

I realized how small the box I lived in when I stepped out of it. I started slowly losing my phobia of getting my pure beliefs polluted.

“There is Something Missing in my Heart”

Let me exaplain how extreme I was and how I changed through two stories:

I love drawing, but I had to burn all my sketches one day when they told us in school that drawing people and animals is a sin and God will punish us harshly for that. I watched years of work burn before my eyes, while crying inside “this is so unfair”.

My second story:

Do you remember the first time you ever listened to a song? More specifically, do you remember the first song you ever listened to? Probably not.

I remember both–the first time I allowed myself to listen to a song was the year 2000, and the song was “Show me the Meaning of Being Lonely” by Backstreet Boys. I was 21 years old. As insignificant event as it might sound to you, it was a significant change in my life, if you knew that I used to burn my brother’s music cassettes in the oven because we have were taught that they are “Satan’s Flutes” and a path to adultery (2).

When I heard that song it sounded anything but evil to me. It was so beautiful, so angelic, and so pure. I tried to be good according to their rules but I failed for the fist time in my life. For 21 years, I was never good enough, never pure enough. No matter how hard I tried to abide by every possible rule I was taught. I finally lowered my guards and surrendered!

Only then I realized how lonely I was.. in the world I isloated myself into..

I realized that breaking free from the internal chains is harder than breaking free from the external

9/11: The Turning Point

When September 11 happened, extremists viewed it as God’s punishment to America. When I first got the news, I was confused about which side to take. I was brought up to hate any non-Muslims or anyone who doesn’t practice Islam as we view it. Those, we are told, are our enemies and must be eliminated from this world.

When I watched the breaking news, I saw a man throwing himself from one of the towers to escape the fire. The horrifying scene shocked me deeply. Later on, Al-Qaeda announced their responsibility of these attacks. My heroes were nothing but horrifying bloody monsters. And questions started.

Saudi singularity: Saudi “Khososyah” or singularity is turning everything that is normal to abnormal, then asking the question what went wrong? And then trying to find a way to fix it.

After 9/11 in Saudi

A few months after that horrifying event, Saudi authorities, anxious again about security, started issuing women IDs. It was the fist time we women were being recognized as citizens. Still, the appointed male guardian needs to give his women the permission to get ID.

A massive number of terrorists attack swept Saudi during the following years, leaving everyone in deep shock. We were all asking what went wrong?!

The questions where growing bigger and bitter. No religion on earth can be this bloody, this cruel, this merciless. Islam is the religion of peace, respecting the other, accepting differences, freedom of speech and belief. The extremist interpretation misshaped Islam badly and used it to spread hatred and violence. And now we are the ones to pay the price.

Chapter II

Drive Your Own Life

Inspired by the Arab Spring, Led by personal struggle, realizing there is no law to ban us from driving, we started women2drive campaign.

One night I was leaving my doctor’s clinic in Al-Khober at 9 pm, and I couldn’t find a ride back home. A car kept chasing me, and I was almost kidnapped. The next day at work, I was horrified and angry and I complained to my colleague how it’s frustrating that I have a driver’s license but I’m not allowed to drive, just because I’m a woman. He broke the good/bad news in my face: “But there is no law banning you from driving”.

That ignited the whole idea in my mind of starting a campaign to call women to get behind the wheel and drive on June 17th, 2011. We encouraged women with international driver’s licenses only to participate, as we didn’t want accidents that day. We started a Facebook page, followed by a Twitter account and a 7-minute video I recorded using my webcam I posted it on YouTube to explain who we are and the idea behind June 17th. I showed my face, I spoke with my voice, I used my real name. For me, the time of fear and silence was over. I used to be ashamed of who I am, a woman. I was there to speak up for myself.

Later that month, I recorded a video of myself driving in the city of Khobar and posted it on YouTube. It got 700,000 views on the first day. A day later I was arrested for driving and sent to jail for 9 days. Newspapers and TV were closely following my story—it broke a huge riot around the country, it became a hot topic at every house and every gathering place. Calls to send me to a trial where roaring. There were even calls to flog me in a public place to make me an example to other women. I was called all names in the book for that simple act: whore, outcast, licentious, immoral, rebellious, disobedient, Iran agenda, Westernized, traitor, double agent, etc. Rumors of all kind spread everywhere. The hardest thing wasn’t facing what I did, it was facing what I didn’t do.

On June 17th the streets were packed with police cars and religious police SUVs to scare anyone who thought to drive that day. Despite all that pressure, some 100 women broke the ban and drove on June 17. None were arrested. we broke the taboo.

On November 15th 2011, I filed the first lawsuit against the Saudi General Directorate of Traffic in the administrative court for not issuing me a driver’s license.

We can talk freely now in the media and newspapers about women driving. Women themselves are not the same anymore. We united for the first time, the previous generation and this generation. We are using positive pressure to push for change. We are called now “My Right to Dignity,” calling for full citizenship for the Saudi Women, and ending decades of male guardianship.

They Messed up with the Wrong Woman

I was and still faced with one cruel organized smearing campaign. I defended myself not by words but by actions.

I was persistent, patient, and respectful to everyone even those who harmed me the most. Friends and family insisted that I sue those who publish and say lies about me, I told them it’s not time yet. A year later, the same newspapers that cracked down on me harshly are publishing the news of my international honoring and awards. My mother shed many tears facing all kind of attacks on her daughter. I called her that day when the local newspaper that was the worst in attacking me finally published a small article about me; with the title “Manal is a role model for the Saudi women”. The article came after announcing my name amongst the Time 100 most influential people in the world. I told my mother: “here is your rehabilitation”. Mom had tears that day, but a different kind of tears for the first time in a year; they were the tears of pride and joy.

I always tell my mother, “they might handcuff me and send me behind jail bars, but I will never accept them putting cuffs on my mind. They can break my bones mom, but they can never break my soul”.


The Time of Silence is Over

Years of being passive, whispering complaints with so many years of signing petitions and waiting for a response that would never come, we decided finally that the time of silence is over. We took an action to change our reality. Waiting will result in nothing but more waiting and frustration.

But sadly even after a year later, women are still waiting for a miracle to happen to change their reality; they are still waiting for a royal decree to lift the ban on women driving. They don’t know it will never come to them. It’s up to them to take the key and go behind the wheel and just drive, as simple as it sounds, as simple as it is.

I believe that children cannot be free if their mothers are not free, parents cannot be free if their daughters are not free, husbands cannot be free if their wives cannot be free, society is nothing if women are nothing.

For me, freedom starts within. Here (my heart) I know I am free, but there, in Saudi, I am certain the struggle has just began, the struggle will end but I am not sure when, the struggle is not about driving a car, the struggle is about being in the driver’s seat of our own destiny, about being free not just to dream but free to live.

(1) Saudi is considered the oil hub with the world’s largest oil reserves and a population of 26 million.

(2) مزامير الشيطان و بريد الزنا

References: