#Women2Drive Press Release


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It had been 21 years since the first attempt to break the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia in 1990. These women faced swift repercussions and few attempts at protests have been made since that time.
But everything changed on June 17, 2011, when we started #Women2Drive  movement. I was sent to jail for posting a video of me driving as part of the campaign, but nonetheless, dozens of brave women dared to drive on June 17th, 2011. The struggle never stopped but continued with more campaigns throughout the years. The October 26th, 2013 campaign led by the Saudi blogger Dr. Eman Alnafjan followed by Loujain Al-Hathloul attempted to cross Saudi borders coming from the UAE. She was later joined by the Saudi journalist Maysa Al-Amoudi, both were arrested and sent to jail for 72 days. The #iammyownguardian campaign also went viral connecting activists within and outside the Kingdom globally to raise awareness of male guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia that forbid women to travel, marry or even exit prison without the permission of a male relative.
Women campaigning to end this ban have lost their freedom, their jobs, jeopardized their safety and had their cars confiscated and held. They have been harassed, jailed and their families have been targeted. They have been called every degrading name and viciously attacked. They have lost their lives as they have known it for daring to drive on the streets of Saudi Arabia.
Today, Sep 26th, 2017, marks the date we end one of the most draconian laws in modern history. Women’s rights activists will still continue to observe how this law is implemented and monitored and will continue campaigning to abolish the male guardianship imposed on them.   We ask for nothing short of full equality for women.
We pay respect to the women and men who have fought in this struggle. It’s just the start to end long-standing unjust laws have always considered Saudi women minors who are not trusted to drive their own destiny.
The rain begins with a single drop!
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٢٦ أكتوبر.. والكذبات الخمس


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في شهر واحد شاهدنا أول فيلم سعودي واقعي عشنا إثارته لحظة بلحظة اسمه (رُهاب المرأة)، ولو للمرأة اليوم أن تفخر عليها أن تفخر أنها كشفت بهذا التاريخ خمس كذبات عظيمات:

الكذبة الأولى: كذبة الذئاب البشرية، التي أشبهها بسعلوة جدتي التي كانت تخوفنا بها صغاراً حتى لا نخرج من البيت. فلا السعلوة أكلتنا ولا جدتي أقنعتنا.

الكذبة الثانية: كذبة مجتمع الفضيلة الذي يجب أن يمثل الإسلام بالنيابة عن العالم الإسلامي ولم يترك مسبة ولا قذف ولا اتهام لم يلصقه بمن طالبت بحق القيادة (طيب أتركوا لكم خط رجعة لما تجي بنتك بكرة تزاحمنا أو تزاحمينا يا معارضة في الشوارع) آخذاً بذلك إثمها، وإثم كل مسلمة تقود سيارتها في هذا العالم الرحب، خارج حدود مجتمع فضيلتهم.

الكذبة الثالثة: كذبة الأمن والأمان. إذا كانت امرأة خلف مقود سيارة ستزعزع أمن بلد كامل، راجع نفسك! أهو خوف على المرأة أم خوف منها؟

الكذبة الرابعة: الحكومة تقدمية والمجتمع متخلف أوغير جاهز، وبقية التصريحات البراقة التي تخرج للإعلام الخارجي، عن رغبة الحكومة في تمكين المرأة واعطائها حقوقها الكاملة، لكن المجتمع (وِحشين مو وجه نعمة).

الكذبة الخامسة: وهي أهم كذبة في رأيي كذبة القيادة شأن اجتماعي، بل هي شأن سياسي محض، يقرره السياسي. سقطت هذه الكذبة أخيراً بعد أن صدر بيان وزارة الداخلية الأخير وذلك بعد غموض ثلاث سنوات، وصدحت كل المنابر أمس في خطب الجمعة انصياعاً لهذا الأمر. وبالمناسبة شكراً بسبب هذا البيان الكل خرج للنور أخيراً! الآن الكل يلعب عالمكشوف لأول مرة.

الحقيقة الوحيدة وسط كل هذا الزيف أن قوة المرأة السعودية عاتية، قوية، كاسحة، هي لم تدرك قوتها بعد، لأنها مازالت تناضل في أرض المعركة. لم أشهد حركة حقوقية واحدة أو حملة واحدة تحدث كل هذا الضجيج وتصبح قضية رأي عام وتحرك المياه الراكدة وتجعل حتى الحجر ينطق أخيراً، بكل هذا الزخم والعنفوان والصدق. هزمتهم حتى أن الرؤوس دارت، ولفت.. هم الآن يدورون يفترون يكذبون زوراً وبهتاناً بعد أن أعيتهم الحيل.. يلصقون تهم التجمعات والتظاهرات، يخترعون استفتاءات يغيرون نتائجها بما توافق هواهم، ينشرون الإشاعات لترهيب المجتمع.. أي دين وأي فضيلة بربكم! الحق لا يحتاج لكل هذا الصراخ والزيف والكذب.. هذا اليوم كشف حتى المتلونين، من هم يوم معك ويوم ضدك، كل حسب مصلحته..

شكراً ٢٦ أكتوبر.. كم أسقطت من أقنعة..

علمونا صغاراً
أن الدين بفهمهم فقط
هو الدين الصحيح
وهو الذي كرم المرأة عن الجاهلية

ونكتشف كباراً
أن هناك ديناً
خارج حدود السعودية

وأن المرأة عندنا تعيش حياةً
لاترضى بها حتى نساء الجاهلية

شرف منال الشريف!


منذ أن خرجت الشابة الجريئة منال الشريف و أظهرت للعالم مطالبتها بحق واحد فقط من حقوق المرأة السعودية الكثيرة المهضومة حتى قامت الدنيا و لم تقعد…

و رغم اختلافي مع الأسلوب الذي انتهجته منال في المطالبة بحق بديهي و رغم الشكوك التي في رأسي حول “تسييس و توجيه” قضية منال لمسار ما بعد اعتقالها و رغم إيماني بأن قضية القيادة ليست أكبر قضايا المرأة السعودية و لا أهمها إلا أنني أشعر بالأسى الشديد على ما وصل إليه حال المعادين لمنال بشراسة و حقد!

عندما تطالب امرأة بحق ما قد لا يتفق مع مبادئك أو أخلاقك العالية أيها المعصوم عن الخطأ، فمن حقك أن تعبر عن رفضك أو معارضتك لما تطالب به….قيادة السيارة أمر اختياري في كل بلدان العالم…و رغم السماح بالقيادة للنساء في كل دول العالم الأخرى إلا أن هناك نسبة كبيرة من النساء لا يحبذن القيادة لأسبابهن الخاصة…

و بالتالي….أقول لكل غيور و لكل إنسان شريف عفيف: لا تخف، فلن يجبر أحد “حريمك” على القيادة!

لكن…أن تتهم منال في شرفها  و أخلاقها، فأنت هنا قد تجاوزت كل حد قانوني و إنساني و شرعي!

و بالطبع ازدادت الحملة على شراسة على منال بعد أن تم تكريمها من قبل مجلة فورن بوليسي الأمريكية كواحدة من الشخصيات المؤثرة لعام 2011م ….و الغريب المضحك أنه  عندما أختارت أوبرا نانسي عجرم كإحدى أكثر الشخصيات تأثيرا في العالم العربي في السنة الماضية، لم يعترض أحد إلا القلة القليلة! و أكاد أشم رائحة حملة جديدة عنوانها: “تعذيب منال الشريف”…و تهدف تلك الحملة إلى الإتيان بمنال و حرمانها حتى من مشاهدة سيارة عادية تسير في الشارع_لا سمح الله_ فلربما أثارت تلك السيارة البريئة في نفس منال و غيرها “الرغبة” في أن يقدن مرة أخرى!

عزيزي الغيور العفيف يا من ترفض قيادة السيارة حرصا منك على نساء هذا البلد الطاهر، إن ما تقوم به نحو منال الشريف يعد شرعا قذفا في عرض امرأة مسلمة! و القذف كما تعلم_ أيها الحريص على دينك_ ينتهك حدا من حدود الله المذكورة في القرآن و عليه يمكن لمنال في أي لحظة أن ترفع قضية قذف على كل من تكلم فيها بسوء!

 

إن الاختلاف في الرأي لا يبيح استباحة الأعراض و قذفها أيها الحريص على دينك_هداك الله!

محزن و مربِك أمر مجتمعنا…نحرم على امرأة قيادة مركبة خوفا على شرفها و في نفس الوقت لا نتوانى عن اتهام امرأة أخرى في شرفها و قذفها علنا!

إن كل مسؤول عن استمرار مهزلة عدم الفصل في النزاع الشعبي القائم في بلادنا يتحمل إثم من قذف الشريفات الحرائر اللواتي لم يقمن بأمر مشين في الخفاء و لا طالبن إلا بحق التنقل في بلد تخلى فيه الرجال عن أدوارهم الأساسية و تخلت فيه “الشوارع” عن توفير وسائل مواصلات آمنة لنسائه اللواتي يعملن ليعِلن أسَرَهِن!

أتمنى حقا أن يكون وطني على قدر مسؤولية حماية شرفي و شرف غيري من النساء من التعرض للإساءة و القذف وفقا للتعاليم الإسلامية التي يحرص على اتباعها هذا الوطن!

منذ أن خرجت الشابة الجريئة منال الشريف و أظهرت للعالم مطالبتها بحق واحد فقط من حقوق المرأة السعودية الكثيرة المهضومة حتى قامت الدنيا و لم تقعد…

و رغم اختلافي مع الأسلوب الذي انتهجته منال في المطالبة بحق بديهي و رغم الشكوك التي في رأسي حول “تسييس و توجيه” قضية منال لمسار ما بعد اعتقالها و رغم إيماني بأن قضية القيادة ليست أكبر قضايا المرأة السعودية و لا أهمها إلا أنني أشعر بالأسى الشديد على ما وصل إليه حال المعادين لمنال بشراسة و حقد!

عندما تطالب امرأة بحق ما قد لا يتفق مع مبادئك أو أخلاقك العالية أيها المعصوم عن الخطأ، فمن حقك أن تعبر عن رفضك أو معارضتك لما تطالب به….قيادة السيارة أمر اختياري في كل بلدان العالم…و رغم السماح بالقيادة للنساء في كل دول العالم الأخرى إلا أن هناك نسبة كبيرة من النساء لا يحبذن القيادة لأسبابهن الخاصة…

و بالتالي….أقول لكل غيور و لكل إنسان شريف عفيف: لا تخف،…

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Glamour: The Story That’s Inspired The World


In Saudi Arabia, women are banned from driving. Yes, in 2013. Yes, because they’re women. Angry? YES. In defiance, equality campaigner Manal al-Sharif posted a YouTube video of her behind the wheel. Despite death threats, she won’t be deterred. Here is one of the most inspirational women you’ll ever meet.

“The moment I first thought, ‘Oh God, what have I got myself into?’ was on my second day in jail, in May 2011 – my ‘crime’ was driving my car and encouraging other women to do the same by posting a clip of it on YouTube. I’d been allowed to call my family, who told me my five-year-old son – Abdullah, or Aboody for short – had been hospitalised. I was in a filthy, overcrowded cell. I was terrified, but I was also very, very angry.

Three days earlier I’d posted the ‘Saudi Girl Driving’ video online – 800,000 people saw it in just 24 hours. If you ask anyone across the world about Saudi Arabia, the one thing they usually know is that women are not allowed to drive. My protest – as part of my activism for equal-rights campaign group Right2Dignity – came about after I visited the doctor’s one night and couldn’t get a lift home. It was 9pm, and as I walked to find a taxi, I was shouted at by men driving past. One followed me for 15 minutes and only drove off after I threw a rock. I cried in anger, thinking, ‘This cannot be happening; I am 32, I have an international driving licence, a US licence, and a car I can’t drive.’

The next day, a colleague told me there’s no actual law banning women driving, it’s just a societal norm. I couldn’t believe it, so, a few days later, I went out and drove my car in protest, while my friend, Wajiha, filmed it.

It was one of those crazy moments where you just do something without thinking about the consequences. We drove for an hour and it was so much fun. It was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m driving and no one is stopping me!’ I wanted to see people’s reactions to witnessing a woman driving. I wanted to provoke men. I’d stop at traffic lights and make eye contact with them. I drove to a busy supermarket car park and got out. People were staring at me in disbelief.

Back home, I uploaded the clip to YouTube. My campaign group uses social media to effect change – I realised technology could help the cause, as Saudis are huge YouTube viewers and Tweeters. My experience ignited the idea for Right2Drive – we called for Saudi women with international driving licences to go out and drive on June 17, a month later.

Testing the waters, a few days later I got back into the driver’s seat, this time with my brother, to see if the authorities would act if poked again. They did. We were stopped and held at the police station for six hours, and I was made to sign a pledge to say I wouldn’t do it again – not because it was against the law, but because it was against social convention and I’d incited others.

We finally got home at midnight. Aboody was asleep upstairs and the house was full of my activist friends, eating pizza, working on laptops and watching TV. They were so excited – I was all over the news. We saw it as a huge victory; we’d established that no official law existed to stop women driving. However, at 2am, nine people knocked on the door to take us away again. I was frightened, but a work official called and assured me it was nothing to worry about and I should go. I didn’t even look into Aboody’s room before I left – I didn’t want to wake him and I was sure I’d see him in a few hours. It turns out they lied to me and I was thrown into jail, without trial.

I was released after nine days, but I had no idea getting into my car that day would offend so many people. People threatened to rape and kill me. They called my office screaming that I’d opened the doors of hell. My picture was on the front page of the newspapers. I was the most attacked woman in Saudi Arabia.

It’s caused me a lot of pain and I have had moments of feeling defeated. I was put under so much pressure at work – they didn’t like my campaigning – that in April 2012 I resigned. That meant I lost my home, too, as it was rented through the company. It would be impossible for me to get another job in Saudi Arabia, so I moved to Dubai with my new husband, Rafael, and set up my own information-security business.

I couldn’t get Aboody out of the country – my ex-husband would not give me my son, and the law in Saudi Arabia is always on the side of men. Aboody lives with his grandmother, a one-hour flight from me, and I go and see him every weekend. It’s very sad and I could just sit and cry and regret what’s happened to me, but I want to write a happy ending to this story for my son.

There are so many injustices that Right2Dignity is trying to change. Driving is just part of it. A woman who was caught driving recently said she was inspired by me, and I thought, ‘Yes!’ We Saudi women need to be courageous and speak up – first, with these small things, and then take action with the bigger things: it’s the ripple effect. We’re now calling for a law to criminalise domestic violence.

Years ago in Britain, women fought hard to live the way you do today, and that’s what we want in Saudi Arabia. Never take your freedoms for granted. I can’t change my reality right now, but I can affect what happens for women who come after me.”

More about Manal’s incredible story is in the June issue of GLAMOUR, out now.

 http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/news/features/2013/05/manal-al-sharif-saudi-arabia-story

Manal al-Sharif: The Woman Who Dared to Drive


Manal al-Sharif got behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia. Then she met the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

By SOHRAB AHMARI

March 22, 2013, 6:47 p.m. ET

New York

‘You know when you have a bird, and it’s been in a cage all its life? When you open the cage door, it doesn’t want to leave. It was that moment.”

This is how Manal al-Sharif felt the first time she sat behind the wheel of a car in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom’s taboo against women driving is only rarely broken. To hear her recount the experience is as thrilling as it must have been to sit in the passenger seat beside her. Well, almost.

Ms. Sharif says her moment of hesitation didn’t last long. She pressed the gas pedal and in an instant her Cadillac SUV rolled forward. She spent the next hour circling the streets of Khobar, in the kingdom’s eastern province, while a friend used an iPhone camera to record the journey.

It was May 2011, when much of the Middle East was convulsed with popular uprisings. Saudi women’s-rights activists were stirring, too. They wondered if the Arab Spring would mark the end of the kingdom’s ban on women driving. “Everyone around me was complaining about the ban but no one was doing anything,” Ms. Sharif says. “The Arab Spring was happening all around us, so that inspired me to say, ‘Let’s call for an action instead of complaining.’ “

The campaign started with a Facebook FB -2.27% page urging Saudi women to drive on a designated day, June 17, 2011. At first the page created great enthusiasm among activists. But then critics began injecting fear on and off the page. “The opponents were saying that ‘there are wolves in the street, and they will rape you if you drive,’ ” Ms. Sharif recalls. “There needed to be one person who could break that wall, to make the others understand that ‘it’s OK, you can drive in the street. No one will rape you.’ “

 

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Terry Shoffner

Ms. Sharif resolved to be that person, and the video she posted of herself driving around Khobar on May 17 became an instant YouTube hit. The news spread across Saudi media, too, and not all of the reactions were positive. Ms. Sharif received threatening phone calls and emails. “You have just opened the gates of hell on yourself,” said an Islamist cleric. “Your grave is waiting,” read one email.

Aramco, the national oil company where she was working as a computer-security consultant at the time, wasn’t pleased, either. Ms. Sharif recalls that her manager scolded her: “What the hell are you doing?” In response, Ms. Sharif requested two weeks off. Before leaving on vacation, however, she wrote a message to her boss on an office blackboard: “2011. Mark this year. It will change every single rule that you know. You cannot lecture me about what I’m doing.”

It was a stunning act of defiance in a country that takes very seriously the Quran’s teaching: “Men are in charge of women.” But less than a week after her first outing, Ms. Sharif got behind the wheel again, this time accompanied by her brother and his wife and child. “Where are the traffic police?” she recalls asking her brother as she put pedal to the metal once more. A rumor had been circulating that, since the driving ban isn’t codified in law, the police wouldn’t confront female drivers. “I wanted to test this,” she says.

The rumor was wrong. As she recounts, a traffic officer stopped the car, and soon members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Saudi morality police, surrounded the car. “Girl!” screamed one. “Get out! We don’t allow women to drive!” Ms. Sharif and her brother were arrested and detained for six hours, during which time she stood her ground.

“Sir, what law did I break?” she recalls repeatedly asking her interrogators. “You didn’t break any law,” they’d say. “You violated orf“—custom.

The siblings were released but Ms. Sharif was rearrested a day later. She was detained for over a week and released only after her father personally pleaded with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah for a pardon and pledged to forbid his daughter ever to drive again in the kingdom. Even now, recounting the story at New York’s JFK Airport while she waits to board a flight to Dubai, Ms. Sharif’s voice trembles with anger: “I was just driving a car!”

Manal al-Sharif was born in the holy city of Mecca to a family of “conservative” but “regular Muslims,” as she puts it. “Dad would listen to music,” she says. “He would wait for new albums by Umm Kulthum,” a widely popular Egyptian pop singer. “My aunt used to wear golden bracelets, and she used to show her hair under her pinkhijab.”

The family’s moderate attitudes were remnants of a way of life that came under severe attack in 1979, the year Ms. Sharif was born. It was a turbulent moment in the region. In Iran, Shiite radicals deposed a socially permissive autocracy and began building a repressive Islamic theocracy. In November 1979 in Saudi Arabia, a band of Sunni jihadis took control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing hundreds of worshipers and security forces. It took two weeks and the help of French commandos to break the siege.

The incident, infidel rescuers included, was a huge embarrassment for the reigning al-Saud dynasty, whose monarchs style themselves as “Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques.” To prevent future jihadi attacks, “the government did everything it could to please the fundamentalists,” Ms. Sharif says. “It gave them control over education and women. So women were removed from all public life in Saudi Arabia, and there is now complete separation between the genders.”

The kingdom had always been deeply religious. Yet it was only after the 1979 siege that the al-Saud began promoting radical Islam at home and abroad as a way of staving off challenges to their own legitimacy. Thus was born what former Wall Street Journal publisher and author Karen Elliott House identifies in her book “On Saudi Arabia” as “Islam Inc.”—the symbiosis of clerical obscurantism and oil riches that keeps the al-Saud in power.

One result is a society where women make up just 12% of the workforce and own 5% of businesses, a country where 15 young girls were doomed to perish in a 2002 schoolhouse fire after the morality police prevented their rescue because the students were improperly dressed.

Ms. Sharif is in many ways a product of this system, including the public schools she attended in the 1980s and ’90s. “They brainwashed kids,” she recalls. “They told us, ‘This is Islam, and it is our time to rule the world again.’ So you were brought up in an atmosphere that made you go for extremism, for hatred of the other, and to fear people who are conspiring against Muslims—against us.”

As she grew older, Ms. Sharif started questioning the authorities who would “use the word of God to control people who are like my family.” She came to see the painful impact of Islamist ideology on women. Her aunt, for example, once fond of colorful clothes and jewelry, was cowed. She would “listen to these fundamentalist lectures and cry, saying ‘it’s haram to show your face.’ She cried and changed everything about herself.”

Then there was the driving ban. Ms. Sharif came to despise the fact that “we’re proudly known as the country where women can’t drive.” In 1990, an earlier generation of women tried, and failed, to challenge the ban. During the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, about 40 Saudi women organized a “drive-in” protest. They argued that amid a national emergency, when their male guardians might not be available, Saudi women must be permitted to drive.

Predictably, the 1990 drive-ins enraged the religious establishment. “When I was a kid they sent brochures all around the country, with the names of the women and their house numbers, encouraging people to call them and tell them to come back to Islam,” Ms. Sharif says. “They said these women had sex with American troops. They said they took off their hijabs and burned them.”

Why persist today in the face of still-vicious opposition? Because the campaign to overturn the ban is about more than driving. “Women’s rights are nothing but a part of the bigger picture, which is human rights,” Ms. Sharif says. “Women are trusted with the lives of their kids, even serve as teachers and doctors, but they aren’t trusted with their own lives.”

Ms. Sharif has paid a price for living her own life. After she gave a speech about her activism at the 2012 Oslo Freedom Forum, where she was awarded the inaugural Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent, she and her family came under renewed pressure from Islamists. Things got worse when video of the speech went viral on YouTube.

“They said no one will embrace Islam after watching this speech, because what I showed is a violent religion. But what I showed was my personal story,” she says, adding that it is “an insult to Islam, to any religion,” to suggest that it can be undermined by a personal story.

Ms. Sharif was pushed out of her job in May 2012 and has since relocated to Dubai, where she lives with her Brazilian husband, Rafael. The couple met in 2010 when they were both working for Aramco. She needed permission from Saudi Arabia’s interior minister to marry a non-Saudi, says Ms. Sharif, who has a 7-year-old son from a previous marriage. “It’s your personal life, and they get their noses into it even at that level.”

The minister rejected Ms. Sharif’s request to marry a foreigner, and her ex-husband bars her son from traveling outside the kingdom with her, so she can see him only by visiting from Dubai every weekend. “It’s the worst thing flying back to Saudi Arabia. I’m on the surveillance list, so every time I go, they stop me and they take more information. They monitor my travel.”

The al-Saud rulers, she says, are cracking down on dissidents out of fear that the Arab Spring’s reverberations might spread to the kingdom. In early March, two founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association received long jail sentences for, among other things, starting an unlicensed human-rights organization. The arrests, she says are meant “to shush the others, because they talk about the same things we talk about: constitutional monarchy, political parties, having political rights. So they take these people and make an example out of them.”

The sentences were handed down less than a week after new Secretary of State John Kerry visited the kingdom. His visit was a disappointment for Ms. Sharif and others who share her outlook. “He just praised Saudi Arabia for appointing 30 women to the unelected Shura council,” she says of Mr. Kerry. “It’s a fake body anyway, a powerless body. You can’t praise something that’s not tangible, that’s merely a cosmetic change.” If American officials aren’t willing to criticize the Saudis on their rights record, she says, “at least they shouldn’t praise them.”

As our interview ends, one question remains: Has Ms. Sharif gotten behind the wheel of a car in the kingdom since the heady days of her campaign? “Yes, I drove again,” she says. “I’m a normal woman, a normal person, and I just want to drive.”

This bird won’t be returning to its cage anytime soon.

Mr. Ahmari is an assistant books editor at the Journal.

A version of this article appeared March 23, 2013, on page A11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Woman Who Dared to Drive.

Manal Al-Sharif: a driving force for change


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Manal Al-Sharif: a driving force for change

Manal Al-Sharif is a 33-year-old Saudi activist who inspired a campaign for women’s rights when she defied the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia and was imprisoned for nine days for driving her car.  A YouTube video featuring Al-Sharif driving brought her international exposure where she was selected as one of 2012’s Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and awarded the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Al-Sharif was a participant in a panel discussion on social movements and women at the United Nations Social Forum of the Human Rights Council, which was held recently in Geneva. She discussed the impact of social media on Saudi citizens’ everyday life and how it has become a powerful tool in the women’s emancipation movement.

“Social media has had a pivotal role in my work for women’s rights,” she says. “Without YouTube, Twitter and Facebook we would not have made it this far. In Saudi Arabia, there are no pulpits. There are no places to air your views. So, it’s amazing to have these tools.”

Al-Sharif explains how an increasingly large part of the Saudi population is thirsty for news and eager to express their opinions on social media. According to the Dubai School of Government Arab Social Media Report, Saudis are the largest active users of Twitter in the Arab world with 393,000 active Twitter users.

News reaches Saudi Twitter followers before it reaches the national press, says Al-Sharif, so it has become a vital tool to spark a movement.  “So we said, let’s use it. Not only to voice our opinions, but to create change, to start campaigns, and to send out petitions. The local press would never publish our demands,” she says. “I was sent to jail because I used social media. You need to look at the reaction to see how powerful the impact is.”

In 2011, Al-Sharif’s started a women’s right to drive campaign called Women2Drive in an effort to pressure the government into granting women the right to drive. She and her collaborators soon realized how powerful their voices and messages were as the international media picked up their story.

Al-Sharif would like to see Saudi women realizing freedoms in all aspects of daily life. “A Saudi woman can’t make any decision in her life—study, work, marry, obtain a passport, and travel—without written permission from her legal male guardian, effectively treating her as a minor all her life,” she says. “For the religious establishment, this is like their last castle, so if they lose this castle, they lose their grip on women, on controlling women. For us, the status quo of women in Saudi Arabia—being controlled, being minors, being second-class citizens—is the key to change,” she claims.

“The most important thing for us is that women are aware of their rights and that women themselves take action,” says Al-Sharif. She compares the individual Saudi women who bravely take action against a society where women have no voice, to small drops of water who in the end form a huge sea. “Never underestimate the powerful act of the individual,” she says. “When you combine all these individual acts together, it creates massive power, unstoppable and unbreakable power.”

She is at a point of no return, she says, and the momentum cannot be wasted. “My hope is that we achieve full citizenship in Saudi Arabia—equality in education and job opportunities,” she says. “We should have a voice in political life and a voice in decision-making.”

11 January 2013

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/ManalAl-Sharifadrivingforceforchange.aspx

منال الشريف «شيعية»!


راعني يومها أن أرى طفلي الوحيد «عبدالله» وآثار الضرب على وجهه، وهو عائد من مدرسته الابتدائية. فهمت منه أن الأطفال الأكبر منه ضربوه بعد أن عرفوا أنه «ابن منال الشريف اللي ساقت سيارة». كان عمره خمسة أعوام، خرجت كلماته متعثرة تشرح ما حدث: «قال الولد أنا شفت أمك في «فيسبوك»، أنت وأمك لازم تكونون في السجن». ما زلت أذكر كيف أنني لأول مرة لم أعرف كيف أهدئ من روع طفلي، لأن روعي كان أكبر.. كيف لطفل في الخامسة أن يفهم كلمة مثل «سجن»، وكيف أشرح له شيئاً أكبر من أعوامه الخمسة، وكيف لأطفال بعمر الزهور أن يحملوا وزر الكراهية التي ابتلي بها الكبار. نزلت على ركبتيّ وأنا أنظر لعينيه المتسائلتين، وأخذته بين ذراعي، ولفنا الصمت طويلاً.
حين وضعته في سريره تلك الليلة، لم أنم بين دموعي، تلك الحادثة جعلتني مصممة أكثر من أي وقت مضى أن أكمل ما بدأته، وأن أجمع قصاصات الصحف والمقالات التي تتحدث عن أمه خيراً أو شراً، أن أجمع كل ما حدث معي ويحدث في كتاب أعكف على كتابته الآن، ليكون توثيقاً لهذه الفترة، وليكون كتابه هو، وكتاباً لأطفال سيغدون رجالاً ونساءً بعد سنوات. أتمنى وقتها أن يغدوا رجالاً حقيقيين يُظهرون عرفانهم بالجميل لمن أنجبتهم، في زوجاتهم وبناتهم، ونساء عرفن حقوقهن كما حفظن واجباتهن، لا يرضين بالمهانة أو انتقاص حقوقهن بأي اسم.
في الثالث من أيار (مايو) هذا العام، يمر عامان منذ بدأت حملة «حق المرأة في القيادة» مع بهية المنصور (طالبة الشريعة الإسلامية، وابنة أخ المخرجة السعودية هيفاء المنصور، والرسامة هند المنصور). وعلى رغم مماطلة رئيس ديوان المظالم في قبول القضية التي رفعتها ضد الإدارة العامة للمرور في ١٥ تشرين الثاني (نوفمبر) ٢٠١١ للاعتراض على قرار عدم منحي رخصة قيادة، بدعوى صدور أمر سام يمنع النظر في قضايا قيادة المرأة، ومن دون إطلاعي على رقم هذا الأمر أو نصه، وعلى رغم الهجمة المؤلمة من محاربي تمكين المرأة واستقلاليتها، والتي تنهش في عرضي وعرض كل سعودية طالبت بحق لها، وعلى رغم سيل الإشاعات المستمرة التي بدأت من منال الشريف، من أنه مغرر بها وأنها عميلة لإيران، ثم مجندة في منظمة «كانفاس» الصربية، ثم مدعومة من إسرائيل، حتى الإشاعات التي تتناول سمعتي وعقيدتي، من صنف أن منال الشريف «شيعية» مولودة في «سويرقية» مهد الذهب، وأنا ولدت في مكة المكرمة لعائلة تتبع المذهب الشافعي من مئات السنين، (مع إحترامي وتقديري لإخوتنا الشيعة الذين يشاركوننا الوطن الغالي) ومثل «منال الشريف تصف رجال الهيئة بالكفار» في «تغريدة» كذبوها علي، ثم منال الشريف مطلوبة في بيت الطاعة، وحتى «الفيديو» الذي انتشر كالنار في الهشيم لأحدهم، وفيه يتهمني أنني غررت بابنته وأخذتها لحسينية! وانتهاء بأخبار موتي في حادثة سيارة، تناقلته الصحف العالمية!
على رغم كل ذلك، ما زادتني الأخبار السيئة إلا محفزاً لصنع أخبار سعيدة أحكيها لأحفادي، إن كان في العمر بقية.
غدت مبادرة قيادة المرأة السيارة مبادرة أكبر وأعمّ تحت اسم «حقي كرامتي»، تناضل من أجل مواطنة كاملة للمرأة السعودية، وتناضل من أجل أن تعرف المرأة أنها كاملة الأهلية لا تحتاج إلى وصاية من ذكر، على رغم القوانين التي مازالت تسلبها هذا الحق الطبيعي، تناضل أن يعرف الجيل اللاحق أن الجيل السابق لم يستسلم للدموع والانهزامية و«ماذا؟ ولو..».
تسألني النساء في عائلتي: «هلاّ توقفتِ من أجل طفلك عبدالله»؟ وأجيبهن: «لن أتوقف حتى أكتب نهاية سعيدة للكتاب الذي سأهديه لعبدالله ولحفيداتكن».

نشرته صحيفة الحياة

الأربعاء ٢ يناير ٢٠١٣