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تدوينتي: مذكرات منقبة سابقة في ذا ديلي بيست


http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/30/saudi-activist-manal-al-sharif-on-why-she-removed-the-veil.html

Saudi Activist Manal Al-Sharif on Why She Removed the Veil

One of Saudi Arabia’s preeminent activists, who led the right-to-drive movement, describes her decision to take off the niqab.
No piece of cloth throughout history has sparked more controversy as the veil. Many Muslim women are forced to wear it daily. The hijab has a spectrum, of course, from its most radical embodiments, the niqab, which covers the entire face, to loose fitting headscarves.

Saudi Arabia comes come second only to Iran in using the power of the stick (the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice or the religious police) to impose a particular form and color of hejab on all our women. And when I say all our women, I mean all: Saudi and non-Saudi, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

The sheer size of the country means that each and every region of Saudi Arabia contains a great diversity of cultures, dialects and religious sects. Until the seventies, women here were free to wear almost whatever they wanted. Bedouin women wore bright clothes and burqas, the parting of their hair and their kohl-lined eyes left exposed. The women of the city donned their abayas, the fabric drawn in around their waists. The Arab women wore their colored hejabs, and the non-Muslim women dressed modestly and without a veil.

The women in my father’s village, Tarfa, to the north-west of Mecca, wore bright clothes with pink and white scarves wrapped around their heads and necks. Like the Bedouins, they left their faces and the parting of their hair exposed.

This all changed when the state-supported wave of religious fanaticism struck our society. The black abaya and facial covering was imposed on all female government employees, and on schools and universities. And the black hejab was imposed on all non-Saudi women, regardless of their religion or creed. It was unthinkable to see a woman in my hometown, Mecca, who did not wear the niqab; revealing your face was a social taboo and was haram in the eyes of religion. Leaflets were widely distributed during that era saying that facial covering was what separated the Muslim woman from the infidel. The fanaticism spread even to children: even before I took off my niqab for good, a ten-year-old-girl next to me on a plane called me an “infidel” when I lifted my veil to eat a meal.

One leaflets distributed during the period of Islamic awakening read:

“My Muslim sister; today, you face a relentless and cunning war waged by the enemies of Islam with the purpose of reaching you and removing you from your impenetrable fortress. One of the things that these enemies of Islam are trying to discredit and eliminate is the hejab. Some of them even said that the situation in the East would not be righted until the hejab had been raised from the woman’s face and used to cover the Koran!”

This same ideology was exported out of Saudi Arabia by the power of the petrodollar. I remember the days of the Bosnian war (1992—1995), when Saudi Arabia sent convoys of aid to those besieged in Sarajevo. The people in charge of the convoys distributed the hejab to the besieged women along with the cartons of food.

It came to the point where the only acceptable interpretation of Islamic hejab in Saudi was for woman to shroud her face and body completely in black. Though, to anyone from outside our borders, one Saudi woman appeared utterly indistinguishable from the next, Saudis developed a unique ability to recognize the woman who languished in the blackness. My father knew me apart from the dozens of other girls outside the school or university walls; he never mixed me up with another girl. Similarly, we never failed to recognize our relatives or friends if we came across them in the mall or mosque.

We developed a great sensitivity to the characteristics and attributes of those around us: their voices, the way they arranged their niqab, their eyes, their gait, and even the type of abaya and handbag and shoe they wore. And young men developed a sense for the age of a girl and her physique, purely from the way she walked.

After that came the nineties, which brought with it satellite channels, and after that the turn of the millennium, which heralded the evolution of new forms of communication: the internet and smart phones. At last we had access to views that challenged the status quo—the single opinion that had so long been presented to us as the only correct choice. It was the only one, we were told, which follows the way of the Prophet and truly represents Islam. Our conservative society began to posit questions and raise doubts about things that had—by the power of religion and with the blessing of the state—been so long imposed on us as givens.

One of the first things to be questioned was the narrow Wahhabi interpretation of hejab, but for me personally, that didn’t make the matter any easier. When I decided to remove the niqab in 2002, I faced a bitter war with my family and society. My mother wore the niqab during the period of the Islamic awakening, and though she relinquished it on our travels outside Saudi, she opposed the fact that I had taken it off at home. The reason was social, not religious: “My daughter, no one will marry you if you show your face!”

If the people I passed on the streets of Mecca knew me to be a Saudi, I’d face harsh and disapproving looks. One day I was performing tawaf, and the observer—whose job was to regulate the movements of people around the Kaaba—berated me loudly about my lack of niqab every time I passed him. “Cover your face, woman!” he shouted. The third time, I used my finger to indicate the people around me: “All these women with uncovered faces; are they disobedient too? Or is it only me that’s sinning, because I am Saudi?” I completed the rest of my circuits without hearing another word.

Though I didn’t wear the niqab in the street or in my place of work, I had to borrow a friend’s niqab to enter the courtroom, since women were not allowed to enter government facilities—courts in particular—with their faces uncovered. I was forced to bring two male “identity verifiers” to assert who I was, despite the fact that I carried my ID card with me.

While the uncovering of women’s faces might have been the biggest change to happen to Saudi society, it wasn’t the only one women dared to make. A group of girls in Jeddah began to wear colored abayas; soon, robes in grey, navy blue and dark brown could be seen in the city’s abaya shops. When these same colors began to appear in Riyadh, the religious police launched a campaign of confiscating them from the shops. “If this was their reaction to brown and grey,” I wondered, “how would they react to the sight of pink or red?” I wanted to try it out.

I went to the shop I usually dealt with and asked if they could make me a colorful abaya, but the owner flatly refused: “If a colored abaya was seen in my shop, I would be questioned and harassed by the men of the religious police!” But my friends pointed me to one of the shops that was happy to custom-make colorful designs and deliver them to its customers out of sight of the religious police.

The other change was in the symbolism of the abaya—its significance was no longer of a religious and social nature only. Rather, it came to be treated wholly as a fashion item, with trends that came and went over time just as with any other item of clothing. We saw the emergence of fashion designers who specialized in creating abayas. They held fashion shows to promote their latest lines.

Depending on the fame of the designer, the quality of the fabric and the materials used in the embroidery, the prices could be as high as tens of thousands of riyals apiece. Different types of abaya emerged for different occasions: the abaya intended for work or for going to the mall was characterized by its practicality, and the abayas for special occasions were characterized by their embroidery and luxurious design. There were even abayas for winter and summer.

In spite of all these changes, the force of the state continued to impose the black abaya in public. Advocates claimed that it helped to preserve virtue and to affirm the application of Sharia law. What they conveniently overlooked was that the imposition of a certain type of dress on one section of the population was a precedent that had never before been set in the whole of the country’s history. The form and color of clothes had long been left to the society to decide for themselves, and the authorities had cared little about how it looked as long as it was decent.

The imposition of the black abaya is unnatural: it represents nothing but an obstruction on normal life and on the natural evolution that occurs in people’s manner and form of dress, something that has occurred throughout history on the basis of people’s needs and changing circumstances.

Manal al Sharif was arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia and is one of the Kingdom’s most famous women’s rights activists

التدوينة بالعربي هنا:

https://manal-alsharif.com/2014/08/10/%D9%85%D8%B0%D9%83%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D9%86%D9%82%D8%A8%D8%A9-%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%82%D8%A9/

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Posted in Articles،English Content

Living Two Lives


Every time I leave the country, as I stand before the passport control officer in his usual military attire, I hold my breath on two accounts. My first fear is that a travel ban – an oft-received punishment by people like me, human rights advocates – will see me sent directly back home again.

My second is that my father, my assigned male guardian according to Saudi law, decides to revoke the travel permission he granted me. I can envision my father doing this either out of fear for my own safety or else as a response to the ongoing pressure he receives from people around him or from our al Sharif tribe. It’s strange the way that other countries punish activism with exile, yet in Saudi it’s the other way around: those who protest the system are doomed with internal exile! There is a well-known saying timidly mumbled by Saudis amongst themselves:

“The best place in Saudi is the airport through which I leave the country”.

The moment the passport control officer stamps my passport, an indescribable feeling rushes through my veins. The cage door is open; I’m a free bird once again. But how can one’s own country be a punishment in and of itself?

I could list tens of reasons, but personally I find that the agony of living in duplicity tops them all. The saying I quoted above reveals a lot about the forced duplicitous nature of the Saudi people’s existence: adhering to the the abnormally extreme societal and religious restraints imposed on them on the one hand, and living a normal life – or the life they want to live – on the other.

What follows is a list of just a few examples of duplicity in modern-day Saudi Arabia:

1- Although cinemas are banned in Saudi by law/fatwa, there are more than 170 cinemas in Saudi Arabia. All of them are located in residential compounds that Saudis cannot enter. Now add to that the huge Mega and Virgin stores that sell movies on DVDs, not to mention the fact that most prominent satellite Arab channels are owned and run by Saudi money.

2- Although alcohol is also banned in Saudi, it’s not difficult to find local alcohol dealers who will deliver whatever your heart desires to the privacy of your own home.

3- There are more than 10 million non-Saudis living in Saudi. Everyone knows that they come from different religions (Christianity, Hinduism, etc.) but when it comes to official numbers, Saudi authorities insist that the Saudi Arabia’s population is 100% Muslim.

4- Saudi law bans women from traveling without a Mahram (a male relative that woman cannot marry). But a woman can travel without a Mahram as long as if her “guardian in charge” gives his written permission! Similarly, when it comes to the issue of women driving, fatwas ban women from being alone with a non-mahram even if he is her cousin or brother-in-law. Yet, it is entirely expected that she will use a non-mahram driver.

As a Saudi woman, I am forced to live double the duplicity just to survive. When I got a job offer from Saudi Aramco back in 2002, my family had to guard the fact that their daughter worked in a mixed environment and that I lived alone 850 miles away from the “surveillance” of any male guardian.

Saudi Aramco was the first company in the Kingdom to have men and women work together in the same office space. According to the previous Saudi labor Law, a mixed work environment was prohibited. The new labor law that was passed in 2005 (3 years after I joined Aramco) annulled that particular regulation. It also annulled the rule that required women to have a male guardian’s permission in order to work; nevertheless, most employers in Saudi still require it. I remember the first thing a friend said to me when she found out that I worked in a mixed environment: “You will never get married”. The irony: I married a Saudi co-worker, whom I later divorced.

Hypocrisy is also very useful when dealing with impractical and sometimes absurd laws. Take the Ministry of Higher Education as an example. There are now over 27,500 female students participating in the King Abdullah international scholarship program. My elder sister, a doctor, was one of them, until they stopped her scholarship benefits two years ago. The reason? She was not accompanied by a male family member while studying abroad. Ministry of Higher Education official statistics show that half of applicants to the program are females, but the number who are actually eligible is reduced dramatically by their inability or unwillingness to comply with this bizarre requirement, which authorities argue is based on Islamic fatwa. Those who have basic knowledge of Sharia (Islamic law) know that only one of the four Sunna scholars considers a Mahram (companion) to be a mandatory requirement for a female traveling abroad. So a male companion while residing in another country is not required!

Female students come up with creative workarounds to be able to study abroad. Some marry (on paper) just for the sake of having a male companion, and when they travel abroad, each of the marital partners leads their own life until the program is finished. Other female students take the male companion for the first few weeks to finish the paperwork and show a face at the Cultural Attaché office.

When I was detained in 2011 and sent to jail for being a woman driving a car, I met Hana, a 26-year-old woman who was waiting for more than a year for her male guardian to bail her out. Even when a Saudi woman prisoner has served her sentence, she cannot be released until her appointed male guardian has bailed her out. I brought Hana’s issue to the jail warden’s attention. He told me he was aware of her problem, a common one when the girl’s family is ashamed by her and refuse to accept her back, and that he was in the process of finding her a husband to bail her out! I couldn’t believe my ears!

Officials say that they are applying Sharia laws, while clerics say that they are protecting customs and traditions. At the same time, society enshrines customs and traditions, while laws codify them. It is all becoming a big mishmash where you have no clue who is responsible and who is to blame for the enforced living of a double life or for Saudi’s attempts to build an Islamic Utopia on behalf of the whole Muslim world, even when a large number of us are just pretending rather than genuinely believing in it. I once read a funny comment on this polemic situation: “Saudi authorities solve the world’s problems with money, and Saudi problems with fatwas”.

Hypocrisy in the Saudi system extends from officials to its religious establishment, with a knock-on effect in its society.. The infamous Saudi cleric Al Arifi, who happens to be the most followed Arab on Twitter, is the perfect embodiment of the religious establishment’s dilemma: it must strike a balance between preserving its grip on the Saudi society, which it does through rigid interpretation and intolerance to difference, such as the Shia’a, whilst simultaneously gaining acceptance from an international community that does not welcome displays of intolerance. Al Arifi is known for tweeting opinions of hate against the Shia’a in the Middle East, and encouraging Saudi youth to go for jihad in Syria against the infidel Alawi. Surprisingly, however, all those views were overturned on his last visit to London. The headlines about his visit went something like this: “Al Arifi calls Sunna and Shia’a to unite and renounce differences”!!

Living a double life creates so much pressure on those forced to do so., You get a sense of this when reading Saudi tweets, the only podium where we can voice our views. The tweets usually revolve around three things:

1- Harsh criticism of one another and extreme curiosity about others’ personal lives. People show off the superiority of their own faith by questioning the conduct of others..

2- Harsh attacks against Shia’a and anyone who is different. If you are different, then you are our enemy, even if your opinion is the only thing that is different about you.

3- Harsh attacks on anyone who dares to question clerics or challenge a status quo.

Surprisingly, Saudis who live abroad seldom tweet about such issues! Or if they do, at least not in such harsh way. Maybe because they are relieved from the daily pressure we face within Saudi that causes everyone to get on your nerves as a result of the slightest interaction.

I have always wondered how to end the agony of living two lives, following two standards, being two-faced… It has to start with the people in power; here I mean the government and the religious establishment, and I am witnessing some progress. The government uses religion to control people, but when religion tries to control the government, things don’t go so smoothly. When the religious establishment tried to stop women from being part of the Shura Council in September 2011, for example, the government completely ignored their demands.

It was a big debate in Saudi, probably the second biggest after the debate on women driving. The same religious establishment that is known for resisting almost every new thing that arrives in Saudi ends up making heavy use of that thing almost every time. TV, radio, women’s education, satellite dishes, internet, camera phones and social media, to name a few. The excuse is always that they are using it for a good cause. But the truth is that people obey at the start and boycott, then with time, you find everyone using what was initially declared haram.

I see more and more Saudis, especially the young ones, stand up for what they believe in, even if it earns them a great deal of criticism and attacks. I see them challenge the once-unchallengeable, mostly when they come back from abroad and start realising the comparisons. For me it’s a baby step, but this is how babies learn to walk! One day, when my daughter makes decisions about her major in school, whether or not to wear hijab, the husband she wishes to marry, the movie she wants to watch in the cinema, I will know she will not feel what I feel every time I leave Saudi. Because she will be as true to herself there as she is anywhere else in the world!

Published April 18, 2014
http://www.islamistgate.com/596

Posted in Articles،English Content

When will Saudi women drive?


Every time I meet someone from outside Saudi Arabia, the conversation always ends in the same question: “How long do you think it will be before women in Saudi are allowed to drive?”

I wish I had a simple answer for this issue, which should, by basic human rights, be much less complex than it is. But before I address this, I will answer another common question: “Why don’t – or rather can’t – women drive in Saudi Arabia?”

In fact, the Saudi government has never issued a royal decree stipulating the ban, nor even imposed a system. (In Saudi Arabia, there are systems rather than laws: from a religious point of view, laws are considered to be in violation of Shari’ah, because they come from a human perspective).

The ban is merely based on the Ministry of Interior, which was issued in 1990 in response to the first women’s movement demanding the right to drive. The decree, which forbids women to drive on Saudi Arabian territory, did not specify a punishment.

It was reasserted by the Ministry on October 25, 2013, one day before the date on which Saudi women had chosen to launch a third driving campaign which is still held on a monthly basis.

As represented in statements given by the new Interior Minister Mohamed bin Naif and his father who was the former Interior Minister, Naif bin Abdulaziz, both insist that the Interior Ministry is an executive and not a legislative body, that it is not responsible for the ban.

If we examine the Basic System of Governance, which corresponds to something like a constitution in the rest of the world, Article 8 states “governance in Saudi Arabia is to be conducted on the basis of justice, equality and consultation in accordance with Shari’ah”. And if we look at the Saudi system relating to traffic, we do not find any provision or stipulation preventing women from obtaining a driving licence.

These are the only two sources we have to consider in connection with this issue. The statement released by the Ministry of Interior in 1990 is rendered null and void by the fact that it was not based on the governing system.

But on the occasions that I and many others have tried to obtain a driver’s licence from the traffic department, we have been surprised, upon entering our identification numbers into the relevant system, to find an error message appearing on the screen: “The ID number entered belongs to a woman, it is not possible for a woman to obtain a driving licence”.

When I raised the issue with the administrative court in November 2011, wishing to make a case against the General Directorate of Traffic, and pointing out the lack of legal ban preventing a licence being issued to me, my case was referred to a special committee at the Ministry of Interior. In other words, to the very party I wished to prosecute.

When you hear the words “special committee” in Saudi Arabia, you know your case has been relegated to oblivion. And this has remained my fate until today.

We can conclude from all this that the Interior Minister is the executive body as well as being the issuer of the ban and the body that upholds it, which contradicts the statements made by both the Saudi Interior Ministers.

Now, a review of some of the reasons people give for the ban. Firstly, financial: influential families control the visa market for drivers. If they allowed women to drive, these families would lose huge financial returns from a market in which official figures indicate the existence of around a million drivers and which unofficial numbers suggest could contain as many as two million.

And secondly, a fatwa issued by Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Baz, issued concurrently with the Ministry of Interior’s 1990 decree and forbidding driving based on the Islamic principle of prohibiting that which might eventually lead to sin.

The justifications cited by the prohibition fatwa are nothing more than suppositions about what will happen to society if women are allowed to drive.

This has led to a situation in which denying women the right to drive, something which has no basis in the Muslim law, has taken precedence over prohibiting women to be alone with a non-Mahram male (which is prohibited in Shari’ah), as the woman inevitably must be chauffeured around.

In my opinion, the real reason is much simpler than all this. If a woman had asserted their right to drive since the day cars arrived in Saudi Arabia, it would by now be a routine matter and we would be dealing with none of the current clamour and uproar.

This is the reason that Bedouin women and women from the countryside drive comfortably outside of the city without being subject to hindrance or criticism. The banning of women from driving in the city is a result of the system of state that has been systemically imposed upon it; women in Saudi Arabia are considered minors under the law until the day that they die.

We will return now to the question that, in recent times, has become an ever more frequent topic of discussion: when will women in Saudi Arabia be able to drive? Many assume that the issue of allowing women to drive will be resolved with a royal decree, as happened with the appointment of 30 women in the Shura council in September 2011.

This decision, which was followed closely by many parties interested in the Saudi state of affairs, represented an attempt to improve the image of Saudi Arabia after a scandal involving an imprisoned woman driver garnered widespread attention.

But those who know anything about the distribution of power in Saudi Arabia know that there are several different competing parties within the royal family, each with its own ideologies and interests.

They also recognise that King Abdullah does not have the powers required to issue such a decree, and that the subject of women driving is entirely in the hands of the Interior Minister Mohammed bin Naif; the King has no authority when it comes to this department.

Will a positive decision be issued by the Ministry of Interior? That seems improbable. More than 24 years after the first attempt to abolish the women’s driving ban, there seems not to have been a single breakthrough; there are no driving schools for women, nor any female traffic police.

Saudi police are still intent on stopping any woman who dares to drive, booking her car and summoning her guardian-in-charge to sign a pledge not to allow her to do so.

The authorities, in effect, show no leniency towards women drivers, as we who were demanding the right to drive hoped they might have done. The authorities also worry that responding to demands to allow women to drive will damage the prestige of the state and open the door to other popular demands for social and perhaps political change.

When will women be able to drive? We must recognise that the Bedouin woman never ceased –since the horse and donkey were replaced with the car, or the side-dagger with a rifle – to use new inventions to ease her life and affairs. Whether in the farmlands or the desert of Saudi Arabia, not one of her fellow men dared to doubt her chastity, her morals or her religious belief.

Meanwhile, the woman of the city has willingly parted with her rights and allowed everyone to compromise them, or else to use them for political gain or as a red herring to distract people from more salient issues.

In my opinion, freedom is a personal decision, not a political one. When the Saudi woman realises this fact, she will get in her car and drive it as many times as it takes for it to become a common sight, forcing the authorities to regulate the phenomenon rather than prosecute it.

And when she learns that rights are seized rather than granted, she will recognise how to eliminate the male dominion that has been imposed on her and cast her as a minor her whole life.

http://www.islamistgate.com/566

Posted in Articles،English Content،News،منال الشريف

Manal Al Sherif


I ran into this by accident.. My eyes filled with tears.. And women are still minors in my country.. and women are still not able to drive..

Saudiwoman's Weblog

A couple of weeks back an event page was created on Facebook calling on women to drive their cars on June 17th. The page was started by a group of individuals, one of whom was Manal Al Sharif. As news of the page got around, it caused a lot of controversy and more Facebook pages. The pages that were created are reflective of the different types of reaction such a call has caused in Saudis. One of the pages is a campaign for Saudi to whip women who drive on June 17th and another is simply an anti women driving campaign page. The former has over 1900 supporters and the latter has 2800 supporters. On top of that we have a sheikh Dr. Al Habdan who has made it his personal mission to make sure no woman drives in Saudi. He has called on the PVPV to…

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NEWSWEEK: Riding Shotgun With The Woman Driving Change in Saudi Arabia


Riding Shotgun With The Woman Driving Change in Saudi Arabia

By  / November 07 2013 10:03 AM

 

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that there are three types of people in this world: “those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” Manal al-Sharif, a 34-year-old computer scientist, is in the process of moving something momentous – the Saudi Arabian cultural taboo of allowing the women to get behind a wheel.

But her activism is in the face of a repressed kingdom. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy and the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Sunni and tribal tradition define the rights of its 20 million women. “People are completely isolated in decision making,” she says.

And yet, al-Sharif’s protest movement is having more effect than just the future of women drivers. In the same way the frustrations and actions of Mohammed Bouazizi – the Tunisian fruit seller who launched the Jasmine Revolution that paved the way for the rest of the Arab Spring – some see al-Sharif as the catalyst for a much larger change.

“I call it the ‘Women’s Spring’ in Saudi,” she says. The al-Saud rulers, she says, are cracking down on dissidents out of fear that the waves from the Arab Spring will spread to the kingdom. But she remains undeterred.

And she is quickly becoming the face of change. Foreign Policy named her one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2011, and her words and actions are spreading throughout the region.

“Manal is no doubt one of world’s best examples of people who can move others – even if laws, customs, habits, and powerful governments are opposing her noble attempt,” says Srdja Popovic from CANVAS, a Belgrade-based think tank that trains peaceful revolutionaries around the world.

Popovic – who 13 years ago helped overthrow the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic – knows political defiance. His other pupils included the Egyptian April 6 movement, as well as Syrian and Iranian activists. He calls al-Sharif, “one of my heroes.”

Women are not technically banned by Saudi law from driving; they are only prevented from obtaining Saudi driver’s licenses or using foreign licenses. Because of the ban, Saudi women are largely forced to rely on male relatives or chauffeurs for transportation. Women who try otherwise are usually stopped by police, who call their male guardian.

In 1990, a group of women protested the ban and were so severely punished – by travel bans, detention and slanderous sermons during Friday prayers – that no one tried to challenge the ban again for more than two decades. That is, until Manal al-Sharif decided to get behind a wheel.

Al-Sharif’s odyssey – from a young, divorced mother to prominent dissident, a word she had to look up in the dictionary – began in May 2011.

For four years she owned a car she was unable to drive, and she was fed up. She also realized there is no law in Saudi prohibiting women from driving – only constraints of culture and tradition.

A few days later, al-Sharif – in Jackie O sunglasses and a traditional black abaya – got behind the wheel of her Cadillac SUV. A friend in a flamboyant pink abaya filmed al-Sharif with her iPhone.

As she turned on her engine, al-Sharif remembers being “scared and excited.”

“I sat down and buckled up … Then I said, ‘Bismillah’ [in the name of God], and I drove,” she says. “My feeling was that you have a bird… this bird is in this cage his whole life… Then suddenly you open the door, and the bird hesitates: ‘Should I leave? Should I stay?’ ”

Al-Sharif pressed the gas pedal and flew “through the bars.”

The women drove through the streets of Khober, in the Eastern Province of the kingdom, for eight minutes. They filmed as they went. A few days later, the religious police detained al-Sharif for six hours, but the video had already received 600,000 hits on YouTube. As the news spread, some women applauded al-Sharif, but others were appalled.

“There are many who don’t think what I am doing is good,” she says. “They are jealous, or they don’t want to change the way they are treated in Saudi society – like queens, or like pearls. Their husbands do everything for them.”

Her short drive was a triumph, but it also started a cycle of harassment that continues today. One cleric said to her, “You have just opened the gates of hell on yourself.” Another day, she opened an email to find a grim message: “Your grave is waiting.”

But al-Sharif was not intimidated. She and other supporters organized a grassroots campaign: designing a logo, alerting local media, and calling for all women to get out and drive on June 17 and to make videos of the trip. The reaction was like a tidal wave.

“The opponents kept telling us, ‘There are many wolves in the streets,’ ” she says. “ ‘They would rape you, they would harass you, and they would kidnap you if you drive a car.’ ” Al-Sharif decided she would prove that she would be the one to drive – and not get raped.

She also posted a survey which asked: “Do you want to drive on June 17?” Of the women she polled, 84 percent answered yes. Another question was, “Do you know how to drive?” Only 11 percent answered yes. So she and her campaigners started a driving school using volunteers as teachers.

Empowered, al-Sharif took her cause one step further. She borrowed her brother Mohammed’s car and went for a drive, passing a police officer en route.

She went to jail for nine days for “incitement to public disorder,” and Mohammed – who told her to “go for it” – was detained by police. When al-Sharif emerged from prison, she found she was the poster child for the right for women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

“I call myself an accidental activist,” she says. “I did not even know what the word means.” Part of the activism, she said, went much deeper than just getting women to drive.

She grew up in the 1980s and 1990s in Mecca, where the school curriculum dedicates nearly 40 percent to teaching religion. She says she was brainwashed to the moral code of Saudis.

“We were taught we lived in a perfect society. But we were also taught that if we followed rules we went to heaven, and if we did not we would have hellfire.”

Her religious education, based on honor and fear, started when she was young. In the seventh grade, without knowing why, she was suddenly forbidden to play with a favorite cousin. He was a boy. They did not meet again for 10 years. She says she mourned not only the lost friendship, but also the implications of separating the sexes.

“I was so upset! We were just playing! We were just kids!” she says. “I was learning that people are controlled by fear.”

On holiday in Egypt with her parents and her brother and sister (now a doctor), al-Sharif saw Egyptian women confidently driving, their heads uncovered, their hair flowing. “I just hung my head out the window and stared at them. I could not believe it.”

Academic life was her release. Her working-class parents – her father was a truck driver, her mother a housewife – encouraged all three of their children to study. Her mother preferred that the girls did their homework rather than traditional women’s work.

“Mom didn’t really ask us to do anything around the house,” she says. “It was more important for her that we studied.” When al-Sharif graduated with high marks, she went into computer science, eventually working for Aramco, a national oil and natural gas company.

But there she saw more injustice: “women being bypassed for promotions and appraisals – just because they are women.”

She had her “own awakening” as a Muslim and as a woman watching the disturbing images of the Twin Towers burning on September 11. People were hurling themselves out of windows in an attempt to save their lives. Al-Sharif watched, horrified. “These men [who did that] were not heroes, but killers” she says.

Sent for a year by Aramco to Boston, she had another eye-opener. She rented her own apartment, drove her own car, and no longer needed her father’s signature to travel. Returning to Saudi was a painful lesson.

“I had to go to my father to sign papers for me to do anything,” she says. “I could not pick up my son from school.” Having lived and experienced freedom outside the kingdom, she realized she could not go back to living with injustice.

She devoted herself to more activist causes inside Saudi, but in May 2012 Aramco finally managed to push her out of her job.

“There are two faces to this country,” she says. “It’s a hypocritical society. Educated men travel outside Saudi, and they see women driving, women with uncovered heads. They think it’s fine. Then they get back here, and their views are different.”

On October 26, al-Sharif and other activists urged all Saudi women to stand up and take their destiny in their own hands, and drive. The result was that hundreds of women got out in the streets and drove, and 16,000 signed a petition that demands the government lift the ban or, at minimum, give a “valid and legal justification” for the prohibition.

It was a personal triumph. And last year, al-Sharif remarried a Brazilian man, Raphael, whom she met at Aramco. Even that – a private decision – was not easy. She had to get permission from the Ministry of Interior to marry a foreigner – and was refused. She married outside Saudi, but her ex-husband won’t let her son travel outside the kingdom. So to see him, she commutes between Saudi and Dubai, where she found a new job.

Still, her travel is monitored, and she is on a surveillance list. On October 26, the movement’s webpage was hacked.

But it has not stopped her, nor is she afraid. She is currently writing an autobiography, travelling to activist conferences around the world and speaking out. Loudly. She says that like other Arab revolutions, once people realize they are being denied their freedoms, they cannot turn their backs.

It’s like that first time behind the wheel of her Cadillac. “I have this feeling that you just need to jump,” she says. “To trust yourself. “

 

http://www.newsweek.com/riding-shotgun-woman-driving-change-saudi-arabia-2770

Posted in English Content،Speeches

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

Posted in Articles،English Content

I hate you but won’t leave you


The comments that I receive in my email and on my pages in social networking sites make me happy whether an encouragement or criticism. May Allah have mercy upon whoever reveals to me my faults, old people say…

I also receive my share of insults and ignore them, in accordance with the saying of Imam Shafi’i: “If the fool speaks, don’t respond to him as silence is the best answer (for him). If you (do) speak to him (then) you have supported him (i.e. his foolishness by giving him importance); and if you left him (without speaking/answering), then in anguish he dies.”

However, there are types of comments, that I receive, make me wonder in which category they belong to. I mean comments such as; « how I hate » or « I looked for your page just to inform you about my hatred towards you ». There is a very weird person who, whenever I post something on my page, leaves a very long comment that starts with mocking my profile picture and my forehead, passing through the usual betrayal charges, and concluding with a cursing prayer for me and whomever read for me without leaving one comment on the article itself! This reminds me of the famous Hijazi saying: «I swear to God I would never leave you not for sake of love but for annoying you».

I tried repeatedly to understand how a person would waste all this time and effort, not only of having all this hatred for others but of also searching for them to express this hatred. I consider hatred is one of the most negative emotions that only kills a person just as fire burns wood.  Rarely this feeling affects the person we hate, and rarely he cares to know what we feel towards him, especially if he is not part of our personal lives. Once I wrote jokingly in «twitter»; «I have never faced threats and feelings of hatred except in the cyber world, and I have never met one of them face to face in the real world! cowards! ». I received immediate mentions from three people confirm their deep hatred for me, and their willingness to meet me in person to express these feelings. None of them live in the nearby, therefore, I sent them my Skype ID to make a  video call to understand this enthusiasm to hatred … None called until today!

Someone once said, “My friend was harshly insulting you. Therefore, I asked him “Have you heard from her?” He replied,” I heard from people” and I asked him again “Did you read any of her articles, or watch one of her interviews?” He answered, “No, I did not want to, but people say …”  I interrupted him saying, “People, people, nothing destroyed us but people!”. My simple answer to his friend is this, if the conception formation of a person depended on the words of people, then what is the benefit of the mind that God gave us?  The friend of that person reminds me of myself during my teenage years. A wild campaign against the late Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi has been launched describing him of being atheist and prohibiting reading his “impudent” books. Being influenced by such harsh opinions, I hated this person until I read one of his books by accident. At that moment I regretted having not read all of his books, and for my feelings of hatred towards him without proof … I learned then that every story has two sides thus, never make one sided judgements. Listen to both sides and then “Follow your heart, even if you were told otherwise“.

I conclude my article with this e-mail that has touched me a lot:

(For the first time I read for you. Much of what I have towards you has changed. I knew you initially through the topic of Women2Drive and its consequences, surely from newspapers, social networking sites, and from people talk. However, I’m a person who does not believe in any cause, the strange thing is according to the increasing gossip of others, I automatically hated you.

Your article was as a making up meeting between you and me. It released me from all the negative emotions that I felt towards you, and not because of your attitudes as I told you before!

In all cases, the value of our life lies in the struggle for a lawful right no matter how we suffered.)