Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Women petition against driving! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A big thank you is in order to all the Saudi women who have signed a petition demanding women in the Kingdom remain at home, refrain from seeking employment and studying. Indeed, the signatories are expressing their opinion and defending their right through a letter of protest.

Most interestingly, some of these women have held jobs, graduated from universities with the highest scientific degrees, practiced all they now denounce, enjoyed the benefits most women in Saudi Arabia haven’t heard of such as postgraduate studies and prominent careers. Yet we continue saying to those who prefer women do not work that it is their right to express their opinions: “No to studying, no to working and driving. We want to stay home and take care of our children.”

Two answers are possible to this request: either to ask the rest of the women if they object to working, studying, and driving, or to grant all women the right to decide for themselves what each truly wants.

During the Black civil rights movement in the United States , when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, some black men and women loudly noted they were happy with the situation at the time. The alleged they had a good standing in society and claimed those who called for equal rights were communists and agents for foreign powers. Uncle Tom and his colleagues did not succeed in halting the winds of change that were likely to occur regardless of political beliefs and ideological stances. Rather, human nature will prevail and no individual or group, regardless of how powerful they are, can suppress it.

For a long time in Riyadh , women had stalls in the city’s markets alongside men and no one objected. Women used to knock on doors and sell their merchandises in the capital’s slums, just as any vendor would and no doors were slammed in their faces. Women have been riding horses and donkeys for hundreds of years; no one has every questioned whether the animal would stumble, the woman fall off and reveal her body.

The majority of women seeking employment in Saudi Arabia, for those who were not aware they are allowed to do so, need the extra income. Women nowadays play an important role as providers for their households who are unable to depend solely on the income of the husband, often insufficient. The signatories above are obviously coming from a position of luxury whereby they do not need to work. They are probably unaware of other Saudi women suffering financially.

Perhaps the best reply to these objectors, the first of their kind, is to point them in the direction of the thousands of young female university graduates who are eagerly seeking employment in recruitment offices across the Kingdom. There is a real and important difference between a small number who object to work and a huge number of women who are desperate for jobs.

The signatories to the petition are in the minority. By publicly expressing their views, the have opened the door for the silent majority to follow suit. Their rejection of the right to work and drive is a gift to religious and conservative men who have been long objecting to these rights.