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Saudi Arabia: Women to Drive after Community Persuaded | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Saudi women. AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Similar to other historic decisions, some are petrified of announcing them, supporters anticipate in boredom while conservatives persistently warn of such moves. Once the clock ticks and the time is adequate to take the decision, the fear of people vanishes.

This is what happened when King Salman issued a reformatory decision in allowing women to drive as part of an overall process, which began on the first day of his leadership in January 2015, to empower Saudi women.

Saudi passwords are always on time. This has been the case in the past two years and nine months during which great decisions have been taken. Many were intimidated by them and probably warned of them, but surprisingly decisions were issued in remarkable flexibility.

I don’t agree with those who describe this decision as political in the first place. Any political decision on a community-linked cause first needs a suitable environment for it to be accepted based on
cultural and intellectual consensus.

Had it been purely a political decision, it would have been implemented long time ago. The problem throughout the past period was that some movements continued to exploit the matter and exaggerate the consequences of issuing such a decision.

When removing the aura around those who spread such ideas, the Saudi community appeared pragmatic, and it was supported by the stance of the Council of Senior Scholars that saw no problem in permitting women to drive.

Therefore, we can’t deny the huge organized work done during the previous period to provide an adequate environment in which the community accepts the decision. I don’t think the surprise is in issuing the decision itself – the development taking place in Saudi Arabia indicates that women getting behind the wheel is absolute.

Because the social reform is on track in Saudi Arabia without any slowdown and because the historic moment was set to come even if late, the woman in the kingdom now drives a car after a reform-based decision by the Saudi leadership that has not stopped making drastic changes politically, economically and socially within a short period.

Why do we say finally? Because the Saudi community has finally got rid of previous stages’ consequences that had led to delays in taking such a decision. During the past three years, the Saudi community has proven its readiness to develop and accept community reforms that were considered prohibited for long decades.

Besides the social and economic benefits of this step in Saudi Arabia and its contribution in a comprehensive project to empower women as part of the economic and social reform process, the topic of allowing women to drive, which used to be stirred while discussing any political issue on every occasion, has now been dropped.

We can say that this decision is better than dozens of billions of dollars worth media campaigns in the West. Its positive outcome won’t be restricted to one day, month or year but the kingdom will yield its positive influence for several years to come.

When launching the Saudi Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman answered a question on the matter of women driving cars saying that he relies on the society’s wish between granting the women this right or not.

He later noted that future decisions are built on social change. True, when the change happened, society witnessed a long-anticipated historic decision. The password was: social change; this is the magical equation and real power for the launching of a new Saudi Arabia that was once mentioned by Mohammed bin Salman: “In case the Saudi people were convinced, then skies are the limits of our ambitions.”