A few moments ago MB reblogged a post from the Saudiwoman’s Weblog. It concerns the Saudi Arabian news of the last twenty-four hours that Saudi women are now to be allowed drive cars for the first time. Just as interesting, and maybe even more so in the opinion of MB, is another angle to the story that is not getting nearly so much illumination; namely that women will be able to get a driving license WITHOUT the permission of a male guardian. And if you know and understand Saudi society even a little, that fact is probably even more revolutionary than the fact of being allowed to drive itself. The winds of change are certainly blowing.
The requirement for any female to take the permission of a male guardian (normally husband, father or brother) – called the Guardian System, is crucial to the stranglehold that men have traditionally held over women in so many aspects of their lives in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. If any KSA lady wants to travel abroad, get a job, join a club, or numerous other things that populations the world over consider normal, she must first get the written permission of her male guardian. Otherwise the job, trip or club just can not happen.
MB is now reminded of various conversations he had on the ‘female driving’ subject matter during his 2012 to 2014 Saudi sojourn. He particularly remembers attending a farmyard BBQ one night in a small village near the town of Buraydah, which lies approximately four hours drive from the capital city Riyadh, in the conservative heartland of the Kingdom. Whilst munching some BBQd chicken, MB discussed the ‘lady drivers’ topic with a young Saudi Imam (preacher). On MBs asking the Imam to explain the ‘no women driver’ rule with which he strongly agreed, and the fact that no other Muslim country had such a rule, his explanation was approximately as follows:
If Saudi women are allowed to drive, they will have sex with many men, and this is a huge problem in the other Muslim countries. Sin will be the result.
On receiving the explanation, MB immediately decided that there was no arguing with the ‘superior’ logic and intellect of the young Imam, so instead, he threw out a mischievous question:
So you do not trust Saudi ladies Mohammad? asked MB, trying to keep a straight face.
“I trust Saudi ladies MB” replied Mohammad, “but I do not trust Saudi men”.
And there MB & Mohammad left the conversation, moving on to discuss Mohammad’s brother’s end-of-month trips to Dubai to avail of cheap hookers in the cheaper hotels of the Deira area, next Dubai international airport, a situation he did not object to nearly as strongly as he did when discussing the possibility of allowing Saudi females to drive a car. MB was thinking only today, that he would love to be invited to another BBQ back in Buraydah, with the exact same guests, and ask the exact same question!
MB left a comment on the Saudimoman’s Weblog about the combined effect of many chisels over time on a rock. He also used the Arabic word for ‘car’ in his comment – ‘siyara’.
MB he is now thinking of one of his, and everybody else’s, favourite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, when a tiny chisel was used by the character Andy Dufresne over many many years to escape from Shawshank Prison.
Congrats to all the Saudi ladies whose efforts and sacrifices over too many years have finally resulted in their escape from the Saudi Siyara Shawshank.