Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saudi Women are Exemplary

Director’s Comment: The attached article (Arabic text) diagnoses different aspects of Saudi society, especially as they relate to Saudi women. It details the multitude of counterproductive measures that Saudi institutions and society put in place to deny Saudi women the right to use their talents and contribute to the well-being of their country. In spite of formidable obstacles, many Saudi women are fighting for their rights and have shown that they can succeed when and wherever they are permitted to put their abilities to work.

For example, Saudi women are prevented from driving in Saudi Arabia, but can drive when outside of the country including in Arab Gulf states, most of which lie across the Saudi borders and share the same culture, history, tradition and religion with their bigger brothers, the Saudis. At a recent press conference in Dubai, the UAE’s chief of police reported that Saudi women are the best, safest and most polite drivers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Traffic citations in the UAE are recorded according to violators’ ethnicities and nationalities.

If Saudi women are some of the best drivers outside of their country, why are they considered unfit to drive at home? The overt and nonsensical excuse is that women are emotional, incompetent and seductive; consequently, they would cause death and destruction in Saudi roads. In reality, the unspoken reasons are much deeper. They are political, economic and social. The Saudi ruling elites’ major fear of women driving and becoming mobile and financially independent emanates from the regime’s insecurity. The royals see self-reliant, educated, independent and free thinking Saudi women, and men for that matter, as the biggest threat to their domination over the county’s power and wealth.

Just imagine the effects on society if women were recognized as full citizens (human beings) by the system. Their enfranchisement will require millions of new jobs, improvement in the dilapidated and deficient infrastructure and bureaucracies and a competitive society. This means more money has to be spent on new projects, schools, services and modernization of institutions. Where would the money come from to meet these new public demands and needs? It would come from the treasury and here is where things can get complicated. As of now, most of the national income is controlled by the ruling family and a large portion of it goes to the royals’ bank account and the rest gets distributed to domestic loyal servants and foreign aids and investments.

By attending to the needs of half of its ignored population, women, the Saudi government would be forced to be at least partially accountable and transparent as well as subject to more public questioning of where and how the public wealth is spent.
Read Article (Arabic)

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