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Saudi Women (Sort Of) Free to Ride


A Saudi newspaper reported this morning that women will now be allowed to ride motorbikes and bicycles—well, sort of. The Times of Israel has the scoop:

The Al-Yawm daily cited an unnamed official from the powerful religious police as saying women will be allowed to ride bikes in parks and recreational areas, but they must accompanied by a male relative and dressed in the full Islamic head-to-toe abaya.…

The official told the paper that Saudi women may not use the bikes for transportation, but “only for entertainment,” and that they should shun places where young men gather “to avoid harassment.”

It’s not exactly a victory for women’s rights, but it does suggest that international pressure on behalf of dissenting women in Saudi Arabia may be having some effect. The ban on driving has attracted particular attention: The Wall Street Journal recently profiled women who dare to drive, and former high-level US officials have signed a sneering petition to King Abdullah to host a Saudi Women’s Grand Prix. Perhaps the regime, refusing to relent, is offering bicycle rides in a controlled circle with the supervision of men as a consolation prize.

For now, it remains unclear whether the kingdom’s many requirements and restrictions on female riders include wearing a helmet.

[Image of veiled woman driving courtesy of]

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  • Luke Lea

    The sheltering of women is a recurrent feature in consanguineous societies. Few things are more important than insuring that the fathers of the children are members of the clan. Women aren’t supposed to go places where there is even a remote possibility of that happening. A corollary seems to be the unaccompanied females must be whores or creatures from another planet.

    For us in the West, where the customs of inbreeding disappeared centuries ago, such attitudes are inexplicable. But in their eyes we are naive. As indeed we are.

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