Vision 2030
Saudi Women in the Driver’s Seat at Last
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  • James_Eric

    This isn’t good. The last thing this world needs is more women drivers. 🙂

  • Andrew Allison

    Please explain the leap from the Saudis taking a small step, which has endeared them to roughly half the population, into the 20th Century to “But American support for the Saudi monarchy, repressive as it is, has always been predicated on the fact that Saudi Arabia without the monarchy would probably be even more religiously radical and dangerous to American interests.”

    • FriendlyGoat

      I think there was an old quote from Saudi Royals to then-president George H. W. Bush which went something like this: “If you think you don’t like us, you will like those who come after us even less”. This was basically an announcement that the rulers knew they had a country full of real religious nuts.

      The fact that they do and did is the only conceivable reason why women weren’t driving decades ago. They weren’t because the rulers didn’t want it? No, they weren’t because the male culture didn’t want it. No one says that has changed—-except as might be forced by a permanent drop in the oil price.

    • D4x

      My two cents. AB’s frame is human rights, especially when he makes KSA’s “female migrant workers” “the next step for women’s rights following the end of the driving ban.” Acknowledging Vision 2030 is about economic diversification, AB makes a compelling attack on KSA need for “radical reform” – implying KSA is medieval relative to the rest of the world – by focusing on KSA does not issue tourist visas. … getting to your question.

      I first read this post probably thirty minutes before your comment, and got sidetracked by wondering if Saudi drivers are more British or “Asian”, thinking of those DWA politically incorrect jokes. I went googling ‘Driving instructors Riyadh’, which took me into the new-to-me world of high-adrenaline drifting “Riyadh’s ultimate driving experience and extreme sports activity.

      Several Youtubes later? Any moto-sport that seems to have originated in Japan, and where Red Bull is the stadium sponsor, I stopped thinking about the economic potential of Saudi women engaged in sand-drifting donuts in their Audis!

      Back to driving instructors – Riyadh. Yes, very British influence, and well organized DMV:

      So, why not check out Arab News on getting a drivers license in Riyadh? Bonus: discovering now has Disqus commenting….but I’ll save that for later.

      Andrew, it took reading the next Op-ED and five (5) news reports in Arab News today to understand why AB was so negative, besides his odd priority for female migrant workers in KSA. I am well aware of the conditions, but also aware enough that the government of Indonesia has stood up for their female migrants’ rights in direct negotiations with KSA, although I lost track of whether other ‘source’ nations have done the same. Indonesia is the preferred source for female domestic workers throughout the oil-rich Arab nations.

      What AB does NOT seem able to process is that King Salman is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The legitimacy of the House of Saud, and the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is derived from their assuming this role from the Hashemite descendants of the Prophet, who still retain their legitimacy in Jordan by being the Custodian of Temple Mount. This was the British solution after WW1 and Treaties of Versailles and Sevres. The Ayyubid (Kurd) Sultan Saladin is thought to be the first to assume the formal Custodian title. My assumption is this title reinforces the Sunni acceptance of the Sultan or Caliph or King as a “Just Ruler” – which is how Sunni Islam reconciles the separation of Mosque from temporal governance. I have always assumed that is why KSA has such strict Sharia Law, with some historical arch-conservatism with women’s rights from the tribal social structures.

      Without exploring why KSA does not issue tourist visas, they DO have a serious ‘pilgrim’ economic boost from the Fifth Pillar of Islam Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca, expected of every able-bodied muslim once in their life. I always thought that was quite brilliant – because it fostered the transnational social interaction of pilgrims. Ibn Battuta was quite serious in his religious motivation when he left Morocco for his Hajj in 1325 CE. He also used it as a job-hunting opportunity, and networking to find travel routes in search of a job with the Sultan of Delhi, who was hiring at the time. When boat transit from the Red Sea to India failed, leaving him stranded in style in the Maldives, he sailed back for another Hajj to find out how to take the land route to India via Syria, Anatolia Monghol-ruled Russia, to Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush (Hindu-Killer) Khyber Pass, to Delhi. Most amazing travel memoir I have ever read.

      Andrew Bernard should read it – to better understand that not all tourism is Western-style, requiring alcohol, cinema, art museums.

      I read these Arab News posts in this sequence:

      “Saudi Arabia Expats encounter difficulties at driving schools DINA FOUAD | Published — Tuesday 11 August 2015”
      Disqus thread comments are interesting.

      “ Why this is about more than allowing women to drive
      Abdulrahman Al-Rashed | Published — Wednesday 27 September 2017
      …is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published.”
      Disqus: Be the first to comment. @ 8:55 pm EDT

      “ ‘A very positive sign’: congratulations pour in as Saudi women are finally allowed to drive SIRAJ WAHAB & AISHA FAREED | Published — Wednesday 27 September 2017 “JEDDAH: The US on Tuesday led an international welcome for Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive.

      The historic move, ordered in a decree by King Salman, will see women get behind the wheel from
      June next year.
      “We’re happy to hear that,” said US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
      “It’s a great step in the right direction. We’re just happy today. A very positive sign,” she said….”[and the rest is even better]
      Disqus thread has 34 positive comments @ 9:00 pm EDT 20,897 views

      “Hashtags, memes and GIFs: Social media celebrates Saudi women driving
      AISHA FAREED | ARAB NEWS STAFF | Published — Wednesday 27
      September 2017 “…Others cheered at the news while demanding the ban on cinemas be lifted as well.

      Meanwhile, Saudis proved once again that humor is an essential part of their existence as memes
      and jokes flooded the trending hashtag. “I’m gonna crash my ex’s car,” one woman joked,
      while another shared a screenshot deleting the cab-hailing apps Careem and Uber. …”
      Disqus thread has 10 comments @ 9:05 pm EDT 9,166 views

      “A historic day for Saudi women, US presidential daughter Ivanka Trump says
      Arab News | Published — Wednesday 27 September 2017
      DUBAI: US presidential daughter Ivanka Trump has congratulated Saudi Arabian women after King Salman issued an order allowing them to get behind the wheel.
      “Today was a historic day for women in Saudi Arabia as a decree was announced to lift the ban on women drivers. #SaudiArabia,” Ivanka, who has 4.62 million followers, posted on Twitter. …”
      Disqus thread has 2 comments as of 9:08 pm EDT 6,243 views

      “Saudi Royal decree will help families save money currently spent on private drivers
      Arab News | Published — Wednesday 27 September 2017
      “… By allowing women to drive frees them to go to work without incurring excessive additional costs
      caused by the need to hire drivers, and thus bring home additional income into
      the household, which will ultimately increase people’s spending power and help
      boost Saudi Arabia’s national economy.

      Saudi writer and journalist, Ghada Ghunaim said: “This will have a huge impact on Saudi Arabia’s
      economy. We have to remember that our Kingdom produces more female graduates
      compared to our male counterparts,”

      Most Saudi families are reliant, to varying degrees, on private drivers to transport the female members to school, work and any other place they need to go to.

      The most recent statistics suggest there are nearly 800,000 men – mostly South Asian – working as drivers for Saudi women.

      Drivers are paid approximately 1,000 – 1,500 riyals ($267 — $400) per month. But there are
      additional costs incurred, such as residence permits, accommodation, health
      care and food, and flight tickets, which cost Saudi families a national total
      of approximately 19.14 billion riyals ($5.1 billion).

      Ghunaim said Tuesday’s royal decree would ultimately help low income families who currently
      struggle to meet the financial burden of hiring drivers.

      “A lot of families in Saudi Arabia are not able to afford paying a driver a monthly salary, this royal decree will help ease a lot of
      families who struggle with their women not being able to drive,” she added.”
      Disqus thread 0 comments @ 9:12 pm 3,612 views

      [Not good for Pakistanis, but a genuine productivity boost for the domestic KSA economy. Perhaps they will follow the Indonesian tendency to have more celebratory parties, and more gift-giving occasions, stimulating local industries for party platters, catering, bakeries, crafts. When I had a project to analyze the Indonesian consumer economy two decades ago, it was notable that 10% of disposable income was spent on gifts. Hallmark would do well in KSA, and Hallmark movies are probably quite adaptable.

      I wonder if the textile industries of Mosul (muslin) and Damascus (damask) have survived.
      I do not know how long Avon has been in KSA, but, of course they are selling Skin-so-Soft (the worst kept secret mosquito repellent on earth). Saudi Avon Ladies must be happy to think of being able to drive.

      AB needs a point-of-view expansion.]

      This fifth news report is not about women drivers, but I was struck by how King Salman embraced President Trump’s language from his address to the 72nd Un GA on September 19: “security. prosperity. sovereignty”:

      “King expresses pride in Saudi development, security, prosperity
      ARAB NEWS | Published — Wednesday 27 September 2017

      “JEDDAH: King Salman on Tuesday expressed pride in the
      Kingdom’s development in all areas as it celebrates its 87th National Day this
      year, with citizens and residents enjoying security and prosperity.
      Sept. 23, 2017: Hundreds of women thronged King Dahd sports stadium for the first time to mark Saudi Arabia’s national day (AFP)

      Addressing a regular Cabinet session at Al-Salam Palace in
      Jeddah, he also referred to the care and concern given to pilgrims and
      visitors, the development of the Two Holy Mosques and holy sites, and
      improvement of services in this regard.

      The king thanked leaders of sisterly and friendly countries for congratulating Saudi Arabia on
      its National Day, which he said embodied national unity, love and loyalty to
      the homeland. He also thanked citizens for showing their joy over the occasion.

      The Cabinet lauded the Kingdom’s constructive role in various Arab, Islamic, regional and
      international issues based on good neighborliness, moderation, dialogue,
      cooperation, respect for the sovereignty of other countries and
      non-interference in their affairs. …[aid to Rohyinga; 1.7% 2016 GDP growth;
      co-operation w/ Tajikistan judiciary; three MoUs with Russia; consults with
      Lithuania, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Africa]…

      The Cabinet authorized the Saudi Saline Water Conversion
      Corp. to sign a contract with Japan’s New Energy Development Organization and
      other companies to set up a reverse osmosis desalination plant in the Kingdom.”
      Disqus has 0 comments @ 9:15 pm EDT 3,203 views

      In closing, I just found that photo and report of Saudi woman allowed to attend celebrations at sports stadiums. I was searching for Saudi women wearing stilettos on the streets of Jedda or Riyadh, where there are Louboutin stores.

      In private, Saudi women wear normal clothing – including for weddings, where the women have separate, very elaborate parties.

      When I saw what FL Melania and Ivanka wore to POTUS’ speech on May 21 at the Arab Islamic Summit in Riyadh, I knew they had just advanced women’s rights by ten years, by wearing pantsuits and stilettos at such a major event, with heads of state from 50+ Islamic nations in the audience. They were not ‘disappeared’ from Arab media as they have been by American media.

      The Saudi International Motor Show in Jeddah is in December. We’ll see if any Saudi models get arrested this year.

      Back to the motorsport of Drifting:
      Welcome to the Prodrift Academy, the world’s number one
      drift school and your gateway to the high-adrenaline, high-speed world of
      drifting. From its origins on the streets, to high profile events across Saudi
      Arabia, drifting has become the fastest growing motorsport in the world. Based
      in the heart of the Saudi Arabia, The Prodrift Academy is Riyadh’s ultimate
      driving experience and extreme sports activity.
      Hope you enjoyed this journey as much as I did, except for the motorsport of Drifting. I hope it might answer your question.
      A few of those Arab News Disqus comments referred to Saudi women doctors practicing medicine in the USA. I imagine medical care can become another growth industry for KSA. Desalination is a really good infrastructure investment.
      I am glad I did not lose my curiosity, and imagination, when the illiberal left pushed me into silence Jan 2012 until October 2016.

      • Andrew Allison

        A tour de force. I’m in awe!

        • D4x

          TY. Follow-up: “Saudi companies and families plan to hire expat female drivers GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN | Published — Sunday 1 October 2017 “…Another good aspect of it is that now perhaps expert women drivers from abroad can also be hired for families to pick up and drop off girls at schools and universities,” the prominent Islamic scholar and social worker Hussain Zulkarnain said. “Far better than male ones, as these ladies can live inside the house and also help in household chores without the need to hire separate maids.” Many Saudi families will hire female drivers from abroad, especially from traditional labor-exporting countries, he said. …”

 03 09 2017 The women-exclusive cab drivers speak to Dawn about learning how to drive and being independent. Karachi, Pakistan:

          INDIA is the #1 source of export labor to KSA, mostly blue collar/skilled. Pakistani news in 2017 is trying to understand if Pakistani labor exports to KSA taking a nosedive is because KSA prefers India and Bangladesh for labor, failing to notice the fruits of PM Modi’s visit to KSA in 2016:
          A quick look at the embassy websites of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia reveals why. India has employment contracts, and a bilateral agreement online. The others: nothing. Too bad – those Pakistani Pink taxis could be a boost.

          In other Arab News today, Oct. 1, 2017: “How Saudi women are driving their own destiny Baria Alamuddin | Published — Sunday 1 October 2017 “…Over 80 percent of Uber’s activity in the Kingdom involves
          taxiing women around. The expense of foreign drivers is a $7bn annual drain on
          Saudi households. Pity low-income families … given the spectrum of annoyances
          and obstacles in their everyday lives, driving is such a tiny thing: We’re
          talking guardianship laws, legal rights, bureaucratic frustrations, family
          expectations and traditionalist tribal attitudes. Often the problem is not the
          laws themselves, but how middle-ranking officials with outdated patriarchal
          attitudes create unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. I’ve lost count of the times
          I’ve been told that Islam isn’t the problem: It’s all about “adaat-wa-taqaleed”
          — customs and traditions. …

          Much criticism focuses on the slow pace of reform, yet the rate of change today is
          staggering: Female literacy soared from 7 per cent in the mid-1970s to
          approaching 100 percent ahead of the millennium, with new career options
          continually becoming available and the jobs market overflowing with outstanding
          female graduates. I’m continually frustrated that these articulate, courageous
          and impressive women don’t get greater global exposure.

          The world thinks it knows everything about the Kingdom’s female “downtrodden victims” — it knows nothing! …”

          That is an impressive record in female literacy, in one generation.

          Awaiting female driver jokes…

  • Kenneth Currie

    Let’s not get too effusive. There’s still a VERY long list of things women are forbidden to do.

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