Saudi Arabia’s withdrawal of ban on women’s driving is a great move but the same has a mixed set of responses by its citizens. The state media reported that the Saudi King Mohammad bin Salman issued a decree which provided freedom for women to drive in the country. The formation of a ministerial body was ordered by the decree to give an advice on this within a period of 30 days and take action to implement the order by June 2018. Official Saudi Press Agency reported that women will be entitled to driving licenses in 2018 from the month of June.
However, this withdrawal of ban on women driving is a dramatic move made by the Saudi government as a part of its efforts towards economic modernization by reducing their dependence on oil. But Saudi Arabia being a deeply conservative Islamic country faces the risk of backlash from the citizens as far as this judgment is concerned. Saudi women are actually restricted from the roads and need to seek permission from a male guardian to travel abroad. Many people in Saudi aren’t supportive of this decision and a majority of the country’s Twitter users showed their dismay very soon the news was announced. Earlier in the last week, women were allowed to participate in the celebrations for the kingdom’s founding anniversary. Thereafter, men and women in Riyadh danced together at a street party. However, things didn’t turn out well as people made calls to the religious police on social media to restore moral order.
Crowned Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman said in an interview in April, last year, “We believe women have rights in Islam that they’ve yet to be obtained. Changes could happen in the future, and we always hope they will be positive changes.” In another interview, Ayham Kamel, the director of Eurasia Group in the Middle East and North Africa said, “It’s not going to be a simple journey to allow women to drive. As well as opposition from the clerical establishment, some in the ruling family may accuse the prince of impatience.” He even said, “There are going to be elements that resist this. There’s no doubt about that. He cannot silence all the dissent.”
Women activists in Saudi have been opposing this ban on women driving since the past few years and launched campaigns to showcase their opinions. Furthermore, some women who took part in the protests even lost their jobs and were publicly named. After the ban was withdrawn, one of the activists said she was grateful to the king and even thanked all the women who participated in the campaigns since the 1990s (Source: Live Mint)
To wrap it up, this decree by the Saudi Arabian government is receiving both cheers and catcalls. It will be saddening if people keep the same mentality and resist the withdrawal of ban on women driving rather than encouraging it. As it is said, Rome was not built in a day, similarly, women in Sudi Arabia will achieve their rights steadily. It is good to see that the initiative has been taken and the same attitude continues in the future.