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Breaking news: Women can now drive in Saudi Arabia without going to jail! (But they risk getting a ticket.)

8 October, 2013

Saudi artist Saffaa just alerted me to a critical news item that the English-language media is not covering at all: women in Saudi Arabia can now drive without going to jail.  The only penalty the Saudi government will now impose on women caught driving is to issue them a ticket for not having a license.  

As Saffaa put it, 

So women can now drive in Saudi without going to jail. Why isn’t Western media all over this news? Are they sleeping or this news isn’t as sensational as women going to jail for driving? Ah and yes no one had to burn a bra. Not a single one … 

The news item in Arabic is here, reporting that the Kingdom’s Traffic Authority Director (I’m not exactly sure how to translate “mudeer `aam al-muroor“) General Abdulrahman Muqabbel has clarified to Sabq (the news agency reporting this) that women caught driving will only be ticketed for a traffic infraction (mukhalifa murooriyya faqat).  Previously women caught driving were taken to the local police station where they were held until their male guardians came to pick them up.

Here’s a YouTube video taken by a woman in Jeddah driving and encouraging other Saudi women to get in their cars and drive.  She says, “Right now, I’m on Malak Street, and I’m driving, and there’s nothing, nobody is stopping me, nobody is cursing me, nobody is photographing me, I’m just taking this video to say to girls, Let’s go, darlings, out to drive… but you must have a [male] guardian in the car with you!  Ours is behind me [the camera shifts to the back seat and a male voice says, “yeah”]…”

There are multiple similar videos now going up on YouTube of women driving and urging their compatriots to do the same, and many more Saudi women who are not taking videos but who are out driving, exploring the new boundaries around Saudi women’s use of public space.

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