Meet Manal al-Sharif: The Saudi woman who dared to drive
How dangerous can driving a car be for women? Take the case of 38-year-old Manal al-Sharif. She drove a car once on Saudi's roads and her life hasn't been the same since. She was imprisoned for nine days without a trial, given death threats, fired from her job, and forced to leave Saudi. How was she instrumental in getting the driving ban lifted in Saudi?
Wahabbism, the strict form of Sunni-Islam as practised by Saudi Arabia lays down strict gender segregation rules. Orthodox clerics have resorted to absurd explanations about why women shouldn't drive. While some opine that men wouldn't be able to handle females driving alongside them, certain others say that it would lead to promiscuity. One of them even suggests that driving can be damaging to ovaries.
With her campaign 'Women2drive' Manal hoped to free women in Saudi. "And by freeing women, I hoped to free men. I had driven so that my son might know a better life," she wrote in an article. In her book, Daring to Drive, she details her trials of being a woman in a patriarchal society. Perhaps, those were her tiny steps in the right direction.
The new royal decree signed by King Salman allows the government "to issue driving licenses to women and men alike." It also sets up a high-level ministerial committee to study other changes that can facilitate the decision. The decree will be implemented by June 2018.
Manal, now a global spokesperson for the rights of Saudi women, took to Twitter to laud the King's decision of revoking the driving ban. "Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop," she tweeted. However, in her book, Manal alleges that no Saudi law forbids women from driving. The ban was a custom and not a law.
You want a statement here is one: "Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop" #Women2Drive ❤️— منال مسعود الشريف (@manal_alsharif) September 26, 2017