If some countries in the Middle East are continuing their Arab Springs, Saudis are continuing their own revolution behind the wheel with a nationwide driving protest scheduled for Oct. 26.
The response should be interesting, as the above video from one of Eman Al Nafjan’s test drives shows, where a family and a car with two men all give her a thumb’s up. The mother of three and PhD candidate at King Saud University in Riyadh runs the Saudiwoman blog and got behind the wheel during the last big driving campaign in 2011.
Running out of excuses to decree why women can’t drive, as it’s already been established as nothing Quranic, a Saudi sheikh warned last month that driving could impact a woman’s ovaries.
Driving “could have a reverse physiological impact. Physiological science and functional medicine studied this side [and found] that it automatically affects ovaries and rolls up the pelvis. This is why we find for women who continuously drive cars their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees,” Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Luhaydan, a judicial and psychological consultant to the Gulf Psychological Association, told Saudi news website sabq.org.
“Islamic sharia does not have a text forbidding women driving,” the head of Saudi Arabia’s morality police, Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheik, told Reuters last month.
The Oct. 26 declaration, which was at nearly 16,000 signatures as of this writing, states:
1- Since there is no justification for the Saudi government to prohibit adult women citizens who are capable of driving cars from doing so, we urge the state to provide appropriate means for women seeking the issuance of permits and licenses to apply and obtain them.
2- Many claim that this is a “societal decision”. However the public discourse will not be resolved except through a firm governmental decision to implement what was proposed in point one. Here it is important to point out that women will not be forced to drive if they do not wish to do so.
3- Deferring an issue such as this until a “societal consensus”, has only increased divisions because it constitutes that some will be forced to concede. We as a Saudi people are diverse and accepting of all views that are not prohibited in the Quran or by the Prophet.
4- In case the Saudi government maintains the ban on women driving, we demand that it presents to the citizens a valid and legal justification and not simply to defer it to a societal consensus.
5- In case the government refuses to lift the ban on women driving and refuses to provide the people with a legal and valid justification, we demand that it provides “society” with a legal mechanism through which it can express what it wants.
Men are encouraged to participate in the protest as well by offering driving lessons, hanging a decal of support in their own car or spreading the word on social media.