No Woman, No Drive

No Woman, No Drive

01 December 2014 | Liz Bowen

When I tell people that I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for three years, I either get the usual – “oh my GOD, what was it like? Did you ride a camel?” or the concerned, sympathetic smile and pat on the shoulder. For those who have been to SA, they would know that women aren’t treated the best way and the latest story in the press has really sparked something in me.

Loujain Hathloul, 25, a Saudi female activist has been arrested after bravely trying to enter her own country – in a car. Driving herself. She spent 24 hours at the boarder of Riyadh and has had her passport confiscated – all because she was sat behind the wheel.

Within Saudi Arabia today, women are STILL not allowed to drive. I know that the rules date back to the 1930’s (and many idiotic male drivers think women shouldn’t be allowed to drive in any country) but it’s nearly 2015. Surely after all of the changes within society in last 5/10 years, this rule can be changed. Unfortunately, Saudi is still living in the 1930’s and women barely have any rights.

The only reason anyone knows about Loujain is the media and press surrounding her struggle. She started her journey in the UAE where she holds a driving license and tried to cross the boarder, but after officials refused to let her cross, she spent the night sleeping in her car, and was then arrested.

Loujain has been tweeting regular updates with pictures and videos of her driving which has been watched over 200,000 times. This isn’t the first time she has been in the media – last year she posted videos online with her face and hair uncovered. Her videos have been watched 35 million times!

Her struggle against Saudi has sparked a wave in women across the country, who are not allowed the basic right to drive themselves anywhere. Last night, those women drove cars around Riyadh to show support and give thanks to Loujain for having the strength that most do not.

Earlier this year, a woman was handed 150 lashes for being caught driving. The ‘women to drive movement’ has been going on for a while. The most known campaign was the video of women driving to Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ with the words ‘No Woman, No Drive’ which Loujain was also behind. The groups website has been blocked within the country and one of Saudi Arabia’s top clerics stated that driving can cause damage to women’s ovaries and bearing children!!!

If journalists hadn’t recognised the story, these women would be alone in their struggle. It is also an example of just how powerful social media is.