U.S. Senators Tell Saudi King to Let Women Drive

The idea of any successful bipartisan action in Congress is fairly miraculous at this point, but in the midst of all the debt ceiling chaos on Capitol Hill, a group of female senators got together and signed a letter to the king of Saudi Arabia, urging him to permit women to drive legally.

“We write in support of the increasing number of Saudi women and men calling for the removal of the driving ban on women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” read the letter, which was released by Barbara Boxer’s office.  ”As you know, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world with such a ban on women driving, and maintaining such a restriction stands in stark contrast with the commitments your government has made to promote the rights of Saudi women.”

The letter adds a new kind of pressure to the informal campaign to allow women to drive, which has been going on for over a decade.  Women would periodically defy the ban in the 1990s, but momentum is growing behind the movement to force the Saudi government to let women behind the wheel.  Just last month, mobilized by a Facebook campaign, dozens of women took to the streets.  Several were arrested.

The fourteen senators who signed the letter are not the only political figures who have taken notice of these women’s bravery.  Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out in favor of the Saudi women’s dissent, saying, “What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right.  I am moved by it and I support them.”

Being able to drive is a freedom that we take so much for granted, it may be difficult to imagine what it would be like if half the population was legally prohibited from operating a car or a bicycle.  As ambivalent as environmentalists may be about cars (especially given this summer’s record-breaking heat), freedom of movement is a kind of power that no one should be denied.  The question is how much meaningful pressure the U.S. can exert on the Saudi government, and how much good it will do.

Related Stories:

5 Saudi Women Arrested for Driving

Saudi Women Take the Wheel

Saudi Arabia Opens World’s Largest University for Women

Photo from Steve Evans via Wikimedia Commons

44 comments

Jose Ramon Fisher Rodrigu

This ban on women driving is anachronistic, disgraceful, and illogical. Imagine if I was working temporarily in Saudi Arabia (not likely, but as an example) and got so sick that I couldn't drive - I would want my wife to be able to drive me to the doctor or the hospital! This is a basic, no-brainer issue and the pressure should have been exercised on the Saudis a long time ago, and much more intensely.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Let them drive!

Sandra B.
Alexandra B.4 years ago

It seems that something can be done in regard to this issue only with the pressure from other countries. Sure it will not happen overnight. It's a long way to go really. From what i know Saudis want their women to drive. If woman needs to go to the shop which is far, after a long day at work man has to drive her there. If women could do that, they could go by themselves.
This law is difficult for everybody. This law should be banned.
A man should choose if he wants or doesn't want his his wife to drive. It should be optional. Sure there will be those who won't allow their wifes to drive, but many would want that.

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B.4 years ago

Good!

Lilithe Magdalene

Who voted no?

I applaud our senators! Go Boxer! - yes, I am a Californian. It is a step, even if a small one.

Henri D.
Henri DeToi4 years ago

@ Erika B, I was only joking and I thought for a while that I would never get a reaction.

Erika B.
Erika Berner4 years ago

To Henri D's comment about being the safest roads.

I live in Saudi Arabia and the roads are not safe. I have seen male drivers stearing with their knees while talking on the phone and having their left leg hanging out the window. We have been pased in rush hour traffic by cars going on the left and/or right shoulder easily 200KPH, while traffic is moving at 120KPH. I have seen cars careening off road barriers and going across three lanes.

Allowing women to drive is not going ot happen overnight for one very understandable reason. There are not enough female traffic officers. (Actually, there aren't any). If a Saudi woman was ever stopped or in an accident there are no female police officers to talk to the women. Now while that isn't a big deal in the rest of the world it is here since in many families married women cannot talk to a man not of her family.

The other reason is when women drive men lose control over them. If the husband pays for a driver, that driver can (and in many cases does) report to the husband where she went, what she did and who she met.

Just to note, many of the Saudi men I know want their women to drive otherwise, he has to do it after work or on the weekends. And when traveling many of these same men have their wife do all the holiday driving.

Arlene Esan
Arlene Esan4 years ago

I support allowing Saudi women to drive. They deserve equal rights.

Henri D.
Henri DeToi4 years ago

Saudi Arabia must have the safest roads on the planet!

Loo Samantha
Loo sam4 years ago

let the women drive !!!!!