On Alienating Opponents

I respect the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). Compared to the other human rights organization in the country, I believe that they have been doing a decent job. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised by their latest report. But even NSHR occasionally manage to get on my nerves too.

NSHR still lacks a stance on issues like women’s driving. One of the founding members of the Society was recently asked why they don’t have a stance on the issue and he gave an interesting answer. He said some members of NSHR supports women’s driving, while some other members don’t. We don’t want to alienate those.

Say what?!

I understand that women’s driving is a controversial issue. But I believe it shouldn’t be. To me, the issue boils down to this: freedom of movement is a basic human right. Therefore, you would think it’s obvious what kind of stance NSHR should be taking. Any member who has a different opinion can then express their reservation on this stance, or they can quit. It’s that simple, really.

But that’s just me. And I would gladly admit that I know very little about the inside politics of the few NGOs operating in Saudi Arabia. So people of NSHR, if any of you is reading this, please enlighten me.

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20 thoughts on “On Alienating Opponents

  1. You are absolutely correct – freedom of movement should be considered a basic human right. In no other country in the world is women driving even an issue up for discussion. It’s mind boggling that the NSHR refuses to take a stand on this.

  2. Obviously, I am not a member of one of these groups, but I think I can clear this up for you. None of these people is a woman. Therefore, women being unable to drive does not affect them in the slightest.

  3. DH and I witnessed the almost perfect accident yesterday. We were out walking and as we came to an intersection, we stopped – looked both ways for cars – a car coming far off to the left of us. Plenty of time to cross. Oops. Wait. Car coming up and stopping at the intersection – then proceeds to turn left. Thankfully the car – coming up the road, with the right of way to continue straight – was paying attention.

    Driver of the car that stopped, albeit briefly, and proceeded almost got perfectly T-boned. The problem? Woman with full head covering / veil with a slit on.

    If women are going to drive in this country, don’t you think someone should address the safety issues? Forget freedom of movement. They have freedom to move – get a driver, get a cab. If women are going to be allowed to drive the accident rate – which is already one of the highest in the world, here – is going to go up even higher.

    I am a woman. I would like to drive, here. It would make my life much, much easier. But until someone seriously looks at the safety aspect of this, thing need to remain as they are, status quo, with women NOT being allowed to drive.

  4. Following the principal that movement is a basic human right. The next step after allowing women to drive would be to allow them freedom to travel….you know they DAMN well ain’t gonna let that happen!

  5. but of course they should have the right to drive..

    on the safety issue.. maybe an abaya can be developed that is made of a reflective material/membrane so they can have proper vision without being seen..

  6. To “A free Saudii woman,” I am anything BUT a “typical brain washed Saudi woman.” [For starters, I am not Saudi nor I am married to one.] I am saying factually that there is a safety aspect of this that no one wants to address.

    I am all for women driving. The woman that almost got T-boned yesterday is allowed to drive on a compound that is in Saudi Arabia where the speed limit is 40 kilometers an hour [slow]. If she was down in Khobar doing what she did, she would either be in a hospital right now [so would the other driver] or she would be dead. All because her face was entirely covered but for a teeny tiny little slit for her eyes.

  7. If this matter would ever be resolved, I believe Women Driving should be a matter of equality first and foremost before it being a matter of freedom of movement.

    Approaching this issue from a freedom of movement perspective would open a can of worms since also part of freedom of movement is to travel without numerous police check-points, or arbitrarily imposing travel banns by the executive (MOI) rather than the judiciary.

    Even talking about its logistics like driving with or without a veil is secondary to the questions of justice, equality and elimination of hardship.

  8. You banned my comment ..I don’t blame u Ahmad..u are looking for a place under the Saudi scheme of things ..Good luck..keep fighting.

  9. I cant believe that women driving is controversial.

    Did women around the Prophet (pbuh) not move around Not ride camels?

    I cant believe it, I really cant. To theextent where the mix of shock, disgust and general upset is to complicated and simultaneous to describe.

  10. Ahmed

    I’ve been reading your blog from my home in Ottawa, Canada, for some time, as I’m quite interested in developments in human rights (especially women’s rights) in Saudi Arabia. Although it appears that things are changing somewhat in SA (albeit at the speed of plate tectonics), I doubt that women will enjoy the same rights as men for some time, and most likely for several generations yet.

    However sometimes outside political pressure can influence change. You may recall that for some time the formerly racist South Africa faced outside pressure – for example, it had products boycotted, and was not permitted to send a team to participate in the Olympic games, as most other countries were appalled at the racial segregation practiced there. Has there ever been any outside pressure on SA to halt gender segregation? If not, why not? Perhaps some influential Saudis should call for international sanctions until such time as gender segregation is banned.

    Speaking as a Canadian lawyer and business woman, I can only imagine what life must be like in a gender segregated country. Nothing about it makes rational, professional or business sense to me (or my husband, who would absolutely hate having to drive me around, or be responsible for my business activities, which I might add, contribute more to our family finances than his income as a physician). Good luck to all who are trying to modernize SA!

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