More on Manal al-Sharif and women’s driving

  • Eman al-Nafjan has a good roundup on the latest in Manal al-Sharif’s case. Al-Nafjan was on also on CNN to talk about the issues yesterday.
  • Wikileaks documents reveal that the US government been quietly putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive, the Guardian reports.
  • Sabria Jawhar says “There was a time when I firmly believed the endless debate about Saudi women banned from driving cars was trivial. It distracted Saudis from the real problems of the denial of women’s rights: employment, education, guardianship abuses, inheritance, and fair and equitable treatment in the Saudi judicial system. The arrest and imprisonment of Manal Al-Sherif, 32, after driving a car in Khobar, has changed all that.” I have said it before and I will say it again: this issue has become a symbol for all other reform issues in the country, especially the ones related to women status. It has become like a psychological barrier. If we can overcome this, then we can cruise into our other challenges with more confidence and determination.
  • What if Manal al-Sharif were American, and Erin Brockovich were Saudi…
  • Tariq Alhomayed, the man who turned Asharq al-Awsat from a respected newspaper into a joke, weighs in on the women driving issue. Alhomayed fails to name Manal al-Sharif, but he says “She was stopped and told not to drive because there is no organization in place [to regulate female driving], but she returned the following day to drive yet again.” Well, he needs to get his facts checked because this is simply not true. Al-Sharif did not drive again after her first arrest, and she was arrested again from her house late at night in violation of the Saudi law of criminal procedures. Then he went on to say that she filmed her actions and uploaded them to YouTube “in order to provoke people.” How can he speculate about her motive like that when she is still in jail? But hey, at least Alhomayed offers a solution to get us out of this mess: “It would be useful to immediately announce the formation of a committee to study this issue,” he says. Yeah right, that usually works.

CPA and their PR puff, MFA and their tracking system

  • The Saudi Consumer Protection Association (CPA) would like to inform you that they have joined Consumer International (CI), a global federation of consumer groups. The head of CPA said this membership will help them do a better job. I would really like to believe it, but this sounds to me more like a PR puff than anything else. CPA has almost nothing for local consumers in the past. I know they don’t care about a tiny consumer like myself, but here is my little piece of advice to Dr. Mohammed Al-Hamad and his agency: stop talking to the press and do some real work. Kthxbai.
  • Saudiwoman: “I am currently on a family vacation in Italy but I had to post what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent my husband. Apparently they have a new service where they send the male guardian a text every time a “dependent” leaves the country. They don’t state which country the dependent left for but simply state that they did leave.”

Filmmakers, open letter to MoDo, muttawa hunt

  • Whenever someone asks me what interesting things Saudis are doing, I tell them to look at our rising group of young filmmakers. They are determined, passionate, and hardworking. Abu Dhabi’s The National caught up with my friend Abdulmuhsen al Mutairi when he was shooting his latest short film. “If you believe in art, you can make something, and in the beginning you will make very low, medium-quality work,” he said. “But if you continue to learn from your mistakes and the reviews of your audience, you will have something.”
  • Sarah Haji at MMW has an open letter to Maureen Dowd regarding her latest Vanity Fair travel piece about Saudi Arabia. “So unless you’re a self-righteous Times columnist with a history of thinking that thousands of years of culture and tradition should tremble in your Western wake, you should attempt not to project all of your customs onto another people,” Sarah writes.
  • Eman al-Nafjan aka Saudiwoman announced last week she was taking a break from her blog. Then she discovered she just can’t be away from the blog. How cute is that? So on her comeback post, she takes an expat friend who is about to leave the country to the mall on a Muttawa hunt. They got lucky in Riyadh Gallery, where they had a chance to witness a classic CPVPV raid on shoppers. Good times.