Article from Middle East Online: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=22337.
Saudi Arabian women are seeking the right to drive again, seventeen years after the last time they tried it.
The personal costs of speaking out have always been high. The women who staged the first public challenge to the driving ban were denounced as whores in mosque sermons, were banned from working for two years and had their passports temporarily confiscated.
I don’t know exactly what was accomplished by confiscating their passports. They can’t travel anywhere without their male “guardian’s” permission, anyhow. I digress, but here’s an article from 2005 about Saudi ID cards, which women were going to need for the first time instead of just being included on their guardian’s family ID card: http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=60371&d=13&m=3&y=2005
I guess there was some confusion:
In fact, according to Al-Suwaileh, a Saudi woman who has a valid passport can apply and obtain her ID card without needing a male guardian. Only in the case of a Saudi woman not owning a passport, does she need a male guardian to verify her identity.
An official, however, told Arab News differently. “A Saudi woman’s passport without the approval of a male guardian would only suffice in the case when she doesn’t have any male guardian,” said Turki Mohammad Al-Malafekh, the director general of Jeddah Civil Status Department. “Other than that a male guardian must come in person and apply, provide approval and verify her identity by signing on the back of her photograph,” he added.
“A Saudi woman can only obtain a passport with the consent of her male guardian, so what’s a national ID card in comparison to the license to travel?” asked Noura Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi female applicant for an ID card at the Jeddah Civil Status Department.
Now back to the issue at hand, women driving in Saudi Arabia.
There is nothing in Islam that prohibits women from driving. Clerics from Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of thought, which preaches a strict segregation of the sexes, justify the ban by saying it prevents women from mixing with unrelated men.
But the drivers are men! I’m sure this somehow makes absolute sense to the men who dreamed it up.