Women get the right to drive in Saudi Arabia

KING 5's David Espinosa-Hall reports.

Imagine living in a society, where you reach the age of, 16, 26, 36... and you still can't drive.

In Saudi Arabia, at least for women, that has been the case. Until a new ruling changed it all.

"It allows women the independence and it allows them more control over their daily life," said Samia el-Mosliman, grew up between Seattle and Saudi Arabia, and was pulled over, for being a woman.

To el-Mosliman Saudi Arabia driving ban against women was personal.  Not just because she is a woman or because she was arrested for driving. el-Mosliman considers Saudi-Arabia home.

“It was unique,” says el-Mosliman of her upbringing in the conservative Islamic monarchy. “It was more than 30 years ago, to have one foot in two different worlds," says el-Mosliman.

“There are many aspects of Saudi Arabia where women have it better than they do in the west, adds el-Mosliman. “When it comes to pay scale, dollar for dollar, women make the same amount as men do for the same jobs.  There are more women graduates [in Saudi Arabia],” says el-Mosliman.

Getting around as a woman in Saudi Arabia el-Mosliman was “extremely frustrating and extremely unproductive” says el-Mosliman. “It was a huge waste of money.  You have to hire a driver or go in taxis or your husband or teenage son had to leave their work or whatever their doing to come and ferry you around," she added.

The gulf kingdom is the only country in the world which bans women from driving. Up until the ruling that changed the system, only men were allowed licenses and women who drove in public risked being arrested or fined.

In 2013 el-Mosliman says some women decided to post videos on social media of themselves driving to normalize the behavior, and el-Mosliman got involved.

"I got into the car and decided I was going to take a little tour around the neighborhood. I had my video ready to post it, but some men in a big truck started following me," says el-Mosliman.

el-Mosliman says she eventually lost the guys who were following her and pulled over. el-Mosliman then called her driver who showed up shortly after.

"My driver came over and got in the car and I told him, just take off. At the point that we took off I saw 5 police cars heading towards me," says el-Mosliman.

Police surrounded el-Mosliman and arrested her.  She was detained for several hours and ended up with a citation for driving without a license.  Of the ruling, el-Mosliman says it is a sign that after years of pain and suffering for many women, the momentum is starting to move in the right direction.

"Women getting the right to drive is a big deal because Saudi Arabia was the last remaining country on earth that didn't allow women that freedom, which was taken away from them strictly based on their gender,” says el-Mosliman. For this to happen is a huge evolution of change," added el-Mosliman.

The new law will officially go into effect June 2018.  What are your thoughts of the driving ban and this ban finally being lifted?  Weigh in on my Facebook page and the king 5 Facebook page.

© 2017 KING-TV


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