Coffee House

A long road ahead for equal rights in Saudi Arabia

19 December 2012

11:27 AM

19 December 2012

11:27 AM

Great news for Manal al-Sharif, the Saudi activist who rose to prominence after footage of her driving on the Kingdom’s roads went viral on YouTube last year.

She was arrested, of course, and spent time in jail for defying the authorities, but a small and committed campaign emerged nonetheless. Their tactics were simple: Sharif and her cohorts repeatedly applied to the General Directorate of Traffic for a driving licence, only to be refused on each occasion.

That seemed to change yesterday when a euphoric Sharif tweeted a picture of her new driving licence. The only downside is that it was issued by the United Arab Emirates. Saudi women still face a long road ahead in their quest for equal rights.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Augustus

    In Saudi Arabia, no woman can travel, work, marry, get divorced, gain admittance to a public hospital or live independently without permission from a “mahram,” or male guardian. Men can beat women who don’t obey them and fathers or brothers have the right to prevent their female relatives from getting married if they don’t approve of her suitor. While all the while renowned institutions, press outlets, and left-leaning public figures assure us that radical Islam and the West can co-exist, reality seems to argue for another conclusion altogether. The horrible truth is that our passivity is a form of suicide, and their alternative to Western civilization, at this point in time, is no civilization at all. Only a fool fails to see the dichotomy between the Islamists and Westerners. In Saudi Arabia they behead people for a wide variety of reasons, all of which are because of Islamist law ( alleged sorcery and killing a man because he is trying to rape you, among them, often with dull knives, not sharp axes or swords as here in the Middle Ages). What harmony can possibly exist between our civilization and such barbarism? The ulitmate goals of these religious fundamentalists are essentially political in nature, involving the recreation of an Islamic caliphate and the imposition of Sharia law over as broad a swath of the world as possible.

  • AY

    As Pat Condell said, “saudi arabia is absolute moral anus of humanity”.

    but you see, smooth operators of global jihad systematically try to shift the discussion towards muslim issues – smuggling them topic after topic.
    meaning – we in the West are obliged to decide which type of islam is acceptable for us.

    oh breakingnews – they saudi muslim rulers (eternal and god-given), will allow women to drive.
    they will even allow girls to wear that nasty sensitive piece of flesh there.
    they won’t behead gays, only apostates (sorry – it is in the holy-quraan-pbuh).

    so we Westerners should be inclusive, muslims do compromise a lot on issues important to them.

    so listen now.

    the only one way to make islam compatible with the West and modernity is total and unconditional dissolution of supremacist archaic islamic ideology.

    no we won’t discuss what type of cosmetics should be put on islam’s bloody mugs to make them “cool” and “vibrant” and trendy in the West.

    silver bullet through the heart of the beast is what we want – and most likely that will take a form of solving hydrocarbons problem.

    or by finding substitute for oil.

    or maybe even earlier, by finding way to remove parasytes using oil wealth to promote their barbaric conquest.
    but solution will be found and very soon.
    islam tried to bite too big a piece, and made too many enemies too fast.

  • David Ossitt

    On the one hand I could not give a bugger what the Muslim
    nations do or do not do, for me they are all well beyond the pale.

    What I object to is them trying (and succeeding) to bring
    their barbaric practices to the UK.

    It is up to the women in these countries to educate their
    sons and daughters that women are at the very least the equals of men, in our
    house she who must be obeyed is the boss (tong in cheek).

    • telemachus

      Correct sir

      In our great country we need to ensure through example, through schooling and through our sports and social infrastructure that equal rights apply to all in gender colour, ethnicity and religion.

      We need to come down like a ton of bricks on any attempts to duplicate barbarous acts tolerated abroad.

      We hould be a beacon to shine back to these nations.

      We should say look, see, you can have a better life if you live like this.

      And we can add at this time the words of the Carol

      Not verse 3 but the message of verse 4

      3.Sing lullaby!
      Lullaby baby, now a-dozing,
      Sing lullaby!
      Hush, do not wake the Infant King.
      Soon comes the cross, the nails, the piercing,
      Then in the grave at last reposing:
      Sing lullaby!

      4. Sing lullaby!
      Lullaby! is the babe a-waking?
      Sing lullaby!
      Hush, do not stir the Infant King.
      Dreaming of Easter, gladsome morning,
      Conquering Death, its bondage breaking:
      Sing lullaby!

  • Coffeehousewall

    A much worse problem for women in Saudi Arabia than not being able to drive is the increase in female genital mutilation. A recent interview with a doctor involved in the practice says…

    Doctor Muzaffar: Where in the past Prostitution or Adultery was punishable by stoning ,
    now sometimes they simply have the accused circumcised and , or
    infibulated. They bring them to my clinic and they are my guest for a
    day or two. I also Train nurses for the religious police to preform
    female circumcision. after a training period they are moved to female
    hospitals in other Kingdom cities. Clitoridectomy is not not a hard
    thing to learn for the average nurse. The religious police feel that
    female circumcision has many positive benefits. It calms women, ends
    lesbian activities, discourages adultery and prostitution. It allows
    women to concentrate on being good wives and mothers.

    RZ: I thought that female circumcision was limited in Saudi Arabia.

    Doctor Muzaffar: that was true for the most part in the past, it has
    always been present along the red sea and the areas that boarder Yemen.
    In the last few years it has grown allot spreading throughout the
    Kingdom. The west would have no way of knowing as women and women’s
    issues are kept private. And the foreign women that are guest in the
    harems are kept out of sight. With modern security There is little
    chance that once they are here that anyone will hear from them again.
    Even if they managed to escape the harem it would be all but impossible
    for them to escape Saudi Arabia. The religious police would return them
    to their masters.Currently I would say that at least 25% of all women in
    Saudi Arabia are circumcised. It is growing popularity and with the
    growing number of trained midwives within a generation all women who
    have bore a child should have had the tip of their clitoris removed.

    • Sarah

      And there’s the whole, not being allowed to vote thing.
      And the whole not being an automous adult but treated as a morally corrupt minor thing.

      What I want to know is why our Government applied sanctions to the racial apartheid state of South Africa, but are best buddies with the gender apartheid state of Saudi Arabia. One might start to think sexism isn’t seen as being as important as racism, because it affects women.

    • Barefoot Intactivist

      Equal rights means protecting not just females, but also males and intersex people from forced genital mutilation.

  • In2minds

    I don’t feel free and I already had a driving licence!

    • telemachus

      So do the Palestinians
      But they also have to face bombing and a wall that limits their free access to their own country

      • James Strong

        Like so many self-conscious PC lefties telemachus is a racist.He treats people of different races differently because of the colour of their skin.He thinks it is OK to tolerate the evils of brown-skinned people because that is ‘progressive’. So accepting the evils of muslim societies is OK because they are brown-skinned. If a white European country denied equal rights to women you can be confident that telemachus would denounce them.

        • telemachus

          I decry this but the moral authority of my country and hence myself is compromised because of the lapdog status of my Government to the US who promote the unlawful actions of their client state in the Levant

          • Julian F

            Would that be the “client state” that has the full-throated support of your beloved Ed Balls?

      • Hexhamgeezer

        Top Tit

      • Julian F

        Ed Balls in 2008: “It is a great honour to celebrate 60 years since one of the most momentous events of the 20th century; the formation of the State of Israel”

  • telemachus

    This is small beer when compared with the struggle of the brave Palestinian people for justice and the flagrant flouting by Israel of international law over settlements

    • Gerry Dorrian

      What about Palestinians being bombed in camps in Syria? You won’t find refugee camps in Israel, Palestinians are free in Israel

      • telemachus

        They do not feel free

    • TomTom

      Yes they seem to have Mercedes and presumably driving licences so they are much better off than in Saudi Arabia. Good point !

    • Sir Graphus

      This isn’t a story about Israel. Why make it one? The left makes odd alliances. Why can’t you stand up for women’s rights when non-whites are the perpetrators?

      • telemachus

        Look most of the tragedies of the Middle East and the inability of ourselves to influence them stem from the unquestioning support of the US for the settlements policy

        • Sir Graphus

          Are you saying that if it weren’t for the US support of Israel, women would be allowed to drive?

          • Coffeehousewall

            telemachus doesn’t believe in women’s rights. He thinks it is hilarious that female genital mutilation takes place and enjoys abusing those who post about it. He is no friend to women.

          • telemachus

            Disingenuous sir
            If we had democratic credibility and applied principles of International law to the West Bank then the repressive Arab regimes would feel mor obliged to hear us

            • Sir Graphus

              I don’t think they’d feel anymore obliged at all. I wager that if Israel didn’t exist, as many would wish, then the Arab world would be even less democratic.

              • telemachus

                The single thing that Arab regimes bring up when faced with moral questions from the West is the immoral support of intransigence over settlements

                • Sir Graphus

                  They would, wouldn’t they.
                  Doesn’t excuse their own awful record on women’s rights (just for starters), and the odd refusal of many on the left to condemn it.

                • telemachus

                  We have to prioritise effort
                  Condemnation of the major crime against international law is what could eventually lead to a nuclear conflagration with Iran

                • Julian F

                  Ed Balls: “Here in London, across Britain we have experienced in recent years what it is like to live with the threat of terrorism. But I do not think anyone in our country really and truly understands what it is like to be an Israeli citizen on a daily basis. But I have to say in the meeting the Chief Rabbi and I just had with the young people of Sderot, my, don’t we admire their courage. We admire their courage and their determination to live their lives to finish their schooling and to go on and fulfil their dreams”.

              • Madame Merle

                Absolutely, and they would still be slaughtering each other in the name of the religion of peace.

            • Hexhamgeezer

              cliche pimp

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Hola! el flatulento

      • telemachus

        Mi flatulencia es dulce a diferencia de la falta flatulencia de la derecha revanchista.

    • Julian F

      Ed Balls wouldn’t agree with you,. telemachus. In his words: “I over the last two years have had a number of chances to visit Israel — on three different occasions over the last two years. And I have seen an economy which is thriving, and a democracy which is strong and vibrant — even despite the pressures which are faced by Israel on a daily basis.”

      • telemachus

        He supports the 2 state solution that latest settlements make impossible

        • Julian F

          Yes he does, through sustained diplomatic and commercial support for Israel: “We will resist those in our country who — thorugh words and boycotts — seek to isolate Israel and who, in so doing, set back prospects for peace and a two state solution.”

          • Julian F

            Guess who said this in November 2012: “[we are] determined to work together with you to defend the state of Israel…confident we can achieve peace and prosperity across the region by supporting and celebrating the great achievements of the state of Israel”