Stories from Quick Reads and Saudi Arabia
Saudi historian Dr Saleh Al-Saadoon says women in the West drive because they “don't care if they get raped on the roadside.” He made the remarks in an interview with Rotana Khalijia, a Saudi-owned television channel aimed at Gulf countries, in his defense of a Saudi prohibition that bans women from driving. The video, which created an outcry online, was shared far and wide on YouTube.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving cars. There have been many efforts to break the ban, most recently on October 26, 2013, when dozens of women shared videos driving cars in the day they plan on defying the ban.
The Saudi “historian” notes that:
Unlike riding a camel, driving a car places a woman in danger of being raped, which for Saudi women is a much worse experience than for any women in the western world where women “don't care” if they are raped.
To make his interview worse, he suggested a solution to import “foreign female drivers” to drive Saudi women to prevent a potential rape by contracted male drivers.
Saudi Arabian blogger Hala Al-Dosari shares on her blog an interesting piece from an annual publication by the Wislon’s Center on women in the MENA Region. The publication suggests that 2014 might be a potentially promising year for women status in Saudi Arabia.
A day after a tiny news items titled, “Saudi Arabia ‘seeking Pakistani arms for Syrian rebels” appeared in Pakistani newspapers, political blogger Ahsan Butt posts a provocative piece warning Pakistan's foreign policymakers against tiptoeing into Syria's affairs.
In “This is not our war (Syria Edition)” on the Five Rupees Blog, Ahsan writes:
What Pakistan is doing vis-a-vis Syria is one of the dumbest things Pakistan has done in a long time, and that’s really saying something. The Syrian civil war, tragic as it is, has nothing to do with Pakistan. Pakistan has no interests in that conflict. None.
Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide Pakistan-made anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets. Ahsan warns:
Is it wise and advisable to wade into a sectarian civil war two thousand miles away?[…]
Just examine the trajectory of sectarian violence over the last decade.
He explains that any interference in Syria will force the Pakistani state to pay attention to rising sectarian violence in the country:
What are the possible ramifications for such a policy on sectarian violence in Pakistan? Is it likely to exacerbate and make more deadly sectarian cleavages or the opposite?
Ahsan lists four more provocative questions which you can read here.
The question “How Should Middle Eastern Women Dress in Public” posed by the University of Michigan is attracting hilarious spoofs online. The content is so rich that an additional post to our first one was necessary.
When Washington Post Max Fisher shared the original image on Twitter, he wasn't expecting this response by WSJ blogger Tom Gara:
— Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) January 9, 2014
But the spoof that got the most attention was undoubtedly Karl Sharro's of KarlreMarks:
An Arab university ran this fascinating poll about what is most appropriate for American women to wear in public. pic.twitter.com/uIta80i1f8
— Karl Sharro (@KarlreMarks) January 9, 2014
Interviewed on PRI, he explained his motivation:
“It's almost like putting Muslim women on a scale from 1 to 6, from being fully covered to not being covered at all, which I think is pretty absurd.”
Saudi women continue to challenge the driving ban imposed on them in the absolute monarchy.
This video shows a woman named as Azza Al Shammasi driving in Saudi Arabia on November 9.
Aaron Ross reports on his investigation in the heart of the ongoing human trafficking of young women from Madagascar to Middle Eastern countries:
For some enterprising businessmen, the collapse heralded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So-called placement agencies sprang up in Antananarivo and other cities across Madagascar, promising the good life in Middle Eastern “Eldorados,” where monthly salaries usually ran around $200. The agencies would pocket upward of $2,000 for each successful transaction [..] As Madagascar’s economy spiraled downward, the number of migrants grew anyway. Some headed clandestinely to Lebanon with the collusion of government officials. Of late, however, the most popular destinations have been Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Ross also details the consequences from of economic sanctions of the coup in his report. The topic was also discussed by national observers here.
You are not allowed to name your newborn daughter Eman, or Sandy, or Yara. And if it is a boy, names like Abdelnasser, Amir or Abdulmoeen are a no go. But that's only in Saudi Arabia. On Twitter, Iyad El Baghdadi shares this list of baby names banned in the absolute monarchy:
List of banned baby names in KSA. Includes: Abdulnasser, Amir, Maya, Linda, Sandy, Loren, Benjamin, Yara, Eman. pic.twitter.com/XHyrdT9bKQ
— Iyad El-Baghdadi (@iyad_elbaghdadi) March 12, 2014
And there is a photograph of an officially stamped list to go with this notice.
A video by WITNESS on the Human Rights Channel of YouTube wrapped up some of the most significant protests and human rights abuses of 2013. Dozens of clips shot by citizens worldwide are edited together to show efforts to withstand injustice and oppression, from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, Cambodia to Brazil.
A post on the WITNESS blog by Madeleine Bair from December 2013, celebrates the power of citizen activism using new technologies including video, while readers are reminded that the difficulty of verification and establishing authenticity remains a big obstacle.
“Citizen footage can and is throwing a spotlight on otherwise inaccessible places such as prisons, war zones, and homes,” says Bair. “But given the uncertainties inherent in such footage, reporters and investigators must use it with caution.”
Now that the Saudi government's position on the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia is clear, activists intend to continue to challenge the ban and “focus their effort on changing the government’s position instead of spending time trying to convince observers that society is not against lifting the ban.”
On Riyadh Bureau, Ahmed Al Omran writes:
Probably the most interesting outcome of the campaign was the decision of the Ministry of Interior to take a clear position on the matter. After years of vague statements by Saudi officials who emphasized that driving is a social issue and laws in the country do not ban it, spokesman Mansour al-Turki was forced to explicitly announce that they do not allow women to drive.
Several women have tried to send cables to King Abdullah about driving. However, that effort again appears to be hindered by the Ministry of Interior.
Saudi Arabia is the only country which prohibits women from driving.