By Tara S Riggs
Gender equality in the Middle East has long been a struggle for women. Since the Arab Spring revolutions, women have been asserting their rights through peaceful protests and acts of disobedience. This past week, 60 women in Saudi Arabia took to the streets to defy the female driving ban and fight for equal recognition under the law.
Saudi Arabia doesn’t have an actual ban on females driving. There isn’t a law that says women can’t drive, but the government does not issue licenses to females. Reports say the women driving in the protest did have driver’s licenses, but they were issued from foreign countries. Amnesty International reports reveal prominent women involved in the protest received calls warning them not to participate, but plans continued anyway on October 26. Critics of the protest also posted a video on YouTube: “No women, no drive.“
No women were arrested during the protests even though officials in the kingdom were aware that it was happening, indicating that this protest is a step toward equality in Saudi Arabia and hopefully the rest of the Middle East. Though it was a small step in the right direction, it was definitely a step.
Our generation has seen monumental moments in the Middle East. Revolutions of 2011 are still having an impact and while the region still faces turmoil and crisis, women taking the wheel in Saudi Arabia is a light in the window. Even in the face of civil war in Syria, political turmoil in Tunisia (the Prime Minister announced his resignation recently), violence in Yemen and constant struggles elsewhere, we are able to witness progress. The fight isn’t over, but for now we can remain hopeful that amidst changes in the Middle East, progress is possible.
So, anyone want to go for a drive?