Saudi parliament to debate allowing women to drive

Saudi Arabia’s appointed parliament is set to debate a law to break a long-standing ban on women to drive cars after receiving a letter signed by more than 100 people, newspapers in the Gulf kingdom reported on Wednesday.

The letter, signed by 128 men and women, was addressed to Shura Chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al Shaikh, asking him to open a debate on a law allowing women in the conservative Moslem nation to drive.

“The Shura council agreed to discuss the issue of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia at its sessions in the next few weeks,” Kabar daily said.

The letter noted that many Saudi women drive cars outside the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, as they hold international driving licences. The signatories said the new law is needed to match the development of the Saudi society and save women from daily agonies of trying to find a taxi. “You and any Saudi national should not accept that the dignity of the Saudi woman is spilt on streets every day as she struggles to find a taxi cab to go shopping, or to go to work, hospital or school…we ask you to discuss allowing women to drive and enforce this law on a trial basis in the beginning.”

The papers quoted a Shura member, Abdul Malik Khayal, as saying driving is “a natural right for women” on the grounds there are no “legal or security barriers.” “We have information that many Saudi women have obtained driving licences from other Arab countries in return for large sums of money…so why can’t we allow them to get licences here…I believe allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia has become an inevitable and urgent need.”
 

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