A prominent Saudi female activist, who has often infuriated local liberals by her ideas, has joined male voices which oppose any decision to end a long-standing ban and allow women in the conservative Moslem Gulf Kingdom to drive cars.
Rawdah Al-Yousif said the Saudi society is not ready yet to accept the idea of women driving cars and slammed what she described as internal and external campaigns focusing on the driving issue in the world’s dominant oil exporter.
She said women in Saudi Arabia must first be given their basic rights, including jobs, free housing, health insurance and other needs.
“I find it very strange that all these campaigns focus on one issue: driving cars by women…these campaigns continue despite the clear response by the rulers of this country that any decision to allow women to drive cars is up to the community not to just 3000 people or to some articles in newspapers or online,” she said.
“I hope there will be no decision to allow women to drive at this stage because we have first to respect the wish of the people and the society…we must not impose any decision on people who have not been given their basic rights yet…women are also not ready yet to bear their responsibility and leave their homes at a time when news of blackmail against the women are widespread.”
In an interview with the Saudi Arabic language daily Almuwatin, Al Yousif said those who campaign for women to drive cars should focus instead on women who cannot find jobs or those who are blackmailed by property landlords.
“These issues which must be given attention before the driving issue…in my opinion, all such issues do not need emotional thinking but a neutral, rational approach…if I were in an official position, the first thing I would do is to find a home for women who support families and get them jobs that will ensure their dignity and work stability….women have the right to get all these things and also health insurance in their names as well as the right to get passports for their children and to be able to send their children on scholarships abroad without the need for approval by the father who has abandoned his duty towards his family for some reason.”
Al Yousuf has frequently been criticized by Saudi liberals over her views, some of which have been dubbed backward. She triggered more criticism following her recent campaign to keep the guardianship system which bans Saudi women from travelling abroad with prior consent by their guardians.
The campaign was called "My Guardian Knows What's Best For Me” and it involved sending letters to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in which women confirmed their full support for an Islamic approach in administering the Kingdom.
In remarks published on her social network pages, Al Yousif wrote about "her dismay at the efforts of some who have liberal demands that do not comply with Islamic law (Shariah) or with the Kingdom's traditions and customs."
Al-Yousif also pointed out that the campaign's mission is to promote the voices of Saudi women who reject the "ignorant and vexatious demands" of liberals to do away with the guardianship system.