A Saudi journalist thought of an innovative idea of how to test public reaction to seeing a woman drive a car in the Gulf Kingdom which still bars females from driving despite occasional acts of defiance by some women.
Saad Al Salim said he decided to disguise as a woman by wearing the traditional black gown and face veil and drive his car through the streets of the capital Riyadh. At the end of his three-day adventure, he found it a “bitter experience.”
The journalist from the Saudi Arabic language daily Shams said he prayed on the first day of his adventure that he would not be caught by the police or the feared members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
“I was not caught but it was a bitter experience from the beginning…as I started driving, my car came under attack by rocks and sharp objects,” he said.
“These attacks did not stop as I drove from one area to another…at the end, I decided to take the gown off and drive back to office.”
Salim said he was harassed again as he drove on the next day but that the reaction was less violent.
“Seconds after I drove into the famous Tahlia street, many young men gathered around my car and started to harass me…some of them uttered obscene words and this prompted me to take the gown off immediately, causing a shock to the passers-by and the male drivers, who then pulled away peacefully.”
On the third day, Salim drove his car disguised as a woman outside the city but a few minutes later, he noticed that many vehicles were tailing him.
“I pushed down the accelerator but they kept tailing me and it was becoming more challenging and exciting…it was clear that all of them were determined to catch up with my car and know who I am,” Salim said.
“In the end, I could not go on as the situation was becoming dangerous…so I took off my gown and waved for the drivers who suddenly stopped waving for me and put away their mobile phones which they were using to take a shot of me…after what happened on the third day, I decided to stop wearing a female gown and drive in the streets…I just wanted to test public reaction to seeing women drive a car and how the society will accept this…I think what happened during these three days sums up the situation clearly.”