Women drive in Saudi Arabia as MBS moves country toward change

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (a.k.a. MBS) has been leading a repressive Saudi Arabia toward change.

For the first time, women can drive.

This may be one of the most visible symbols of modernization to a country that has been policed by clerics of conservative Islamic orthodoxy.

“It is as if I have been recognized as an equal citizen,” said Hatoon Ajwad Al-Fassi, a historian and columnist at Al Riyadh newspaper.

Alongside agenda for social change, MBS has launched a plan for economic diversification. Saudi Arabia’s wealth has come almost exclusively from oil exports, which are either in short supply or, in the least, subject to price declines. The export of crude oil also means they’re not producing “downstream” goods from their oil.

Despite the obvious excitement among women, not all will apply for a driver’s license.

A survey showed that 61% of women want to drive. Of those who don’t want to drive, 41% said it was because they feared traffic accidents and 27% because they were scared of being harassed by men.

Religious clerics describe driving as immoral for women, saying it allowed them freedom to behave sinfully.

Other reforms brought in by MBS include the re-opening of public cinemas for the first time since the 1980s, the lifting of a ban on music concerts and allowing women into sports stadiums.

Still, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most restrictive countries in the world, with some rules—particularly the guardianship system in which women remain dependents of male relatives like a father, husband brother or son—as reminders that women are far from being drivers of their own lives.

Other things women can’t do include wearing clothes that “show off their beauty,” interacting with men to whom they are not related, swimming in public, and trying on clothes when shopping.

Click here to read the WSJ article.


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