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Saudi women are the driving force behind Twitter storm

American reality TV star Kris Jenner congratulated Saudi women following a royal decree which allowed them to drive on 26 September 2017. [Kris Jenner/Twitter]
American reality TV star Kris Jenner used this image to congratulate Saudi women following a royal decree which allowed them to drive on 26 September 2017. [Kris Jenner/Twitter]

The news took us all by surprise yesterday when Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a royal order that will allow women to get behind the wheel, ending the long-standing ban on women driving in the Kingdom.

The decree ordered the establishment of a high-level committee which will be tasked with studying the practicalities of the order within 30 days and ensuring its full implementation by June 2018.

While driving is technically not illegal for women in Saudi Arabia, a fatwa, a religious ruling, issued in the early nineties placed a de facto ban on the practice. Being the last country on earth where women are not allowed to drive, unsurprisingly King Salman’s decision to reverse the ban took twitter by storm.

Cheers, ladies!

Millions of Saudi women and Twitter users all over the world rejoiced over the long-overdue decision. Celebratory hashtags quickly went viral, including #Women2Drive, #SaudiWomenCanDrive and #الملك__ينتصر_لقياده_المراه [The king champions women driving].

First things first:

We did it!

Congratulations, sisters.

Even though Islamic law does not prohibit women from driving, many Saudi clerics have argued that allowing women to drive would corrupt society and lead to sin. One cleric claimed that driving could damage a woman’s ovaries and therefore her fertility, while another only last week said women cannot drive because they “lack the intellect” of men.

Many Muslim tweeps argued that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would have encouraged women driving.

Nawaf Al-Ghamdi wrote: “Brainless. Women used to ride horses and go out to run errands during the time of the Prophet – peace be upon him – and his companions, and no one prevented them.”

Saudi Prince Abdulaziz Al-Saud also celebrated the decision, tweeting: “Those who not like this, they are responsible for their own family. Do not impose what you do not like on the whole society. Everyone is free to choose and no one is being forced.”

The decision comes after decades of protests and grassroots campaigns calling for women to drive and people made sure everyone remembers their struggle.

Saudi rights activist Manal Al-Sharif helped start a women’s right to drive campaign in 2011 when she filmed herself driving in the Kingdom and posted it on YouTube. She was detained the following day and held for nine days with no charge before being released due to widespread international pressure. Al-Sharif has since become the face of Saudi Arabia’s Women2Drive movement.

She also tweeted about the situation of other activists: “Lujain Al-Hathlool and Maysaa Al-Amoudy, 72 thanks for 72 days in prison for driving.”

Twitter was flooded with memes

Watch and learn, boys.

With a guardian or without?

Congrats were pouring in from everywhere

US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump said it was an historic day for women in Saudi Arabia.

Celebrities also celebrated the news. International pop star Rihanna posted an image of a painting on her Instagram account of a woman in traditional Saudi dress sitting on top of car, with the caption “Love to see progression. Women will now be able to drive in Saudi Arabia.”

 

American reality TV star Kris Jenner congratulated Saudi women, with an image of her own.

 

Even car companies joined in.

But not everyone is happy

On the other hand, many Saudis took to twitter to voice their opposition to the decision, launching hashtags of their own. The hashtags #حريم_بيتي_لن_يقودوا [The women of my household won’t drive] and #الشعب_يرفض_قياده_المراه [The people reject women driving] saw thousands attacking the decision.

It’s about our wives and daughters.

What’s next, though?

Twitter users hit back – hard.

It’s going to happen, get over yourselves.

Some Twitter users pointed out how Saudi women depend on private male drivers for transport when free mixing is prohibited in the country. Some 800,000 men, most of Asian origin, work as personal drivers to Saudi women.

Concerns about possible restrictions on women remain as Prince Khaled Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington and the King’s son, confirmed that women will not need a legal guardian’s permission to apply for a driving licence and a guardian will need to be present with her in the car. There have also been rumours about a curfew, the need for guardian approval for intercity travel and having to be above a certain age to qualify for a driving licence.

One item off the list

Lifting the ban on women driving has definitely been a step in the right direction, but Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go as Saudi women remain largely subject to guardianship law, which prevents them from applying for passports, travelling, opening bank accounts, working and conducting business or undergoing certain medical procedures without a male guardian’s permission.

#IamMyOwnGuardian in progress

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