The Times of India, among other media, picks up this AP story by Donna Abu-Nasr on how the winds of change seem to be affecting Saudi attitudes toward women’s driving. The instances she sites have been covered here earlier, but she does make the point that the government has not (yet) objected to various petitions to permit women to drive.
RIYADH: When Ruwaida al-Habis’ father and two brothers were badly burned in a fire, she had no choice but to break Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers to get them to a clinic.
Using the driving skills her father taught her on the family farm, al-Habis managed to reach the clinic’s emergency entrance without a hitch.
“When I pulled up, a crowd of people surrounded the car and stared as if they were seeing extraterrestrial beings,” the 20-year-old university student said. “Instead of focusing on the burn victims, the nurses kept repeating, ‘You drove them here?”’
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans all women, Saudi and foreign, from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and women who cannot afford the $300-$400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.
But there are signs support for the ban is eroding. Al-Habis’ story was first published in one of the biggest Saudi newspapers, Al-Riyadh, which even called her “brave.” Her father, Hamad al-Habis, praised his daughter’s action.
“Why should it even be an issue?” said Hamad al-Habis in his hospital bed. “My daughter took the right decision at the right time.”
Al-Habis is one of several women whose driving has made headlines. It is not clear whether the reports are a sign that more women are driving or that newspapers are just more willing to report about them. But in either case, it suggests the long-unquestioned nature of the ban is eroding.