The Contradictory Lives of Saudi Women


Saudi women walk inside the 'Faysalia' mall in Riyadh City, on September 26, 2011, a day after Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud granted women the right to vote and run in municipal elections, in a historic first for the ultra-conservative country where women are subjected to many restrictions.

Last week Saudi King Abdullah ruled that woman would be allowed to run for Parliament and to vote and run in future municipal elections. It’s a major victory for women’s rights in the notoriously conservative kingdom, but what about the age-old driving ban? The ban was implemented so that women would avoid getting into a situations where they could meet men, writes Eman al Nafjan in The Guardian. Ironically, since they’re not allowed to drive, women have to hire strange men to shuttle them to and fro on a daily basis. Several days after King Abdullah announced the political decree, a Saudi woman was sentenced to 10 lashes for driving her own car. Abdullah ultimately overturned the sentence, but the ban on women getting behind the wheel of a car remains. The events of last week demonstrated the paradoxical lives of Saudi women and highlighted a country of contradictions. Saudis have even coined a phrase that sums up the kingdom’s political and social contradictions: “Saudi exceptionality.”