Shoura may discuss women driving issue

Updated 18 March 2013

Shoura may discuss women driving issue

The Shoura Council has accepted a petition that calls for holding fresh discussions on the issue of women driving in a historic move that may eventually facilitate the mobility of women. The petition, signed by 3,000 Saudi citizens including academics, scholars, writers, as well as young Saudi boys and girls, calls for the ban on women driving to be lifted.
"The human rights and petition panel of the Shoura Council has studied the petition and has decided that the issue of women driving should be opened for debate on the floor of the house," said a press statement sent yesterday to Arab News by Abdulla Alami, one of the chief campaigners, backing the women's right to drive. "Merely opening the issue for debate will give credibility to the council," Alami added.
A member of the Shoura Council , however, said: "Women driving is just one of several issues, which can or can't be taken up for discussions." It depends on the decision and the recommendations of the specialized panel, he added. This topic is still "not listed for discussion as far as I know," said the Shoura member on condition of anonymity. He, however, pointed out that he has been personally gathering information and feedback on this subject.
Referring to the call to end ban on women driving, Alami, who recently published a book titled "When would Saudi women drive?", said the petition submitted to the council calls for holding discussions and lifting the ban on women driving. "I call on the newly appointed women members of the council to join forces and to strongly discuss the subject," said Mohammed Al-Zulfa, a former Shoura member, who was the first man to raise the issue in 2006.
"I support the move to allow our women to drive in the capacity of being a Saudi citizen," said Al-Zulfa, adding that the Saudi women drive their cars in different countries where they go for education, business or tourism.
In neighboring countries like the UAE alone, about 36 percent of the Saudi female residents, drive their cars.
In fact, the driving schools in Dubai have witnessed a dramatic increase in Saudi women candidates seeking training and licenses and about 55 trainees receive licenses every month. Also, the Bahraini General Directorate of Traffic has issued more than 6,000 driving licenses to Saudi women in the past two years.
"A large number of Saudi women also hold international driver's licenses," said a Riyadh-based travel and tourism agency that helps in obtaining international driver's licenses.

Pakistani film director hopes to repeat Saudi premiere success with new movie

Updated 29 sec ago

Pakistani film director hopes to repeat Saudi premiere success with new movie

  • “Parchi” became the first Pakistani film, to be released in the Kingdom

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani film director is hoping his new rom-com can premiere in Saudi Arabia to the same packed houses as his last movie did a year ago.

Azfar Jafri said he wanted his fourth film “Heer Maan Ja” to open in Riyadh to an even bigger response than its predecessor “Parchi” when it premiered in the capital in January last year.

“Parchi” became the first Pakistani film, and one of only a handful of international movies, to be released in the Kingdom after the lifting of a near 40-year ban on cinemas. Its screening marked another milestone for a raft of modernization and cultural reforms in the Kingdom, spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“To say it (the ‘Parchi’ premiere) was the best experience is an understatement,” said its producer and CEO of IRK films, Imran Raza Kazmi. “I was completely overwhelmed with the amazing response we received. We weren’t expecting a crowd of that intensity. The number of shows and seats had to be increased.”

He said the release of “Parchi,” which tells the story of a group of friends who hit trouble when one of them owes a gangster money, had paved the way for future Pakistani filmmakers to showcase their work in Saudi Arabia.

Kazmi recently forged an agreement with a Saudi production company to distribute Pakistani movies in the Kingdom.

“We have some interesting projects lined up and we will be recruiting talent from there (Saudi Arabia) as well, so that should be interesting,” Kazmi told Arab News. 

Saudi cinemas were closed in the early 1980s, but in 2017 the government said it would lift the ban and open around 350 movie theaters with more than 2,500 screens by 2030, generating nearly $1 billion in annual box office sales.

“It is a matter of pride to be the torchbearer of sharing entertainment, culture and our unique voice with audiences in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Jafri said. 

Last year’s “Parchi” premiere was held at the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh and was attended by a host of senior officials.

Jafri said: “I believe it’s a good time for the Pakistani film industry.”