Shoura may discuss women driving issue

Updated 18 March 2013
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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.


Saudi Arabia’s road to profound changes, in the eyes of outsiders

Updated 3 min 13 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s road to profound changes, in the eyes of outsiders

JEDDAH: As the National Day of Saudi Arabia approaches, the people of the Kingdom gear up in green to celebrate it. As excited as Saudi nationals are, expats living in the country also play their part in celebrating National Day.
Arab News made contact with some expats in Saudi Arabia to hear an outsider’s view on the transforming country.
A 66-year-old Yemeni expat living here for half a century, Salman has seen changes occur in front of his very eyes, “All the changes are moving toward a better Kingdom, for the perfect effect we will need to wait 10 or 15 more years.”
He added: “Saudi Arabia is a country rich in resources. All its resources mixed with modern methods can really take the country somewhere.”
Sarmad Hassan from Pakistan, who has lived in the Kingdom for 9 years, says, “The major changes that had a positive impact were cinemas opening and women driving, as these are things the community has been waiting for a long time.
“I had expected the changes for some time now because they were required to make a better country in the long run.
“Change is always good, it is usually hard to accept changes when they first happen but with time everything will get back to normal. To carry out the KSA’s ambitious welfare and development projects, changes which would add value to the economy are required.”
Amin-Al-Mrstani, a Syrian expat living in Saudi Arabia for 33 years, commented: “I never thought that the changes would happen, but they did happen and most of them are good.
“The further changes that I would like are to stop the shops closing during prayer time and better maintenance of the main roads and cities, which needs more attention.” Other than that, I personally enjoy the music events, cinemas and ladies driving the most.”
Salman Latif, a Pakistani for whom Saudi Arabia is a second home and who was born and brought up in the kingdom, commented: “I never really thought Saudi Arabia would become this flexible and change so much in favor of women. Personally, I am looking forward to more events here.”
Willy de Guzman, 65, from Philippines, says: “I have been here for 27 years, I hope the economy becomes better. In my opinion if that problem is tackled the Saudis have the best security so better things can be expected from the future of Saudi economy.”
In conclusion, it is safe to say that the expats living in Saudi Arabia are keen to see where the current unfolding of events is going to lead and are rooting for the best for the nation and themselves.