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Analysis Middle East Saudi Arabia

Women Driving is a Far Cry from the ‘Reform’ Saudis Need

Riyadh (GPA) – Western media is falling all over themselves to heap praise on Saudi Arabia finally planning to allow women to drive, but this was only one small problem in a country built on human rights violations.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a commission to begin taking the necessary steps towards allowing women to begin driving next year. The problem with this is that it’s only a small step in actually reforming the brutal monarchy. Unfortunately, it looks like even the right to drive still won’t be improving women’s lives all that much.

Guardianship Laws

For starters, lifting the ban on women drivers already has one immediate hangup obvious to even casual observers of Saudi Arabia. This is, of course, the fact that despite lifting the driving ban, there aren’t any indications yet of the Saudis making changes to laws requiring women male supervision at almost all times in public.

Related: Saudi Arabia, Venezuela And The Media’s Hypocritical Outrage Over Human Rights

While the new driving laws will allow women to get their licenses without a man’s permission, they still need male guardians to do things like travel. Women also need the approval of male family members for other decisions in their lives.

The laws restrict the travel of women by forbidding them to leave the country or their homes for that matter. The laws also give male family members (usually a father or husband) the final say in making decisions regarding issues including attending school or making medical decisions.

These are just some of the garbage laws in Saudi Arabia, but women obviously aren’t the only ones affected by Riyadh’s domestic policy.

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Flickr: U.S. Army Security Assistance Command

Human Rights Abuses in Saudi Arabia

For more examples of crimes committed (or currently carrying out) quick Google searches of things like “Saudi executions” should shine a light on some other problems within the country. In fact, several examples of the infamous Saudi show trials leading to executions have hit the media just this month.

One example being a Saudi-born Shia man named Abdulkareem al-Hawaj who was arrested at 16 and accused of anti-government activities (read: not being Sunni). Hawaj also claims his confession was coerced via torture but he has exhausted all his legal appeals.

Related: Latest Saudi Arrests: Activists, Judges Are Targeted

There’s also the case of a US national, accused of murdering his wife,  convicted based on shoddy evidence from a child witness who wasn’t present during the crime. This is all on top of other criminals such as drug users who get executed en masse like such as in July when six prisoners were killed in one day.

A lot of Saudi prisoners share some key characteristics like, say, having political views that oppose the monarchy’s bastardized version of Islam. It’s also worth noting that the Saudis play pretty fast and loose about what constitutes a “crime” as evidenced by their arrest of a child who was recorded dancing in public.

A lot of this is done to silence internal opposition and prevent it from reaching a global audience. One important aspect to keep in mind is that Saudi Arabia is in a constant struggle between the royal family’s grip on power and the oppressed populations in their country. This oppression ranges from the segregated Shia minority to hyper-exploited foreign laborers– and this is all just within the country.

Related: Saudis Deport 40,000 Pakistanis Out Of ‘Fear Of Terror’

This article doesn’t even begin to cover the full extent of Saudi abuses, and we won’t even get into the weeds on Saudi foreign policy. However, whether it’s the genocide being committed in Yemen, the ongoing feud and blockade of Qatar, or funneling millions of dollars in weapons and equipment to the Syrian “rebels,” it’s fairly obvious the Saudis treat citizens of the world with the same contempt they have for their own people. And vice versa.

Related: Here’s Exactly What 900 Days Of War Against Yemen Has Destroyed…

The crown prince may be looking to give his kingdom a new image with his “Vision 2030” program, but the global community probably won’t let this happen as long as these other, more grave, abuses persist.


Also published on Medium.

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