Driving while female: Saudi women rise against driving ban

by | Oct 28, 2013 | News

Samia El-Moslimany taking part in the Oct 26 driving campaign in Saudi Arabia. COURTESY EVA LUDEMANN.

Samia El-Moslimany taking part in the Oct 26 driving campaign in Saudi Arabia. PHOTO EMAILED TO HUMBER NEWS/COURTESY EVA LUDEMANN.

By Faiza Amin and Jake Kigar

A Saudi Arabian woman told Humber News on Monday that the campaign to let women drive will continue until the ban is removed.

Over the weekend, Samia El-Moslimany was detained in her home city of Jeddah for driving.  Upon her release, she signed a pledge to not drive again.

El-Moslimany told Humber News in a phone interview Monday she felt inclined to participate in the campaign because she felt it was her duty.

“My intent was to stand with people who did it in the past and be a force of inspiration for those in the future,” she said.

El-Moslimany enlisted the help of Dutch journalist Eva Ludemann, who joined her for the drive via SKYPE. The video shows a nervous El-Moslimany reciting an Islamic travelers prayer while driving around the urban city.

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While, El-Moslimany wasn’t breaking any traffic laws, her offence was driving while female. El-Moslimany is a Saudi woman who was taking part in the Oct. 26 driving campaign to protest the ban on women driving in the country.

Women across the country got behind the wheel protesting the de facto driving ban against women drivers in the country. Over 60 women claim to have taken part, posting videos online, as well as sending picture and video messages.


“I felt nervous but I was also excited to drive my own car,” said El-Moslimany. “This is my car, it’s in my name and I’ve never even driven it.”

Detained in Jeddah for driving

El-Moslimany was one of two women detained in Jeddah that day after being spotted by undercover police. She was interrogated and later accompanied to the police station.

“Every uniformed persons we met were nothing but gracious and polite,” said El-Moslimany. “I was just amazed at the impeccable professionalism of the security.”

Men also played a role in spreading the word on the cause.

Saudi-American comedian Hisham Fageeh, posted a video to bring attention to the plight of women in the country. Fageeh’s No Woman, No Drive rendition of Bob Marley’s classic No Woman, No Cry, pokes fun at the idea that driving could damage a woman’s ovaries.  It already has almost 4 million views.

Will Hanley, Fageeh’s former professor at Florida State University, said the comedian is interested in improving life in his country.

“He’s very interested in making Saudi Arabia the best place it can be and so he has a lot of things he wants to see happen,” Hanley told Humber News. “The video is definitely going to raise awareness to the general public.”

Will it have any impact?

Minoo Derayeh is a liberal arts professor at York University who specializes in Islam.  She told Humber News she feels the Western exposure to the ban is great for the women protesting, but she doesn’t think it will garner any influence.

“The U.S. doesn’t care about the rights of the women in Saudi Arabia, because the Saudis are their ally and they won’t do anything to hurt that,” she said.

As for El-Moslimany, she said she wants to show Saudi society that a woman driving isn’t an unusual thing.

“We’re not doing something wrong, me driving is normal, women driving is normal. It happens all over the world,” said El-Moslimany.