Women Face Terrorism Charges in Saudi Arabia … for Driving

I’m not sure exactly how Saudi Arabia defines terrorism, but apparently two women have been charged with it. For driving. Driving through a security checkpoint? Driving a bomb into a hospital? Nope. Just driving. Because it’s illegal in Saudi Arabia for women to drive. Why it’s illegal in the Muslim country is unclear. But it’s just another sign of the extraordinarily backwards state of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, and other Islamic countries, for that matter:

Lujain al-Hathlool, 25, and Maysa al-Amoudi, 33, were arrested a month ago after the former was caught driving into Saudi Arabia from across the Emirati border. . . .

Hathlool was driving across the border to raise awareness of the difference in women’s rights between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Amoudi, a journalist, was also detained when she came to help.

On Christmas Day, a judge declared that the case should be referred to the terrorist courts, such was the perceived seriousness of the crime.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are banned from driving. Since 2011, a campaign has been launched to overturn the ban, with some women defiantly driving cars in public in protest.

It’s strange that this is even an issue. Perhaps Islamic countries frown on female drivers because women’s Islamic garb reduces their visibility? That could be remedied by a few changes in religious garb prescriptions (not likely). But if you were going to lift a ban on women being able to use their peripheral vision, you would also probably have to address other women’s rights issues: like giving their testimony full weight in courts or protecting them from domestic violence.

Saudi Arabia might even be a quite advanced and “liberal” Muslim country as far as human rights and freedoms are concerned. Which should give you pause. In one of the more tolerant countries, women are still barred from even the simplest of first-world liberties. Like driving cars. Or wearing pants.

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