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Sep 27, 2017

Saudi Arabia gets a PR win for entering the 19th century

Great news that Saudi women will be allowed to drive, right? Pity it's a distraction from the regime's war crimes and massive human rights violations.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

The brutal theocratic regime of Saudi Arabia is suddenly everyone’s favourite fundamentalist gang of war criminals after announcing — in a specially coordinated announcement at home and in Washington — that it would be joining the 19th century in allowing women to drive.

Our close Arab ally has been drawing greater and greater attention for its ongoing atrocities in Yemen, its orchestration of a famine and contribution to the outbreak of cholera there, with many urging an end to western arms sales to the regime —  though our own Christopher Pyne is still eager to sell defence material to the Saudis. So the announcement is well-timed to distract attention from its onslaught on Yemen, to a much-hyped Saudi plan to modernise its economy.

But some quick facts on the announcement should be noted:

  • It won’t come into effect until June 2018, if then;
  • The lifting of the ban will be vetted by a committee of clerics to ensure it is “sharia-compliant”;
  • Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship laws, while amended slightly earlier this year, still prevent women from travelling abroad, getting a passport, or getting married, without the approval of their male “guardian”, and allow any private company to refuse to deal with women unless they have the approval of their “guardian” and 
  • Hundreds of Saudi women have been arrested and jailed for driving in the country in recent decades, including in repeated protests that have drawn international condemnation of the regime. There’s been little mention of the bravery of these women in news coverage, which has focused on on the regime “granting” the right, rather than being forced to acknowledge it.

Some things that women can do in fundamentalist Iran that they can’t do in Saudi Arabia:

  • Vote for the country’s president;
  • Hold parliamentary and ministerial positions;
  • Have high-profile careers in the arts;
  • Drive professionally as taxi drivers, bus drivers and racecar drivers;
  • Perform on stage with men and
  • Not get executed for sorcery.

Pretty sad when our ally makes one of the word’s most misogynist regimes look relatively enlightened.

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One thought on “Saudi Arabia gets a PR win for entering the 19th century

  1. AR

    Perhaps I missed it elsewhere in the media but BK pinged my first thought on hearing this PR agency promulgated non-news, “oh goodie, only a couple of hundreds year behind, now”.

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