In the video, al-Shariff and her passenger talk about other disadvantages to a driveless life: No taxis available at rush hour; drivers shared by so many women that a 10-minute trip to the office takes two hours; having to stand on the street to wave down a driver. “When I stand by the roadside, everybody, good and bad, will look at me. The good and the bad humiliate me because they don’t like the amount of money that I offer,” says al-Sharif. But driving herself, she adds, “There is nobody getting in my way and nobody harassing me, because I am in my own car with the doors locked.”
Women’s rights advocates in Saudi Arabia have written an open letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asking her to publicly support a woman’s right to drive, a campaign they describe as the most significant women’s rights movement in Saudi Arabia in two decades. “Wikileaks” reveals that US diplomats have made this appeal in private, but to no avail. The group is making a similar appeal to the European Union’s top foreign affairs official, Catherine Ashton.
That would be a welcome, supportive step, but perhaps not the “game changing moment” that the letter’s authors hope. The June 17 protest is sure to attract stiff opposition inside the kingdom. A counter campaign calls on men to use the cords of their headdresses to whip the women protesters. Not only is there stiff religious opposition to the protest, but many men fear that if women drive, they will take away men’s jobs.