September 27, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 7111

Saudi King Lifts Ban On Women Driving: Over A Decade Of MEMRI Reports And Clips On The Issue Of The Ban

September 27, 2017
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 7111

On September 26, 2017, Saudi King Salman bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz issued a decree "to apply [Saudi Arabia's] traffic laws and regulations to men and women alike, including the regulations for the issuance of a driver's license" – thereby lifting the ban on women driving in the kingdom.[1] The decree notes explicitly that it conforms to the majority opinion within Saudi Arabia's Council of Senior Scholars, which is that the Islamic shari'a does not categorically prohibit women to drive. The king also ordered the establishment of a committee, comprising representatives from the Interior, Finance, Labor, and Social Development Ministries, to submit, within 30 days, recommendations for implementing the decree.[2] The decree ushers in a new era in Saudi Arabia, where women have been forced to rely on family members or on a chauffeur to drive them, and women caught driving were arrested.

The decree  – which followed a years-long public campaign against the ban, led by Saudi intellectuals, liberals and human rights and women's rights activists – was welcomed by Saudi officials, including Shura Council members, ministers and local governors. Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Khalid bin Salman expressed his support for it, saying that Saudi Arabia is ready for this change because women no longer require the consent of their guardian to apply for official documents such as a driver's license[3] and do not need a chaperone while driving. He added that once the decree comes into force, not only will women with a Saudi license be allowed to drive in the kingdom, but so will women with a license from other GCC countries.[4]

Poster released by Saudi Information Ministry: "Saudi Arabia Allows Women to Drive" (Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 27, 2017)

The decree also sparked an explosion of joy and enthusiasm on social networks, and hashtags like "King Salman Stands with Women" and "Saudi Women Can Drive" went viral. Many supporters of the decree also expressed hope for further reforms in Saudi Arabia, in particular a lifting of the ban on opening cinemas.[5] Media reports on the decree stressed the support for it within Saudi society, its economic benefits, and its compatibility with the Islamic shari'a and with the majority position within the Senior Scholars Council.[6]

For over a decade, MEMRI has followed the calls to end the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, as well as the public debate in the kingdom on this issue and on women's rights in general. The following are MEMRI reports and MEMRI TV clips dealing with women's driving.


MEMRI TV Clips On Women Driving In Saudi Arabia 2005-2017

Saudi Academic and Preacher Saad Al-Durihim: Islamic Law Does Not Prevent Women from Driving; the Ruler Should Make This Decision – Clip 5910, January 19, 2017.

Saudi Historian Saleh Al-Saadoon: Our Women Should Not Be Allowed to Drive Lest They Get Raped – Clip 4754, January 11, 2015.

Debate on Saudi Women Driving: The Rate of Rape, Fornication, and Divorce Would Rise – Clip 4576, September 26, 2014.

"No Woman, No Drive" – Saudi Comedian Sings in Satirical Protest of Ban on Women's Driving – Clip 4021, October 26, 2013.

Saudi Activist Lamia Bukhari Defies Cleric over Ban on Women's Driving: We Need This – Clip 4020, October 21, 2013.

Saudi Cleric: Driving Causes Damage to Women's Ovaries – Clip 4011, September 29, 2013.

Riyadh Woman Drives Car as Part of Online Campaign to Permit Saudi Women to Drive – Clip 4010, October 7, 2013.

Saudi Justice Minister Muhammad Al-Issa: Women Driving Not Illegal, But Depends on Will of Society – Clip 3819, April 26, 2013.

Is 'Arab Destruction'; MB Smell Spreads in Saudi Arabia; Iran Cannot Be Trusted; Saudi Women Should Be Allowed to Drive – Clip 3811, April 2, 2013.

Islamic Researcher Ahmad Bin Baz, Son of Former Saudi Mufti, Calls to Allow Women to Drive in Saudi Arabia: Viewing Women As Lesser Humans Is Dangerous – Clip 2502, May 14, 2010.

Liberal Saudi Journalist Turki Al-Dakhil Supports Allowing Women to Drive as Well as the Chopping Off of Thieves' Hands – Clip 2031, January 19, 2009.

Saudi Women's Rights Activist Wajiha Al-Huweidar Drives Her Car, Calling upon Authorities to Allow Women to Drive – Clip 1712, March 8, 2008.

Saudi Women's Rights Activist Wajiha Al-Huweidar: Women's Rights to Drive Should Not Be Subject to Referendum – Clip 1580, September 29, 2007.

Saudi Intellectuals Discuss Whether Women Should Be Allowed to Drive – Clip 1475, May 19, 2007.

Saudi Cleric Dr. Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Fawzan Explains Why Women Should Not Be Allowed to Drive – Clip 735, June 17, 2005.

Saudi Shura Council Member Proposes to Allow Women to Drive – Clip 733, June 8, 2005.

MEMRI Reports On Women Driving In Saudi Arabia 2007-2017

Special Dispatch No. 6747 Saudi Demands For Women To Be Allowed To Drive Continue; Columnist: This Ban Is Aimed At Perpetuating Men's Control Of Women – January 18, 2017.

Special Dispatch No. 6643 – Saudi Journalist: Saudi Government Must Immediately Lift Ban On Women Driving – October 13, 2016.

Inquiry & Analysis No. 1029 – Saudi Activists Renew Campaign For Women's Driving – October 23, 2013.

Inquiry & Analysis No. 694 – In Saudi Arabia, Renewed Debate over Women Drivers – June 7, 2011.

Special Dispatch No. 2965 – From Car to Donkey: One Saudi Woman's Campaign for the Right to Drive – May 18, 2010.

Special Dispatch No. 2769 – Son of Former Saudi Mufti: Women Should Be Allowed to Drive – January 26, 2010.

Special Dispatch No. 1875 – Saudi Shura Council Recommends Allowing Saudi Women to Drive With Limitations – April 9, 2008.

Inquiry & Analysis No. 402 – The Public Debate in Saudi Arabia on Women Driving – November 13, 2007.

Special Dispatch No. 1722 – Saudi Feminist Wajeha Al-Huweidar: The Campaign for Women's Right to Drive Saudi Arabia Is Just the Beginning – September 27, 2007.

Special Dispatch No. 1710 – Saudi Feminist Wajeha Al-Huwaidar Launches New Campaign: Let Us Drive Cars – September 11, 2007.

Special Dispatch No. 1513 – What Is The Punishment For A Woman Who Drives A Car? – April 1, 2007.


[1] It should be mentioned that there were some areas where the ban, as well as the Saudi laws against gender mixing, were not enforced, such as the campus of King 'Abdallah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) near Mecca and the Aramco gated community in Dhahran.

[2] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), September 27, 2017.

[3] On a May 2017 decree by King Salman easing guardianship (wilaya) requirements for women in the kingdom, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1316, The Saudi Royal Decree Easing Guardianship Requirements For Women, And Responses To It In Saudi Arabia, June 2, 2017.

[4] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), September 27, 2017.

[5], September 27, 2017.

[6] See, e.g., 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), September 27, 2017.

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