Following are excerpts from an interview with Wajiha Al-Huweidar, Saudi women's rights activist, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on September 29, 2007:
Wajiha Al-Huweidar: Rights should not be subject to referendum or the vote. Rights are rights. This is tantamount to saying whether a person is entitled to earn a living or not, because for a woman driving a car... Women want to earn a living, to be economically independent, and to be able to support themselves and their children, if they have any. Rights should never be subject to referendum.
As long as a group of people is harmed by the bitter reality in which we live... This is not an insignificant group. Many women suffer from their inability to move around. This is why Saudi Arabia has the highest rate of unemployed women. More than 70% of Saudi [women] are unemployed – even those who have diplomas – because they cannot move around, they have no means of transportation. Their fathers or brothers might be too busy [to drive them around], and even if they get jobs, they need drivers, who cost part of their salaries...
I don't understand why, to this day, many Saudis do not understand the concept of rights. They don't know the meaning of the word "rights."
Interviewer: Could you tell us what it means?"
Wajiha Al-Huweidar: For example, your right to have a sense of belonging, your right to feel safe, your right to be a citizen, the right to have freedom of movement in your own country... These are rights that are indisputable and cannot be compromised on. They should not be subject to referendum. These rights should be granted, and should be part of the concept of citizenship. You cannot feel you are a citizen if you are deprived of your rights.