My Attempt to Break the Driving Ban in Saudi Arabia

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After I was inspired by Manal Al Shirf campaign I asked my brother to teach me how to drive. Back then I was living in Riyadh city. Our teaching sessions have always started on Friday or Thursday mornings that’s when the streets are less busy. After making a good progress my brother started letting me drive to my hometown, the Eastern province, which is about 450 kms away. After we pass the check points we would swap the seats and I would sit behind the wheels and drive. I traveled to China but I came back to Saudi to visit my family 5 weeks ago and I wanted to continue learning.

Every time I drive my brother would sit next to me to give me instructions. I have been driving in the streets of Al Khobar for the last 5 weeks and I never had a problem. I even once went to a drive through coffee shop next to crowded oil station on half moon beach and ordered some coffee and then went to the beach. Some people would give me the V sign and others would just start taking pictures and videos of me while I’m driving!

2 days ago I went out for another training session but this time I wasn’t very lucky, As I was driving in the streets of Al Khobar city  I lost my way and went to the wrong direction, I ended up driving next to the police station! There were few police cars outside driving on the same highway, So I kept slowing down and driving on the right side of the road but my heart was racing. 3 police cars passed and none of them noticed me; there was even one of the police cars on the opposite direction, taking a U turn, the police car was less than 2 meters away but luckily didn’t notice me too.  Suddenly, a speedy police car was driving on the left side of the highway started to slow down dramatically. Apparently, someone has just told the police that there is a woman in the back driving a grand marquis 2007.  The police officer took the right track, slowed down, opened his car window and started looking at us, that’s when I decided to turn on the headlights of the car so the officer won’t see me, and then I started driving on the left track of the highway where most speedy cars go. Obviously, it wasn’t a good idea; they became more suspicious and started chasing after me! They kept asking me to pull over..

I pulled over safely like a pro driver, 2 police officers came to me and one of them said, Mashallah , you clearly can drive! But women are not allowed to drive here, it’s against the law, there is a law from the ministry of interior affairs to punish women who drive ”. I can tell from their accent, one of the police officers is from Najad and the other is southern Saudi. The Najedi officer started asking me questions like what’s your name? where are you from?  Where do you live? Are you Shiite or Sunni? So I answered all his questions but I never said I’m Shiite.

In the beginning the two officers were very cooperative ,they  Said” don’t worry, we will let you go this time,  but since the department of traffic police has been informed  that there is a woman driving on the highway and  they know we stopped you too, so we cannot let you go or lie to them  but when our boss comes we will tell him that you were caught driving inside the nearby neighborhood, we don’t want him to know you were caught driving on the highway, because if we tell him you were caught driving on the highway you will be facing serious punishments, such as confiscation of your vehicle, 10 days behind bars and 5000 SR fee. So my brother and I swapped the seats, he followed the police to a nearby neighborhood and stopped the car there, we made the  scene perfect before the arrival of their boss.

As we are waiting for the other police cars to come, the Najdi police officer took my ID card to see my full name. Al Najjar is either a western Saudi name or eastern Saudi name and I had an eastern accent.  Knowing that the majority of people who are from eastern province are Shiite, the police became suspicious, so he asked me again ”are you Shiite?” But I refused to answer him, so he took my brother outside the car and asked him if he was Shiite and my brother said yes. We just knew the Najedi officer was up to no good.

An Hour later, another 2 police car and 4 police officers came. One of the police officer looked older than the others with a higher rank, he was clearly the boss, he came to me and asked me if I I was driving on the highway and I sticked to the plan and said’ No, I was driving inside the neighborhood’. However, The Najadi Officer started shouting at us calling us liars and that I was caught driving on the highway. His mate kept silent, I can tell he was shocked too.

Now saying I was driving in the neighborhood was not my plan at all, it was actually the police officers plan. but, The Najadi officer turned against us after he knew we were Shiite.

He drove the police car behind us inside a nearby neighborhood to make the scene perfect before the arrival of his boss. He also made us lie to his boss and then he started shouting at us calling us liars!! What’s even worse is that the Najdi officer told his boss that his mate was trying to help us and let us get away with it.

After about 2 hours of questioning, the 2 police cars left, They told us wait with the police. We kept waiting for another 30 minutes inside the car, they 2 police officers who stopped us kept waiting for us too. But then after a while the southern police officer gave me back my ID card he said it’s okay you can go now.

My brother and I went home, this time my brother was driving. The southern police officer later called me on the phone telling me was punished because his mate who turned against us told his boss that his mate was trying to help up!

I am not afraid of breaking the driving ban again; I will get a driving license first and will drive again.

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47 thoughts on “My Attempt to Break the Driving Ban in Saudi Arabia

  1. Thank you for sharing these experiences and your insights. This type of recounting is far more compelling than the whinging of expats or the made for foreign media activism (though each of those has there place). Kudos to your brother for being so supportive.

    The prejudice and ethical failings of the Najdi police officer are disgusting–to say the least.

  2. I can’t believe their discrimination could reach that level!! 7asbi Allah wa ni3m alwakeel.. There are so many misconceptions about Shiite especially in najd where I’m from.. I used to hear horror stories about Shiite at school. Thank God I have educated parents who taught me that Shiite and sunni’s are all brothers in Islam… Although I still don’t know much about Shiite.. Talking about this is a taboo especially in college cuz there were so many Shiite girls, but it’s 3eeb to talk about it! According to girls at college… Even though they are the nicest people! I hope we can all discuss this freely soon

  3. Disgusting, retarded, misguided woman! Trying to break the laws of a sacred country! U shiites have no regard for the sanctity of this great country, if you dont like it why dont you emigrate to Iran where i am sure you will be accepted!

  4. You’re an inspiration. Keep up the great thinking. I’m sure you don’t listen to the comments like just above this one-which is so backward. I am proud of you Omaima!

  5. Those are the kind of Muslims who should have their beards shaved off. Astaghfirallah!!! Sorry for the trouble sister and give your brother a big hug and kiss. Allah will reward him!!!

    • You have women from all over the world reading your blogs. Keep up the good work and don’t give up. I am so proud for all of you and the progress that you are making. Remember “a journey begins with a single step.” I love reading your blogs as they are so insightful.

  6. Reblogged this on Al-Must'arib (a vocational Mossarab's notes) and commented:
    The struggle keeps on. Not just abt women’s driving rights… also abt religious discrimination and calls to fight among muslims themselves, not only in KSA but also in places like Syria, where ppl starts kicking away their non-sunni neighbours accused of supporting Assad. It’s a bit like 16th century in Europe, with catholics (like myself) against protestants… 30 years of wars and centuries of separation. So we can give an experienced advise to saudis and muslims and mankind in general… DON’T GET INTO THAT CRAP. Faith is smthg personal that just affects each one of us personally and it’s a business between God and us individually. Just behave urself as you should…. and start not taking God’s job, judging and condemning others. Really guys… IT’S NAY YER BIZ!

  7. Wow, how interesting. Discriminated against for both gender and religion. Good luck with your driving. The people of the world are cheering you on!

  8. I am a 61 year old school teacher from Austin, Texas, U.S.A. I have had my driver’s license since I was 14 (now one has to be 16). I have driven myself all over this country and could not imagine myself without being able to get in my car and go when and where I want to go. In Texas about 100 years ago, cars took the place of horses and women in Texas that long ago all had a horse! We have always been able to go where we want. I wish for all Saudi women the wonderful freedom I take for granted.

    I house Saudis in Austin who go to an English school nearby my home. Over the past 6 years, I have had about 15 boys. I am very sorry to say that all but one of the boys believe that women in Saudi should not drive. They tell me Saudi women are “too soft” and would cause so many accidents. I get so mad inside, but just listen. It disheartens me that these young men from Saudi think so ill of the women who will become their wives and the mothers of their children.

    • Pls tell me what is wrong with a woman driving?????? I dont think that it is against gods will, that woman drive??????

      • if your country/governement says no, it is upon you to obey them. and this is from what our religion teaches us.
        it is upon the woman to obey her guardian/mahram and it is then upon that male to obey the government.. and this is how it is in KSA.
        However, if your country allows you to drive, so then drive.

      • I am not furstrated, I simply dont understand why woman shouldnt be driving!!!!!!
        And I simply dont understand people who support this.

  9. Ya rab! That was crazy! How did I not read this before? So as if driving while women wasn’t bad enough… now you had to be doubly screwed for driving while a Shitte women… despicable! Sorry you had to go through such madness! I am glad it will not stop you from driving some more! Keep it up! Ooh enshallah this madness will finally be put to an end!

    • In 5th Century bC, a greek writer named Aristophanes created an incredibly funny comedy called LISISTRATA (In old Athic Greeek : Λυσιστράτη) … I am pretty sure it must be hard to get an arabic translation, but promote its reading would be amazing to give an idea of how long ago we, men, learnt that, once united, women can make a lot when they really work together for something and stand for it.

      All the freedoms and rights that women achieved in the west costed years of effort and troubles. Even many deaths. And there’s still inequality. Most of times, except on pure physical tasks, they are more efficient than us. We see and we know. Just check University Campus figures and data…

      And still today, here women can find the same kind of Pythecanthropus-like guys you can find in KSA and everywhere, but it’s the exception, and not the social rule.

      Gather, organise, lead the change.

  10. I think nice the way you wrote all this was ruined by the fact that you saw the officers as “southerner” and “Najdi”. That shows serious prejudice and racism on your part. Theres people from the south who are extremely biased against Shias, and extremely open minded people from Riyadh.

    I think the way you wrote it just gave you away. I cannot blame you though as I know some Shias DO face social discrimination sometimes and on top of that its pretty common in Shia culture to teach hatred against people from the Riyadh area. The result? Stereotyping back and forth that nobody benefits from exactly like the type you faced, and are also guilty of.

    As for driving, you have my full support. You and many others like you will create change. I think the government itself is ready for it (judging from what they say to the press) and just want it to come from the people so that they don’t have to make an official “announcement” that would cause anger among stupid (hate to use strong words like that but oh well) conservatives!

  11. IDEAS 1416
    You are from the UK? MY country? GO AWAY, we don’t need ‘people’ with your views in my country thanks. Women of Saudi, ignore these pathetic ignorant laws and drive!!

    • Hey, I am sorry but I did not say anything about UK. She was talking about KSA and I just said that I am not from there and I can drive here… And as much as it is YOUR country it is MINE. My people made your country florish, you were in need of us after the WW2, who invaded MY ancestors country? YOU THE BRITISH! We do you a favour and what do you turn back and say? ….

  12. That’s terrible.

    However, it’s your blindness to the persecution your little demigod Iran perpetuates against Sunnis in that Godforsaken country that creates such resentment against Shias.

    Even then it’s minor – look at all the special perks Shiahs get as pilgrims. Refusing to read salah behind the Imams of the Haramayn because they consider them Kaafir? A-OK. Doing their little wailing worship of the dead at Baqi’? Nah, no worries. Swearing at and cursing Umar and Abu Bakr at their graves and the Sahabah on their own land where they did for us? Whatever.

    Your religion and values are at violent loggerheads with Islam. Frankly, you should all be sent on your own Aliyah to Iran and let the Sunnis in that hellhole come to Saudi. Thrown in another boycott of the Hajj by your semigod ‘Ayatullah’ and everyone will be much happier than now.

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