Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: Urge the president to support women’s rights by appointing a female Secret Service officer as his driver for his upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia
The driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia has made headlines a number of times in the past several years, and Saudi Arabian activists have coordinated a number of impressive campaigns calling for an end to the ban. Urge President Obama to use his upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia as an opportunity to support the work these activists have been doing by appointing a female Secret Service officer as his driver for the duration of his trip.
Women in Saudi Arabia are considered minors for their entire lives. Every woman has a male guardian from among her relatives, and these guardians make decisions on the woman’s behalf regarding everything from marriage to education to travel. In a blog entry for Amnesty International, Saudi Arabian activist Eman Al Nafjan writes, “If there was one word to describe what it is like to be a Saudi woman, it would be the word patronizing.” She argues that the driving ban is one of the most visible and egregious examples of women’s lack of agency in Saudi Arabia, pointing out that the driving ban restricts women from pursuing careers, educations, and even healthcare. She also highlights the financial limitations the ban imposes; driving restrictions mean that in order for a woman to get anywhere with any reasonable degree of flexibility, she must not only pay for a car but for a driver. Public transportation systems are basically non-existent.
The driving ban in Saudi Arabia has been challenged time and again, and even high-ranking Saudi officials have acknowledged that there is nothing in either Saudi Arabian or Islamic law to support the ban. The official line is that the ban is only “socially maintained,” but the sad reality is that women behind the wheel are often pulled over, brought to the police station, and made to sign a document–in conjunction with their male guardians, of course–promising not to drive again.
President Obama’s upcoming trip offers a prime opportunity for the president to stand in solidarity with activists in Saudi Arabia. Sign the petition and urge President Obama to make a strong statement by appointing a female Secret Service officer to be his driver in Saudi Arabia.
Dear Mr. President,
For years, Saudi Arabian women have been fighting to assert their right to drive but have come up against strong official resistance, despite the fact that there are no Saudi Arabian or Islamic laws that support the ban. Your upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia offers a prime opportunity to stand with Saudi Arabian activists and affirm the United States’ commitment to human rights worldwide. I urge you to make a stand against discriminatory driving practices in Saudi Arabia by appointing a female Secret Service officer to be your driver for the duration of your trip.
High-ranking officials in Saudi Arabia have acknowledged the baselessness of the driving ban, claiming that there is no official rule against women driving and that all enforcement of the ban is “socially maintained.” However, women who drive are often pulled over, brought to the police station, and made to sign a document–in conjunction with their male guardians–promising not to drive again. Essentially, the Saudi Arabian police are “enforcing” a sexist, archaic, and discriminatory law that does not even exist.
It is only too easy to see what a gross violation of human rights this is. The United States should be committed to standing up against human rights abuses, no matter where they occur. Please stand in solidarity with Saudi Arabian activists and appoint a female driver for your trip.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Carlos Latuff via Wikimedia Commons