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Fight your case fairly

Badrya Darwish

Badrya Darwish

It was interesting watching an interview on Arabic BBC this week with a Saudi writer in Washington DC about women’s right to drive.

BBC was exploring the various issues which will come to the fore with the succession following the death of King Abdullah and the ascension of King Salman.

One of the issues they discussed was the ban of women driving inside the kingdom and asked would King Salman be able or interested in lifting this ban.

BBC Arabic was interviewing this writer for her opinion. To my surprise, her defense was so weak and odd. I expected her to concentrate more on the family matters and personal issues.

For instance, women with the right to drive can work and take their kids to school and it is their right to drive themselves whenever they like, wherever they like. That is a freedom from which they are deprived.

But the lady concentrated instead on the financial matter of the subject. In my opinion, even in that she failed. Because if women started driving they will buy cars and at least half a million women will drive - at least and therefore half a million cars will be bought. But she didn’t raise this issue at all. Instead, she focused on the driver issue.

She claimed that if women are granted the right to drive, the kingdom will be able to get rid of the one million plus drivers working for families in Saudi Arabia. And because of this, the kingdom will save billions in remittances. I saw that as very trivial and even the BBC presenter wasn’t impressed. Let’s discuss it seriously.

How much is the average salary of a family driver in the Gulf? It doesn’t vary too much between Saudi or Kuwait or the Emirates or Qatar.

I think the drivers earn around 1,500 Saudi riyals (about KD 100) in the Gulf. So suppose Saudi Arabia has one million drivers as the lady mentioned, let’s say with the average, how much could that be each year? So that’s nearly 1.5 billion Saudi riyals.

But will Saudi families drop the drivers even if women have licenses? Of course not.

Look at Kuwait or the other Gulf countries? All of our women drive but most of our families have a driver.

The driver has many duties for the house. Women having licenses or not, Saudi families will still have drivers. I’m not against women driving in Saudi.

In fact, I am all for it. But don’t let us mix expat issues and money issues with a political and social issue. It seems like expats have become the scapegoats for every ill or problem we have in the Gulf.

It’s a shame and time we started taking responsibility for fixing our way of thinking.

By Badrya Darwish

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This article was published on 29/01/2015