Saudi Arabia’s Chance to Create a Liberal Kingdom
I was astonished when, in late September, Saudi Arabia decided to allow women to drive, putting an end to an old, discriminatory practice.
This was only one of several cautious social reforms that have been introduced in the country. In the past two years, King Salman bin Abdulaziz has restricted the powers of the notorious religious police and relaxed male guardianship laws. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has spoken about embracing “moderate Islam” and increasing social freedoms.
Prince Mohammed is being credited for the effort to transform Saudi Arabia, but the changes might not have been possible without the Saudi activists and intellectuals who struggled and suffered over the years — enduring the loss of jobs, imprisonment and exile — to increase the freedoms in their country.
As I look forward to seeing Saudi women drive starting in June, I remember the 47 women who drove their cars in 1990. They were arrested, lost their jobs and were prohibited from traveling. Two years later they were allowed to return to their jobs. Some faded into private life; others focused on helping women at schools and universities and in programs for abused women and children. The courage of Wajeha al-Huwaider, a women’s rights activist, is unforgettable. Read More
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