In the past few days, news has been coming out of Saudi Arabia that is being reported by major news agencies worldwide about seismic changes in this intriguing country. Usually, the world does not pay much attention to their domestic affairs but something drastic is happening which is making the world take good notice.
As opposed to what’s happening to the Iranian people and their quest of getting rid of their genocidal regime that caused them severe poverty and hunger, Saudi Arabia is enjoying the highest living standards and going to become one of the most modern countries in the world.
Just recently, the ban on women driving cars in Saudi Arabia has been lifted. The age-old ban preventing women from even driving being lifted is seen as a major progression of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
It is often believed that Saudi Arabia is a bastion of oppression for women, but time has definitely changed within the past few decades. However, many people are not focusing on the positives of this change, and instead focusing on past stereotypes as well as nitpicking about tiny regulations. Despite their past, Saudi Arabia is actually currently working hard to make lives better for women, and westerners need to cheer on their achievements.
King Salman orders new allowances to offset rising cost of living .
Alarabiya English pic.twitter.com/ugXwTz1Z7B
— الإيجابية السعودية (@AlEjabiya_KSA) January 8, 2018
It seems Saudi Arabia wishes to surpass Sweden and the US in the near future. But they do not want the negative impacts that associate with this such as the deterioration of the middle class. They wish to emphasize family values and will never allow their people to become alcoholics and drug addicts or their women to become cheap playthings and prostitutes. They have a heritage that spans thousands of years and are obligated to protecting it.
Today, women in Saudi enter football stadiums. Soon, they will be heading to the cinema. In June, they’ll be driving. While women's rights are still a work in progress in the Kingdom, these steps should be celebrated. https://t.co/3wb6WpFrlp via @WSJ
— Arabia Foundation (@ArabiaFdn) January 12, 2018
In 2016, they started making the lives of women and other minorities better by doing something unprecedented at the time in Saudi Arabia: Abolishing the Religious Police. The Hay’a, or otherwise known as the Commission For the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, but commonly referred to as the Religious Police, was stripped of their police role in early 2016.
This meant that they could no longer charge citizens of crimes, that power that relegated solely to the police. The Religious Police’s role was to enforce the law of the Quran, also known as Sharia Law. Although they can still harass people for not wearing the “proper attire” or for doing something that would otherwise be against Sharia Law, they are no longer able to arrest them.
In 2017, they attempted to do just that, when a young girl was caught on camera wearing a crop top shirt, and a skirt that went above her knees. After an outcry from the public, she was released without charges. However, despite instances like this where they seek to use the government to enforce Sharia Law, their power has been stripped.
Another thing that has been happening lately is that King Salman (The King of Saudi Arabia since January 2015) has been working tirelessly to improve conditions for women despite the culture presented. He is trying to get Saudi Arabia to go into the modern age.
Just recently, in 2017, he lowered the restrictions on Male Guardianship. Women in Saudi Arabia need to have a male guardian in order to do many things like traveling, marrying, or even leaving prison. For many women in Saudi Arabia, their own children can be their guardians. However, in April of 2017, King Salman issued an order that (Unless existing regulations require it) that no woman should be denied access to government service because of lack of permission of a male guardian. This may not be the progression we in the west desire, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Princess Noura University is set to become one of the first places in Saudi Arabia to teach women to drive https://t.co/hdWF6jvUzJ
— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) October 7, 2017
Women in Saudi Arabia are also doing rather well when it comes to education and health. 52% of university graduates were female, There are also over 30,000 Saudi Arabian women studying abroad in countries like Canada and the US right now. many more students have already graduated from the most prestigious universities around the world. This is much better than in other countries, like Iran, where women are systematically denied rights and horrifically punished for their transgressions.
Other factors have been booming as well. Just recently, Saudi Arabia allowed a performance by a female singer for the first time in the nation’s history. “This is a very proud moment for Saudi Arabia,” a presenter said during the concert “All women should express their appreciation for a fact that a woman for the first time is performing at a concert in Saudi Arabia.”
There has been a surge in rights when it comes to sports participation as well. They recently allowed chess tournaments for women, held basketball tournaments for women, and will even be able to sit in sports stadiums next year. They have even been allowed to work in the justice ministry, and passed legislation that banned shows and channels that are caught insulting or demeaning women. And today they allowed women to attend the first Football “Soccer” match in the country which can be described as a historic event in the country.
Aside from the concert with the female singer, there have been other achievements as well. A concert recently by Greek composer Yanni was performed before a mixed-sex audience. Usually, the audience is more segregated, or that women have to sit next to their male guardians.
— Bloomberg (@business) January 8, 2018
“There’s a huge misconception of Saudi women: We are guided by men, or driven by men. That is not true.” Said Bayan, a 25-year-old woman who was interviewed at MiSK Global Forum, known as ‘the biggest youth event in the Middle East’. “We are very much educated and very much open about anything. ”
Now back to the cars. Women in Saudi Arabia for the longest time were the only people of any country that were banned from driving. This was seen as an ancient law not based on any legitimate grounds, and many people protested the law and thought ill of Saudi Arabia for enforcing it. However, King Salman has revoked the law, claiming that starting in June of 2018, women will legally be able to drive. Evidence even shows that female drivers are often safer drivers.
This is seen as part of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 plan to help modernize the country. Including increasing women’s role in the workforce from 22% to 30%.
This has not been without incident though, as in September of 2017, right after the announcement of the lift was made, a man made a video threatening the future female drivers. Claiming on social media site Snapchat that “any woman who’s car breaks down, I will burn her and her car.” He was subsequently arrested for his threats.
The lift of this ban will also kickstart the Saudi Arabian economy as well. Over 800,000 men from other parts of Asia work as nothing more than a taxi service for Saudi women. These services can cost families up to the third of their budget, and many families simply cannot afford the monthly rate. This will help women, who surpass men in college degrees, to be able to get to a job, and work to become independent.
It has also been noted that the New York Times may have once again been caught in a lie. They posted a few days back that Mohammed bin Salman purchased the Salvador Mundi, a painting by the famed Leonardo Da Vinci. However, they seemed to not get their information correct. No wonder people call them #FakeNews ..
According to a statement by the Saudi Embassy:“Prince Badr, as a friendly supporter of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, attended its opening ceremony on November 8th and was subsequently asked by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism to act as an intermediary purchaser for the piece.”
This news comes at a tough time for Saudi Arabia, who is currently cracking down on corruption. Businessmen, royals, and ministers have been detained by Prince Mohammad Bin Salman due to corruption issues such as unfinished schools and overpriced hospitals. These rich elite are being held at the Ritz Carlton hotel. A very pricey 5-star prison.
Over 200 rich and powerful leaders and businessmen are being held there. Officials are trying to negotiate settlements with the leaders, and some are being asked to give up almost 70% of their total wealth in return for their freedom. The officials have up to 800 billion dollars in cash in assets that can potentially be seized. Hopefully, this will really end the age of corruption by the elite.
Saudi crackdown targets up to $800 billion in assets, according to WSJ: https://t.co/gwLhN0K1bx
— Louisa Loveluck (@leloveluck) November 8, 2017
While Saudi Arabia is still a bit behind compared to some western countries, we have to promote the steps that have been taken so far to increase women’s rights, and there have been a lot of them. Saudi Arabia has now been elected to the UN commission for women’s rights, and despite the backlash, should be able to use that to quicken civil rights for women. This is a fantastic time to be a woman in Saudi Arabia. It is only a matter of time.