New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. World
27 September 2017

Saudi women are now free to drive – but not to speak about it

Old habits die hard.

By Julia Rampen

Women in Saudi Arabia can finally get driving licences, according to royal decree. While some praised King Salman for catching up with the 19th century, more astute observers credited the Saudi women who had spent a decade risking arrest to protest the ban on women driving. 

Feminists around the world hope the move will be the first of many, a hope fuelled by the comment of a senior Saudi minister that the country was embarking on a “cultural revolution disguised as economic reform”. 

Yet it seems some habits die hard. The New Statesman has learnt that many women involved in the driving campaign have been receiving official calls from the government asking them not to comment either negatively or positively on the announcement. If they flout this order, they will be subject to interrogation. 

This is no small threat in a country where the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for the crime of arguing for secularism, democracy and human rights. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy