Driving ban lifted, woman’s car set ablaze in Saudi Arabia
Only after one week that Saudi Arabia lifted a decades-long ban on women driving, a woman living in the holy city of Mecca has lodged a complaint with the authorities over an incident involving an arson attack on her car.
Local media said Wednesday that Salma al-Sherif’s car had been torched deliberately this week by men “opposed to women drivers.”
Saudi women were allowed to take the wheel for the first time in decades.
The government in Riyadh promoted the decision as a step toward opening up the Saudi society.
However, critics say the removal of the ban, which came as part of a modernization drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was more of a publicity stunt for the controversial son of the current king, who seeks accession to the throne at a very young age.
Some hardliners in Saudi Arabia have also criticized the move, saying it could promote gender mixing and promiscuity in Saudi Arabia, a main bastion of Islam.
Saudi authorities have yet to clarify how many driving licenses they have issued for women since the ban was lifted on June 24. Reports suggest that most of the women currently on the roads seem to be those who have swapped foreign licenses for Saudi ones.
Sherif, the car owner in Mecca, said she began driving right after the ban was lifted in a bid to ease the financial pressure of having a driver. However, the 31-year-old said she faced abuse from men in her neighborhood as she traveled to her workplace or drove her elderly parents. “…. from the first day of driving I was subjected to insults from men.”
Mecca police said in a statement that it was investigating who set the car ablaze. “We are searching for the culprits,” read the statement that came late Tuesday.