October 5, 2012

Saudi Arabia - driving and virginity....

Left: Yes to women driving cars - Right: The other opinion

You can't make this stuff up.

According to a report commissioned by the highest religious council in the kingdom ( مجلس الافتاء الأعلى / majlis al-ifta' al-'ala), allowing women to drive in the kingdom would "provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce."

I have spent too much time in "the magic kingdom," including working closely with the senior Saudi military staff during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, so I might be a bit critical of the Saudis. In fact, I have had numerous conversations with a variety of Saudis on the subject of women driving.

General Schwarzkopf and me in Saudi Arabia

The casual conversations were in addition to having to address the issue officially. Shortly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, I was deployed to Saudi Arabia to serve as General Norman Schwarzkopf's Arabic language interpreter. I was chosen because I had served as a liaison to the Iraqi armed forces in Baghdad during the last year of the Iran-Iraq War. I was familiar with the Iraqi military and knew many of the senior officers American forces would eventually face on the battlefields of Kuwait and southern Iraq.

While the bulk of American troops and their equipment were arriving in a seemingly never-ending stream of heavy-lift aircraft and ships, there were limited duties for me as General Schwarzkopf's interpreter, so I was assigned liaison duties with the Saudi General Staff. It was frustrating and thankless.

One of the myriad issues that arose during the initial phases of Desert Shield was the issue of American military women driving. At first, the Saudis told us that the women could not drive while in the kingdom. Long (and frustrating) story short, after we explained that many of our transportation units comprised men and women drivers, and without the women, it would be extremely difficult to move the tanks, artillery, supplies, etc. from the ports to the unit garrisons, and later to the battlefields.

After some discussion, the Saudis issued a decree that "American military women while in uniform are not women." Issue solved, but as I said, you can't make this stuff up.

There have been instances when women have attempted to force the issue by driving, or holding rallies. All have met with resistance, failure, and in some cases, arrests and punishments. See my May 2011 article on this and other issues about Saudi women driving, Women driving in Saudi Arabia? I give up.

Now we have the study from prepared at the behest of the senior clerics in the kingdom that concludes that within 10 years of the women being allowed to drive, there will be "no more virgins" in the Saudi Arabia.

One of the so-called professors who authored the study recounted an encounter with a women at a coffee shop in another Arab country. His words: "All the women were looking at me. One made a gesture that made it clear that she was available. This is what happens when women are allowed to drive."

Driving leads to women attempting to pick up men in coffee shops? I don't know what to say - but it gets even better!

The kingdom is currently considering banning women, who must already cover their hair, faces, arms and legs, from allowing their eyes to show through their veils if the eyes are judged to be "too tempting."

Again, you can't make this stuff up. Well, I'm heading for the coffee shop.