“When our family didn’t do anything and we remained silent, nothing changed and things got worse. So now I have no choice but to speak up.”
“I lost everything in one day,” Layla, who fled Saudi Arabia, says a few months later outside a refugee settlement in Germany. Her voice trembles with still-raw fear. “But only one thing mattered: For the first time, I was free.”
It can be hard to see progress in the fight for Saudi women’s rights. But we see the cracks in this systemic oppression more than ever before.
Imagine an app that tracks your movement wherever you go. Imagine that it sends notifications to a male member in your family whenever you check in at an airport. Imagine that it gives them the power, in just a few clicks on their own smartphone, of banning you from traveling altogether. This app is called Absher. You can find it at the Google Marketplace and in the Apple App Store.
Over the last few months, the Saudi Arabian government has imprisoned about 15 prominent feminist activists, most of whom led the fight to end the country’s driving ban. On Wednesday, Reps. Lois Frankel and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen released a formal letter urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to fight for their release.
Saudi women bravely organized to end the kingdom’s driving ban over many years, repeatedly facing arrest—and it is their hard-fought victory that should be celebrated on June 24, when women will finally be able to take the wheel.
Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving will finally be lifted later this month—and one woman is already showing them the rules of the road.
A delegation from Saudi Arabia was greeted by the president and White House staff for a meeting that didn’t include a single woman on either side. Vermont is now the only state that has never sent a woman to Congress. And in Russia, journalists joined a boycott after a government ethics commission ruled in favor of a high-ranking lawmaker accused of sexual harassment by three female reporters.
Saudi women—who have been the only women in the world banned from driving—will have that right as of June 2018, but they remain shackled by extreme gender segregation and a guardianship system that is a form of gender apartheid.
Saudi Arabia has lifted its ban on sports for women and girls in public schools, increasing important access to physical activity in a country with stringent limitations placed on women.