You might think it absurd that a woman driving a car is news. But then this is the absurdity known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, now frantically trying to censor video clips of Manal al-Sharif driving. An apparently government-supported online drive is under way to beat women caught driving, and al-Sharif (this is her, to the right) is being held in detention for “inciting public opinion” and “disturbing public order.”
That is, for driving while female. DWF. A crime.
And then consider the far greater absurdity of the continued existence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which refuses to extend the most basic civil rights (even the vote) to half its population, and whose wealth and power is entirely fueled by the Western thirst for oil. An intensely repressive Middle East regime, that is, funded directly by Western money.
But that’s only the surface. This Western oil money is still funding the worldwide Saudi export of the most conservative and repressive form of Islam. If there is one single country that has enabled violent Islamism, it’s not the perceived enemies of the United States like Libya, Afghanistan, or Iran, but our “good friends” the Saudis — our oil dealers.
The Saudis thought they had escaped “the Arab spring.” They sent their military into Bahrain to help squelch protests there. They encouraged the violent suppression of protests in Yemen. They thought they had things under control.
But another kind of Arab spring may now be in the making. An Arab summer, perhaps. Six months ago, a single Tunisian street vendor couldn’t take it any more and sparked a revolution by setting himself on fire. Now a tech-savvy Saudi woman refuses to take it any more and threatens to spark another revolution by simply taking the wheel.
This is how it starts — with individual acts of defiance, with a refusal to knuckle under, with an insistence on basic dignity. And with the support of a vast and unsquelchable online community.
The links are above. Go to it, everyone.