A Saudi Arabian historian has appeared on national TV to deliver his theories as to why the country is the only one in the world to ban women from driving.
Dr Saleh Al-Saadoon opened his thoughts on the matter with the statement: “Women used to ride camels, so one might ask what prevents them from driving cars?"
With great promise, he declared: "In Saudi Arabia we have special circumstances.”
With translation provided by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the exchange which followed on Saudi Rotana Khalijiyya TV on 11 January is thus:
Dr Al-Saadoon: “If a woman drives from one city to another and her car breaks down, what will become of her?”
Host: “Well, women drive in America, in Europe and in the Arab world.”
Dr Al-Saadoon: “They don’t care if they are raped on the roadside but we do.”
Host: “Hold on, who told you that they don’t care about getting raped by the roadside?”
Dr Al-Saadoon: “It’s no big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale. In our case, however, the problem is of a social and religious nature.
Host: “What is rape if not a blow to the morale of the woman? That goes deeper than the social damage.”
Dr Al-Saadoon: “But in our case it affects the family…”
Host: “What, society and the family are more important than the woman’s morale?”
Noting the dropped jaws of the other guests on the programme, Dr Al-Saadoon decides to change tack at this point, noting: “Well they should listen to me and get used to what society thinks if they are really so out of touch with it.”
Dr Al-Saadoon: “Saudi women are driven around by their husbands, sons and brothers. Everybody is at their service. They are like queens. A queen without a chauffeur has the honor of being driven around by her husband, brother, son and nephews. They are at the ready when she gestures with her hands.”
Host: “You are afraid that a woman might be raped by the roadside by soldiers, but you are not afraid that she might be raped by her chauffeur?”
Dr Al-Saadoon: “Of course, I am. There is a solution but the government officials and clerics refuse to hear of it. The solution is to bring female foreign chauffeurs to drive our wives.”
[At his point the host dissolves into laughter.]
Dr Al-Saadoon: “Why not? Are you with me on this? There might be some considerable opposition to this, but…”
Host: “Female foreign chauffeurs? Seriously?”
Dr Al-Saadoon: [Straight-faced] “Yes to replace the male ones.”
Saudi Arabia’s poor record for human rights and women’s rights has long been in the global spotlight, particularly since the death of King Abdullah.
The Gulf kingdom imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians.
Women cannot obtain identification cards without the consent of her male guardian and floggings and death sentences are commonplace.
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In November 2012 it emerged women were being electronically monitored with authorities using SMS to track them and inform their husbands of their whereabouts.
It was only in 2011 that women were given the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections in 2015.