A Saudi historian has defended Saudi Arabia’s strict ban on female drivers on TV by arguing that the ban was meant to protect Saudi women from getting attacked and raped if their cars break down while traveling. He went on to push the bizarre argument that women in the West drive because they don’t care if they are raped.
The Saudi historian made the argument when the female host, in an interview on the Saudi Rotana Khalijiyya TV, pointed out that women in Western countries and many Arab countries are allowed to drive. The traditionalist historian, Saleh al-Saadoon, dismissed the point, saying that the governments and people in countries where women are allowed to drive “do not care” if women are raped.
Oddly, he admitted that Saudi “women used to ride camels,” but argued that “in Saudi Arabia we have special circumstances. If a woman drives from one city to another and her car breaks down, what will become of her?”
According to a transcript of the Arabic language interview provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the historian said that in Western countries like the U.S., being raped was “no big deal” for women.
The female host was visibly shocked by the historian’s pronouncements that suggested that women in other parts of the world care less about their safety from sexual assault than Saudi women. She challenged the historian, saying, “Hold on. Who told you they (U.S. women) don’t care about getting raped on the roadside?”
Al-Sadoon replied nonchalantly, “It’s no big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale.”
“They don’t care if they are raped on the roadside, but we do… 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.”
The host shot back, “What is rape if not a blow to the morale of a woman? That goes deeper than the social damage.”
His argument appears to make the bizarre suggestion that because the social and religious consequences of rape for women were more severe in Saudi Arabia than in Western countries, American women could afford to be more careless about their safety than Saudi women.
The host then asked the historian whether he noticed that the other guests at the show were shocked at his statements. The camera focused on two guests, a man and woman, whose faces registered amusement at the scholar’s constrained logic.
But he was adamant, advising the other guests to “listen to me and get used to what society thinks, if they are really so out of touch with it.”
He proceeded to argue that Saudi women, unlike women in Western countries, were privileged because they have male relatives who treat them like “queens” by driving them around. He said that Saudi culture compels the male relatives of a woman to drive her around “when she gestures with her hand.”
“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 all at the ready for when she gestures with her hand.”
Goading him on, the female host raised the point that some women could get raped by their male chauffeurs. Al-Sadoon agreed that some women could get raped by their male chauffeurs, and suggested, without batting an eye, that the Saudi Arabian authorities could protect women from being raped by their male chauffeurs by allowing foreign female chauffeurs to drive “our wives.”
“There is a solution, but the government officials and the clerics refuse to hear of it. The solution is to bring in female foreign chauffeurs to drive our wives.”
The host could hardly believe what she was hearing. Giggling with her fingers over her mouth, she queried the historian incredulously, “Female foreign chauffeurs? Seriously?”
Saudi women who dare to flout the rules against driving face arrest and punishment, such as whipping.
Two women activists, Loujain al-Hathloul, 25, and Maysaa al-Amoudi, 33, were arrested and made to face charges in a “terrorism” court in December, 2014, when they tried to drive into the kingdom from the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE).