A lady suffering from a chronic medical condition was pulled over for driving to the hospital in a state of emergency. According to Al-Hayat daily, the lady, Aliyah Al-Farid, who is a member of National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) and a businesswoman, was stopped by the police when she was on her way to the hospital. The reason given by her was a chronic medical condition which requires frequent visits to the hospital. It is to be noted that there have been two prior incidents where she was caught driving by the police and women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
As per Al-Farid (business lady), on that particular day, she needed to rush to the hospital in a state of emergency but did not have anyone available to drive her there. As it was an emergency and there was no other option but to go, she decided to take her husband’s car. She was spotted and stopped by the police before she could reach the hospital. Fortunately, the officers were cooperative and allowed her to go, upon hearing the reason told by her. They waited outside the hospital while the lady went in. Upon coming back outside, she found four traffic police vehicles waiting outside and she was taken to the local Traffic Department. Her husband was also called to the Traffic Department as it was the third incident of this nature. According to Al-Farid, she had told the police officers that the only reason she drove was due to an emergency and that she was not seeking any fame or media attention. Her health condition was the only reason why she drove. Fortunately, she was let off with just a payment of fine as she had no driver’s license.
Al-Farid has refused to sign an undertaking stating that she would never drive again in the future. According to her, there is no such law there that bans women from driving publicly. She took driving lessons in Bahrain but does hold a driver’s license. Additionally, she owns a facility for people with special needs and there are many occasions where the patient is in a state of emergency and has to be rushed to the hospital. In the case of an epileptic seizure, she explained, the patient cannot just be left there, he must get medical attention immediately and in the absence of any male she has to step in and do the job. Another issue is that no taxi cabs want to drive in her area as they fear that their cars might get damaged as the area is quite remote and the roads are rough.
This incident brings to light the great social dilemma of women not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. In such incidents, a person is left with no choice but to take action in order to save someone’s life. How then can we blame the women in such a situation for driving? It can clearly be seen that in such a case, it is not the choice of the individual rather an obligation of the situation. The reasons due to which women are not allowed to drive are certainly not to be questioned, as a great percentage of the Saudi society considers it appropriate but certain exceptions, such as medical emergencies, accidents or such other incidents which require an urgency of action, should be accommodated. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has said that he wants women to drive when the society is ready for it. This implies that the decision lies not on the part of the government, but more on a change in the social mindset. As adaptability on this issue increases, so will the chance of women ever getting the right to drive publicly.
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