It is not strange for senior journalists from the world’s media to converge on Saudi Arabia to witness women go behind the wheel for the first time. It is not odd for this development to draw the world’s attention.
The landmark that was witnessed in Saudi Arabia concerns the Saudis and the whole world alike. It is an important country due to is role in the Arab, Muslim and international scenes. Its economic, political and religious weights have driven many people to follow up on its developments, especially at this time.
The recent end of the driving ban against women cannot be separated from what the Kingdom has been experiencing for nearly two years. I believe that the most important thing that it has witnessed is the revival of hope in society, especially among the youth, who represent the vast majority of the population.
Without this hope, challenges could not be overcome and policies could not be implemented and fortified. This state of hope is garnering potential in order to invest it in the battle for the future.
Those who know Saudi Arabia are aware that this state of hope is the backbone of the ambitious Vision 2030 program. The worst thing a country can endure is the despair of its youth and sense that nothing can be changed or developed.
The Saudi leadership realized that the battle for the future begins now and waiting can no longer be the best optionGhassan Charbel
Those who know Saudi Arabia realize that the youth no longer sit idly by as the world around them changes. They are completely part of what can be considered a comprehensive reform and modernization workshop that will inevitably be felt in all walks of life.
The most dangerous thing a people can endure is a sense of hopelessness or that safety demands that matters be kept unchanged and that opening new doors will lead to the unknown.
The most dangerous thing they can believe is that the future will not be much better than the past. Surrendering to such feelings push some countries towards retirement and old age where they will be forgotten.
Saudi Arabia chose to go against the current of despair that has taken root throughout the Middle East. The Saudi leadership realized that the battle for the future begins now and waiting can no longer be the best option. The world is fast moving towards the future and booking a seat on this trip demands decisions, regardless of how difficult they may be.
It is clear that the leadership listened attentively to the messages that were being sent to it from the future. It also listened to the aspirations of the people and their yearning for an improvement in their everyday lives and fortification of their country.
The Saudi leadership succeeded over the past two years in setting the future as the priority for the Saudi people. The future concerns every single one of them as it touches on education, job opportunities, a better life and the building of an economy that does not strictly rely on oil.
It also means becoming part of a workshop of progress in the world that is witnessing unprecedented successive technological and scientific revolutions. Victory in a battle of this size requires a change in methods, mentalities and norms.
This led to discussions over Saudi Arabia’s national transformation and Vision 2030. Achieving the goals requires a different way of thinking and working and introducing new legislation and conditions that would attract investors and tourists.
Compliance and condition
It is not enough to change texts, but a change in deep-rooted norms and convictions is necessary - meaning an entire society needed to be reformed because its compliance is the first condition for achieving major programs.
This is a case of reciprocity where the leadership trusts the people and is good at listening to their concerns. The people in turn trust their leadership and entrust it with their interests and the fate of the country.
Based on this mutual trust, ambitious programs were proposed and which quickly began shaping the features of a new Saudi Arabia that does not hesitate to confront problems, some of which were deemed untouchable in the past.
Such a major transformation could not succeed without the people being fully on board with all of their energy. In order to ensure this wide participation, obstacles needed to be eliminated. It is no secret that norms and traditions had acted as unyielding barriers before the Saudi woman in playing a greater role in the family and society.
It was necessary to turn to Saudi women who wanted to play a full role in the workforce and build a better future for their selves, family and nation. King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s decision to allow women to drive came as a first step in empowering women.
The reactions to seeing Saudi women driving their cars in the Kingdom cannot be separated from the state of hope that was launched by the Saudi leadership and which has been cemented by the internal and foreign dynamism of the Crown Prince.
Saudi Arabia has taken a strong vow to look to the future. This explains the ambitious programs, giant projects and bold decisions. It was no surprise that the Kingdom has drawn the attention of the world given that this Saudi push towards a new future is taking place in a region that has been torn apart by wars or economic failure.
Everything that has taken place over the past two years is part of collecting potential and turning on the engine towards building the Saudi future. It is only natural for such a move to garner the attention of the region and the world.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ghassan Charbel is the Editor-in-Chief of London-based Al Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Ghassan’s Twitter handle is @GhasanCharbel.