The new development is not the demand to grant Saudi women the right to drive, rather, the new development is that three women members of the Saudi Shura Council have called for this right. These women are not like some famous activists or bold female writers who write in the Saudi press. Many men and women demanded this right for years but the surprise is that these three members filed a recommendation that the de facto ban on women driving be lifted. This means that both their representative role as women and their legislative role as members of the Shura Council have been activated. When it comes to the sensitive issue of women driving, this is a brave council and these are brave women. The call to lift the driving ban is no longer limited to intellectuals, rationalists, modernists, liberals, expats, feminists, foreign journalists, human rights organizations, Americanized people and Westernized people.
What has happened is that during the past 10 years of dialogue, Saudi society broke social and political taboos and engaged in serious discussion of this social issue –women driving. The open dialogue changed the opinion and the stance of many people who were against women driving. Such people, who were against women driving, previously constituted the higher percentage of those discussing the issue. Social issues here cannot be settled with referendums or the majority percentage because the conservative minority is capable of obstructing any new, modernizing, idea. The history of Saudi Arabia is full of such social conflicts between the old and the modern - conflicts over almost anything.
The issue of women driving is an old battle, the culmination of which has been postponed since the 1960sAbdulrahman al-Rashed