Saudi women driv­ers spark Ira­nian so­cial me­dia buzz

The Daily News Egypt - - International -

DW—The royal de­cree an­nounced in late Septem­ber per­mit­ting women to drive in SaudiAra­bia has drawn a lot of at­ten­tion on Ira­nian so­cial me­dia.And many Ira­ni­ans say the step for­ward for women’s rights in Saudi Ara­bia shows how stalled the women’s rights move­ment in Iran has be­come.

Ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive Saudi Ara­bia is Iran’s re­gional ri­val and the only coun­try in the world to ban women from get­ting be­hind the wheel.The or­der al­low­ing women to drive is to be im­ple­mented from June 2018.

One Face­book user, Sherli Sham­sian, posted her con­grat­u­la­tions to Saudi Ara­bian fem­i­nists. “Fol­low­ing years of strug­gle by women’s rights ac­tivists in Saudi Ara­bia, women are al­lowed to drive. I hope one day women will have the same rights as men across the world, par­tic­u­larly in Mus­lim Arab coun­tries.”

Other Ira­nian so­cial me­dia users di­rected at­ten­tion to­ward lead­ers of the women’s move­ment in Saudi Ara­bia. One of the most prom­i­nent fig­ures is Manal al-Sharif, a lead­ing Saudi women’s rights ac­tivist and mas­ter­mind be­hind the “Women2Drive” cam­paign.

In 2011,al-Sharif be­came fa­mous on so­cial me­dia af­ter re­leas­ing an eight­minute video in which she drives il­le­gally through the city of Jed­dah. She was ha­rassed and jailed as a re­sult and launched theWomen2Drive cam­paign af­ter­wards.

Manal al-Sharif was ar­rested in 2011 for driv­ing in Saudi Ara­bia in protest

Ira­nian so­cial me­dia was also full of com­men­tary against Ira­nian con­ser­va­tives, whom crit­ics blame for ob­struct­ing the women’s move­ment in Iran. There was also praise for the growing dy­namism of the women’s rights move­ment in Saudi Ara­bia.

Pari­naz Ete­sam posted on Face­book that Saudi Ara­bia was pulling ahead of Iran on so­cial is­sues.“As of next year, women are al­lowed to drive in Saudi Ara­bia, and even before, they were al­lowed to en­ter sport sta­di­ums. My ques­tion for Ira­nian na­tion­al­ists is how can you find a pre­text now to de­ride SaudiAra­bia? Be­cause on many is­sues, it has left us be­hind.”

An­other Ira­nian Face­book user said Riyadh was now a flag bearer for cur­rent women’s rights re­form.

Eh­san Fathi posted on Face­book say­ing that Iran should fol­low Saudi Ara­bia’s ex­am­ple. “Saudi Ara­bia ap­pointed its first fe­male spokesper­son, Fa­timah Baeshen, for its em­bassy in Washington,hours af­ter women were granted the right to drive. Tehran should take Riyadh as a role model for democ­racy.”

On the other hand, some users view the re­forms with sus­pi­cion.Amir Ebthaj tweeted,“Let’s wait and see if the re­forms in Saudi Ara­bia re­main as small as Umm Kol­sum’s show on TV, or if the rights of Shia mi­nori­ties in Saudi Ara­bia and the peo­ple of Ye­men will also be re­spected.”

A Face­book user named So­heyla Ariya posted, “If to­day Saudi Ara­bia al­lows women to drive or to go to sta­di­ums, our women en­joyed a hun­dred times more free­dom and dig­nity half a cen­tury ago.”

Sar­casm and skep­ti­cism

The Saudi so­cial re­forms also drew sar­casm on Ira­nian so­cial me­dia.

One tweet read,“The moves by the Saudi king will lead to strokes among Ira­ni­ans!They have to slow down!We are ac­cus­tomed to tak­ing one step for­wards and three steps back­wards! That’s the way re­forms should take place.”

Mas­simo tweeted, “The way that Riyadh has out­paced us in so­cial re­forms, I guess we have to take part in the lot­tery for go­ing to Saudi Ara­bia in few years.”

Kalan­tar also tweeted, “With all these things hap­pen­ing in SaudiAra­bia, the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran has to do all it can to en­cour­age the Haj pil­grims to re­turn to the coun­try. I as­sume all of them want to take asy­lum in Saudi Ara­bia!”

Some Ira­nian users have be­lieved that the so­cial stage in Saudi Ara­bia is still not set for such fun­da­men­tal re­forms and ex­pressed con­cerns that hard­lin­ers pose a se­ri­ous threat when it comes to im­ple­ment­ing changes.

One Ira­nian user de­nounced men’s ag­gres­sive at­ti­tude to­wards women driv­ers in Saudi Ara­bia and said re­forms take too long in the heav­ily pa­tri­ar­chal Saudi so­ci­ety.

Rose Maryam posted a video of a fe­male driver be­ing beaten up by men and wrote,“Cul­tural change is key for any re­forms.When the so­cial stage is not set, free­dom will be of no avail.”

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