Society & Culture

Ex-top diplomat welcomes Saudi decision to allow women to drive

Dunya Maumoon

A file photo shows former foreign minister Dunya Maumoon at a press conference. MIHAARU PHOTO

Ministry of Health’s state minister Dunya Maumoon has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s King Salman’s decree allowing women to drive.

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that did not allow women to drive. Women who were caught driving risked being imprisoned or were heavily fined.

Dunya had called the Saudi king’s decision a “historic” one, and congratulated the women’s rights activists who had been challenging the archaic law for several years.

“This is a step forward for Saudi Arabia,” Dunya said. “Saudi Arabia is at the heart of Islamic history and traditions. It is also a close ally of the Maldives, and it’s a country that we look up to.”

Dunya, who had previously served as the foreign minister for President Yameen, acknowledged that Saudi Arabia did not have the best track-record when it came to women’s rights, and said that the country still had a long way to go before it achieves more relevant progress for women.

She highlighted how Saudi Arabia had only allowed its women to vote and contest in local council elections in 2015

“These things baffle me. I didn’t think this was still happening in this day and age. So this is progress. I am hopeful that Saudi women will overcome the daily challenges they face and achieve more feats in protecting the fundamental rights of everyone.”

A Saudi woman drives her car along a street in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on September 27, 2017. Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive from next June, state media said on September 26, 2017 in a historic decision that makes the Gulf kingdom the last country in the world to permit women behind the wheel. / AFP PHOTO / Reem BAESHEN

A Saudi woman drives her car along a street in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on September 27, 2017.
Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive from next June, state media said on September 26, 2017 in a historic decision that makes the Gulf kingdom the last country in the world to permit women behind the wheel. / AFP PHOTO / Reem BAESHEN

The daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom saluted the fact that Saudi women can now be more independent in their daily lives as they can now freely go anywhere they want.

“The King’s decree would allow Saudi women to go to work on their own, go grocery shopping, pick up their children from school – a lot of doors have opened for them,” Dunya said.

Dunya also condemned the use of religion as a tool of oppression and stressed the importance of letting go of these antiquated principles. She noted how Islam does not preach the subjugation of women, but rather celebrates women and highlighted on the matriarchal aspects of Islam.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow its women to drive was celebrated around the world, with even the US President Donald Trump giving his two-cents on the move, calling it a “positive step” towards promoting women’s rights. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had called it “an important step in the right direction.”

The hashtags “Saudi Women Can Drive” and “I Am My Own Guardian” had quickly gained traction on social media, with many women reminiscing the women activists who had been advocating their right to drive, and were given jail term or fines for it.

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