Taking the Wheel

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehanm, TMO

car-steering-wheel-lgMost women in America don’t think twice about hopping in their cars and hitting the open road to run errands, pick the kids up from school or simply enjoy a long leisurely drive. However, in Saudi Arabia, women are still banned from driving despite several high profile incidents over the years that has thrust the global media’s attention on the issue. This past week the issue was once again brought into the limelight as a female Saudi Arabian citizen took to the wheel and later posted the video on the popular social-networking site YouTube.

With her brother in the passenger seat, 32-year-old Manal al-Sharif, took a short spin that landed her in the slammer. The drive was deliberate as al-Sharif herself revealed in a recent interview in which she lamented her frustration for not being able to find a taxi one night, “I had to walk on the street for half an hour looking for a cab. I was harassed by every single car because it was late at night and I was walking alone. I kept calling my brother to pick me up, but his phone wasn’t answering. I was crying in the street. A 32-year-old grown woman, a mother, crying like a kid because I couldn’t find anyone to bring me home.” Al-Sharif learned to drive in the United States and holds a driver’s license from America. However, in her homeland, only men are issued driver’s licenses.

According to Saudi Arabian authorities, al- Sharif broke several laws after she got behind the wheel including, “bypassing rules and regulations, driving a car within the city, enabling a journalist to interview her while driving a car, deliberately disseminating the incident to the media, incitement of Saudi women to drive cars, and turning public opinion against the regulations.” Scores of Saudi citizens have rallied behind al-Sharif and begun to question the veracity of the driving ban on women especially when there is nothing on the books that legally bars a woman from driving.

Soon after her incarceration, a Facebook page was erected entitled ‘We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women’s rights’ The page has already garnered 19,000 likes. Another fan page related to the women’s driving ban in Saudi Arabia is also getting a lot of support, to the tune of 6,000 likes so far, albeit for all of the wrong reasons. The page encourages Saudi Arabian men to beat their female relatives with a heavy brocaded rope known as the “Iqal”, which adorns the Saudi Arabian men’s headdress, should any of the women demand driving rights.

Al-Sharif remains in prison and her fate is yet to be determined. Some analysts have predicted she will stay in prison for five days, however it remains to be seen if she will face further penalties for deliberately flaunting the driving ban. Meanwhile, another Saudi Arabian woman copied al-Sharif’s drive this week and was swiftly arrested at a local supermarket. However, she was only held for a few hours and released.

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Strained Ties Between Israel & Turkey

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Independent UK

‘This is incitement of the most severe kind… it isn’t worthy of broadcast even by enemy states’

Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Foreign Minister

Israel’s increasingly troubled relations with its main ally in the Muslim world took a turn yesterday when it formally protested to Turkey over the “incitement” generated by a television series featuring fictional scenes of barbaric acts by Israeli soldiers.

The airing of the series, on Turkish state television, coincides with tensions triggered by a decision last week by Ankara to exclude Israel – which it has severely criticised over last winter’s war in Gaza – from a planned NATO air exercise.

The acting Turkish ambassador, Ceylan Ozen, was summoned yesterday to the Israeli foreign ministry in protest at the drama series Ayrilik which shows soldiers brutalising Palestinians. In one abbreviated sequence shown on YouTube, a soldier is seen gratuitously shooting a girl at close range, killing her. In another, Palestinians are apparently about to be executed by a firing squad.

Mr Lieberman said this week that the broadcast was “incitement of the most severe kind… under government sponsorship,” and added: “Such a drama series, which doesn’t even have the slightest link to reality and which presents Israeli soldiers as murderers of innocent children, isn’t worthy of being broadcast even by enemy states and certainly not in a state which has full diplomatic relations with Israel.”

Relations between the two countries have been severely strained by Turkish criticism of the military offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

In January, Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, walked out of a televised panel discussion in Davos in Switzerland, in which Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, had been defending the military operation.

The air exercise planned for this week was cancelled after the US and Italy refused to take part in response to the Turkish decision to bar Israel. Mr Erdogan said later that “diplomatic sensitivities” had led his government to stop Israel participating.

Naor Gilon, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s deputy director for Western Europe, told the Turkish diplomat that “this kind of incitement is likely to lead to physical harm being done to Jews and Israelis who arrive in Turkey as tourists”.

Selcuk Cobanoglu, the producer of the television series, told the Israeli media yesterday that it was made clear before each episode that the production was was fictional.

The series had not intended to denigrate the Israel Defence Forces as a whole but only a group who had killed Palestinian children.

He said: “It is very important that I stress that we love the people in Israel. We love the Israelis.”

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