The Awkward Moment When The State Department "Celebrates" Saudi Women Being Allowed To Drive

"We're just happy!" State Department spokesperson Heather Naurt said with a huge grin on her face.

The AP journalist immediately rains on her parade, "Would you still say they [Saudi Arabia] need to do... a lot more with women's rights?"

"I think we're just happy today..." she said, this time with a frown, trying to hold back her angry scowl.

Well that was awkward: the State Department's celebration party was over fast. It's like those embarrassing moments when parents catch themselves excessively gushing with praise over a horribly ill-behaved and out of control child that actually manages to sit still for a brief moment, or happens to do one minuscule task correctly. 

As we reported previously,  Saudi Arabia made the unexpected announcement that its longtime ban on women driving in the hardline Islamic kingdom is set to be lifted. The decree comes just days after President Donald Trump slammed the US ally’s human rights record during remarks at the UN. The new policy will reportedly take effect starting on June 24 of next year, after a Saudi commission examines implementation procedures, which includes having to train police on how to interact with women - something unusual in a country where women are not even allowed direct communication with men who are not their family members or guardians.

Cartoon via "Finance twitter"

Some activists and pundits are now non-ironically hailing the significance of today's decision as monumental in that Saudi Arabia has the dubious distinction of being "the last country on earth to allow women to drive." Well, this is true enough, yet there is something comical and at the same time deeply tragic in seeing feminists and western pundits alike celebrating the kingdom's "progress". It is not known for sure whether or not Saudi women will be able to drive without their male guardians, though it's not likely given that Saudi state media reported the royal decree as noting that driving will take place "in accordance with Sharia law." According to the New York Times:

The decree said that the majority of the Council of Senior Scholars — the kingdom’s top clerical body, whose members are appointed by the king — had agreed that the government could allow women to drive if done in accordance with Shariah law.

As recently as the past few years, women caught driving have been assigned to a special 'terror' court which has issued multiple months long sentences for what were essentially acts of protest. So no one should break out the champagne (also banned in Saudi Arabia) to celebrate the spectacle of fanatical Wahhabi clerics and religious police overseeing a program of "Sharia-compliant" female driving just yet.

And this truly pathetic state of affairs within one of America's closest Middle East allies is perhaps what makes today's State Department press briefing so awkward. Spokesperson Heather Nauert's gleeful and overexuberant reaction to news of the Saudi decree created an awkward moment as AP correspondent Matt Lee tried to remind her that Saudi Arabia is still among the most repressive states in the world when it comes to human rights, and especially women's rights.

Two years ago, we addressed the irony that Saudi Arabia was a leading candidate to lead a UN panel on human rights despite an international uproar at the time about the country's beheading of a teenaged political dissident (Saudi Arabia was eventually chosen to lead the panel). The influential panel helps shape the UN's human-rights policy and reports on violations. Earlier this year, the country was again bizarrely selected to lead the UN Commission on the Status of Women, a powerful committee focused on women's rights.

Is it possible that Trump's calling them out, or perhaps other pressure from UN quarters resulted in the small change in Saudi treatment of women?  And we also wonder, what freedoms will the country’s repressive regime acquiesce to next? Will it be suffrage for women (they’re already involved in political life, though they can’t vote)? Or perhaps allowing them to show their faces in public?


Adullam ergatz Wed, 09/27/2017 - 02:06 Permalink

Would you just give it up with prostituting your (UN)biblicism insitute? Using short URL's is childish and really just states what you think of the average ZH reader. 2 clicks of a button reveals your deception. If your are so interested in promoting 'biblical truth', why not at least start by being truthful yourself? = tes-of-the-bible/  

In reply to by ergatz

Possible Impact Tue, 09/26/2017 - 23:33 Permalink

Just Dance (Saudi Version) GoRemy - Just Dance (Saudi Version) lyrics Red one... Baba... [Verse 1: GoRemy] Welcome to the hottest dance club In all Saudi Arabia We got a DJ, band And a falafel stand Valet your camel at the front We're busting out the latest tunes Feel the beat thumping across the dunes Stamp your hand at the door Come in and hit the floor We know you want to bust a move What's going on on the floor? (I see there's people moving, but I am not so sure) There's one rule you need to know (one rule you need to know and that rule is) [Hook] Don't dance Don't move your body 'round with the crowd Don't dance It's illegal and it isn't allowed Don't dance Don't shake it too and fro as you please Don't dance You'll be arrested by the moral police [Verse 2: GoRemy] Twenty years in jail if you're lucky If you teach somebody how to Dougie You hokey-pokey and You put your left hand in You might not take your left hand out What's going on on the floor? Somebody dance in place. I punch him in the face There's one rule you need to know (One rule you need to know and that rule is)

truthseeker47 Tue, 09/26/2017 - 23:48 Permalink

The part about Saudi Arabia on a UN Human Rights panel and heading up the Commission on the Status of Women proves just what a stupid waste of time the UN is. The UN members who voted for that were abviously thumbing their noses at the rest of the world.

mijev Tue, 09/26/2017 - 23:52 Permalink

This is similar to when China announced that maternity leave would be increased to 15 minutes (although that did come from the Onion). 

Manipuflation Tue, 09/26/2017 - 23:54 Permalink

Danica Patrick can drive.  I taught my Russian wife how to ride a Harley that I bought for her.  And Russian woman drives our most expensive car.  I am sure that they can drive/ride.  With women they are not as aggressive as men are.With cars/vans you can get away with hesistation but you can't do that on a motorcycle.  You have TWO modes of defense and those are how fast you can accelerate and manuever out of the way and how fast you can accelerate.  You only have a split second to make that choice.  I had some kid on my 6 this evening who was trying to prove something.  At the next stop sign I let him know about weight of vehicles and I was gone.  The Pontiac G6 couldn't handle it.  Screaming Eagle there kiddo.The good news is that the bike didn't break down.:-)