The 26th of September, 2017 is a monumental day in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is monumental because it is the day when it was announced that, for the first time following the ban on women driving, women would be issued driver’s licenses in around 9 months. Meaning that, this time next year, I could be driving a car in my own country. By myself. Which is something that I’m finding difficult to process. Not because of its impossibility. I mean, I’ve driven a car before in one of my summers abroad, and I’ve seen countless of women driving cars before, too. (I’ll never forget the first time I saw my mother drive. It was 10 years ago. I was 13 at the time. We were in Oregon, driving from city to city. Mama and her friends were taking turns driving during a road trip up the mountains. And I was scared, because I’d never experienced my mother’s driving before and was terrified it would be bad and that she’d drive us off the edge of a cliff, but then it was exciting because my mother was driving, and it was good, and safe, and normal.) But… still, there are no words to convey to you the significance of this day (for those of you who do not understand). And the feelings, and thoughts I’m experiencing right now seem to be tangled up together like a bundle of hair, making it hard to make sense of any of it to even myself, let alone somebody else. But I’m going to attempt making sense of them–I’m going to attempt untangling that hair, so to speak–because it matters to me, and I’d like to look back at this one day and see what it is I currently have to say on the matter. Document my feelings, and thoughts towards this change.
So, let me begin by saying that as normal as it (women driving) seems, I’m actually surprised by how it isn’t? At least, to some extent. Like, when my mom, younger sister, and I (dad fell asleep before the news was announced) were talking (more like gushing) about the news, my sister (semi) jokingly said, “OMG, I want a car!” And that was such a foreign concept to me, not because women don’t own cars here, but because, soon, not only could I drive it, but I could also own it?????????? You have family’s here getting cars for their sons, and now…. it’s like, you can get some for your daughters too?????????? That is a very odd thought to me, because whenever I pictured- actually, no, I never even pictured owning a car. I mean, it was definitely something that was in my mind, because I pictured myself driving at some point in my future life (whether it was here, or abroad), but, now that it’s happening, it’s like, I can actually have a car of my own one day, and that day could be a lot more sooner than I thought it would be.
And, also, the fact that it’s happening now, and not “one day”, just… I can’t seem to fully wrap my head around it. That it’s happening has sunk in, but it’s like I’ve gotten so used to thinking about it in the context of “one day” , my brain’s like “Wow, one day is now. It’s actually happening now. Finally.” It’s amazing, but also ordinary because, I mean, it’s just women driving. And I’m not saying that to belittle this step. (Besides, the size of a step never takes away from it’s significance, I believe. Every step towards a better future is relevant, and significant because it counts in making that future possible.) I’m saying that it’s bewildering to me how, despite the fact that I know that this was something that was a long time coming, I am stunned that it’s happening. And I’m not stunned because this news came out of nowhere (some people, I am told, were expecting to hear it), and neither because it is uncharacteristic of my country to do something like this (this country has been in the midst of change for some time now, so this was expected. Maybe not this soon, but it was something that was bound to happen.) I am stunned because… history is being made right now, and I can feel it. I knew that the moment I heard the news from my younger sister, everything I did after would be something I would be telling my kids about one day (should I ever have any, inshaAllah). And I could picture them being weirded out by the idea that women never drove at all at one point in this country, and how it would all be an unfamiliar concept to them, like how women not receiving a formal education is an unfamiliar concept to me. It’s stunning to feel history being made.
And, seeing people in my country, especially women, react and respond to this news just made this day even more special. It’s very heartwarming to see a lot of us united about this positive change. Men congratulating women, and women congratulating each other on this significant change happening in women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. All of us lightheartedly joking about this change’s outcomes. Girls asking each other what songs they’re first going to play in their cars once they start driving. Girls supporting each other. My sister and I weren’t really talking to each other before this news was announced (we had an argument a couple days ago), but she suddenly barged into my room with a smile and all, bearing this very good news, and the argument has taken a very far back seat (for now), because this news is far more significant than any argument we’d have.
This news makes me very happy, and it makes me more hopeful of the change headed our way. I always knew it was coming, and seeing it happen is incredible, and fulfilling. We have a lot more to work on as a country, of course–there’s always more room for progress–but I am happy with this step we’ve taken today.
Congratulations to all women in Saudi, this is just the beginning of what’s to come, inshaAllah. And may we face whatever lies ahead with conviction, and passion, and may we help forge the path for those after us by making a positive change.