- Not Everyone’s Happy About the Saudi Decision to Let Women Drive
Millions of smartphones across Saudi Arabia pinged non-stop with words of disbelief and congratulations after the surprise announcement that the kingdom will remove the ban on women driving.
“It’s amazing,” said 20-year-old Reyouf Almuhaya, a college student, speaking by phone from Riyadh. “I might have cried a little. It feels good. It feels free. Freedom is all I can think about right now.”
Like many women, Almuhaya was sitting in the back of a car — a hired male driver behind the wheel — when she heard the news. She tried to tell the driver, and he wasn’t pleased about the change, she said.
“He was like, when am I going to leave then?” she said.
In many ways, the streets of Riyadh seemed unchanged Tuesday night. Men lounged in male-only cafes on the capital’s main boulevard, smoking and sipping coffee. Male drivers revved their engines as they crawled up and down the street, showing off — as they do most evenings. Bored young men strolled aimlessly, looking for something to do.
But the topic of almost every conversation was the same, as if the whole city had coalesced in one sitting room for a heated debate.
“Congratulations on driving!” one young man called out to a female Bloomberg reporter, while another group of men jokingly asked why she wasn’t driving. None of them would give their names, wary of criticizing the government’s decision, but all of them said that allowing women to drive was a mistake.
Saudi women aren’t ready to drive because they’re culturally cloistered, said one of the men, a 28-year-old from Riyadh. He said it would cause females to “disobey” their families. His 24-year-old friend said the decision shouldn’t have been announced abruptly.
Just last week, the government suspended a regional religious official after videos of him mocking the idea of women driving went viral. He suggested that women had loose morals and limited brain capacity in general — “a quarter of a brain” under certain circumstances — and were thus unfit to drive.
After the royal order came out, a top trending hashtag on Twitter in Saudi Arabia Tuesday night declared: “The women of my house won’t drive.”
“It’s a bit bold, this decision, you know?” said 27-year-old Mona Ibrahim, walking with a female friend. “We don’t know how we’ll start, first, and what are the conditions? And also what worries me is the age permitted. Maybe they’ll say we’ll start from 40.”
Women will be entitled to driving licenses starting in June next year, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. Committees from various ministries have been set up to examine implementation, and they’ll report within 30 days, the SPA said.
Manal Al Sharif, an activist who led the 2011 Women2Drive movement, said on Twitter that “Today is a rehabilitation to women from 1990 till the moment women can drive. We continue our journey to demand an end to male guardianship.”
Al Sharif was previously detained for driving inside in the kingdom and was released only after signing a form pledging not to participate in any future campaigns and not to drive again.
Historically, women who protested the ban were stigmatized in society. In Riyadh in 1990, a group of women who drove in protest were detained, named and shamed. Many lost jobs and were stigmatized for years.
Aziza Alyousef, a long-time women’s-rights activist, thanked the king and “every woman from the 1990s until now who participated in campaigns and continue to ask for their rights.” While Alyousef didn’t participate in the 1990s, she was an active supporter and participated in later campaigns in 2011 and 2013.
“Everybody is so excited,” she said by phone from Mecca. “My phone is not stopping. Everybody is excited and happy, and I think it’s a really big move.”
She’ll apply for a Saudi license as soon as she can, she said.
“I want to be No. 1,” she said. “I wish my license number will be 0001.”
China and EU Seek Partnership: Xi Jinping Proposes Key Trade Alliance
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his desire for China and the European Union (EU) to become key trade partners and foster trust in supply chains, during a meeting with EU leaders in Beijing.
The talks marked the first in-person summit between the two sides in four years and addressed a range of economic concerns, including data flows and market access.
Xi emphasized China’s commitment to high-quality development and opening up, positioning the EU as a crucial partner in economic and trade cooperation.
He envisioned the EU as a trusted collaborator in industrial and supply chain cooperation, aiming for mutual benefits and win-win results.
The summit delved into longstanding issues, such as efforts by Europe to “de-risk” its supply chains and the EU’s anti-subsidies investigation into Chinese-made electric vehicles.
China criticized the investigation, urging the EU to avoid using it for “trade protectionism.”
Xi called for the elimination of interference between China and the EU, a statement likely directed at the United States, which has taken actions, including enlisting the Netherlands, to curb China’s development of high-end semiconductors.
The EU leaders, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, described their conversation with Xi as “good and candid.”
They discussed the main challenges amid increasing geopolitical frictions, emphasizing a commitment to balanced trade relations and pledging to enhance people-to-people exchanges.
During the meeting, Italy formally informed China of its exit from the Belt and Road Initiative, highlighting ongoing strains between the EU and China.
Xi discussed Belt and Road with EU leaders, expressing a willingness to connect it with the EU’s Global Gateway infrastructure plan.
However, deep issues remain, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, trade imbalances, and Chinese overcapacity exported to Europe.
Jens Eskelund, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, stressed the need to address these issues to foster a positive relationship between Beijing and Brussels.
UAE Commits $30 Billion as COP28 Climate Talks Kick Off in Dubai
Nigeria Eyes BRICS Membership within Two Years as Foreign Minister Emphasizes Strategic Alignment
In a strategic move towards global economic collaboration, Nigeria is aspiring to join the BRICS group of nations within the next two years.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, affirmed that Nigeria is open to aligning itself with groups that demonstrate good intentions, well-meaning goals, and clearly defined objectives.
Tuggar stated, “Nigeria has come of age to decide for itself who her partners should be and where they should be; being multiple aligned is in our best interest.”
He emphasized the need for Nigeria to be part of influential groups like BRICS and the G-20, citing criteria such as population and economy size that position Nigeria as a natural candidate.
BRICS, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, stands as a formidable bloc of emerging market powers.
In a recent move to expand its influence, BRICS invited six additional nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates, to join the group.
Nigeria, as Africa’s largest economy, has been absent from the BRICS alliance, prompting discussions on the potential economic and political advantages the bloc could offer the country.
Analysts have noted that BRICS membership could provide Nigeria with significant leverage on the global stage.
Vice President Kashim Shettima clarified that Nigeria did not apply for BRICS membership after the bloc’s announcement of new members in August.
Shettima emphasized the principled approach of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, highlighting a commitment to consensus building in decisions related to international partnerships.
As Nigeria eyes BRICS membership, the move is seen as a strategic step towards enhancing its global economic and diplomatic influence.
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