Thursday, February 8, 2018

Manal al-Sharif on women speaking up in Saudi Arabia

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening is the new book from Manal Al-Sharif, the Saudi woman who got the world's attention by breaking her country's ban on women driving cars with a YouTube video.

Now a resident of Australia, Al-Sharif is on a book tour and was interviewed recently by NPR's Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Many of her comments touched on her motivation for speaking up, the forces that prevent women from doing so, and the penalties for outspoken women.

From the transcript, after describing egregious discrimination against women, Al-Sharif said:
AL-SHARIF: So these things really make you speak up. Most people inside are too afraid to speak up because the backlash from the society and from the government is unbearable. We live in one of the last absolute monarchies in the world. Men and women don't have political or civil rights. So imagine someone comes and asks for their civil rights. 
The backlash is really huge. You get harassed. You get banned from leaving the country, which as we call it the internal exile. You lose your job. You cannot land a job after that, which was the case with me when I left my job. So the price - the personal price you pay is really high. And they make sure that everyone knows, so they don't follow you. They don't walk in your path.
Later in the interview, she spoke again about the price of speaking up:
GROSS: Are you going back to Saudi Arabia anytime in the near future? 
AL-SHARIF: Yes, of course. I have my son there. So after the tour, right away I'm going back to Saudi. 
GROSS: Are you worried? 
AL-SHARIF: Hopefully I don't get arrested. I I'm always worried. Every time I go to Saudi Arabia, I'm always worried because it's never - you never know when you get arrested again for a tweet or a retweet or something you said in an interview like what I'm doing now with you, something that slipped. 
So you have to always have this filter going on the whole time you talk. Can I say this or not? Will this get me in trouble or not? Because at the end of the day, I always think I'm going back to Saudi. I have to - I want to see my son. So it's tricky.
Read more about Al-Sharif's driving campaign and the speech that brought it to the world in our Famous Speech Friday post about her.

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