We are still in shock after hearing Jeddah Court sentence of 10 lashes issued against Ms. Shaima Jastaniah, the Saudi women from Jeddah who drove her publicly. The sentence, as we learned after finally receiving a copy of it, was based on Ms. Jastaniah's "disobeying" the state.
Though King Abdullah's royal decree asked the court to reconsider the sentence the Interior Ministry refuse to issue a written order to suspend the senesce and only conveyed it orally to shaima's father. If there was not a written legal document that supersede this verdict then it will set a precedent and open the door for many other harsh sentences to take place.
We strongly believe that the sentence is a clear violation of Saudi's Baisc Law of Governance that states the illegality of punishing anyone unless they violate a clear shariah law or a civil one. It also violates the international human rights treaties that the Kingdom has signed.
The verdict stated the following:
"Based on what was stated in the police report and what the defendant has committed we consider her acts in shariah law haram "forbidden" as stated in Qura'an: "O you who believe obey Allah, his messenger (Mohammad) and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority" (4:50) She has disobeyed authorities as the the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, who is in charge of the nation's safety, has issued a banning on women driving based on a fatwa (religious edict) issued by the Ulama to prevent vices. Thus we sentenced her with 10 lashes and made her strongly pledge not to drive again."
Here is a quick interpretation of this unjust sentence that we believe has no legal base and we're concerned that it might set a precedent from now on on any woman who dares to publicly drive her car:
First: The former Shoura Council president Sheikh Mohammad Bin Jubair said that the driving ban fatwa was not issued from the Ulama council but from one single sheikh and it was merely a reaction to the women drivers in Riyadh in 1990. He added that "getting in a car with a foreign driver is more dangerous that a woman driving her own car."
Second: We have to emphasize that the Interior Ministry is an executive body that is not eligible of setting and making new laws but only to reinforce existing ones. Thus, the Ministry's statement of banning women from driving which was issued in 1990 can not be considered legally a law nor it sets a precedent, it is merely a statement triggered by a certain incident. Also, the country's Basic Law of Governance was that issued by a royal decree in 1992 its supersedes the Ministry's statement. It states clearly in Article 8 that the "Governance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shall be based on justice, shura (consultation) and equality in accordance with the Islamic Shari'ah."
Third: Until this very day there is not a single legal article that prohibits women from driving. For example, article 33 of the traffic system states that "any person is prohibited from driving car unless a driving license is obtained in accordance of the system, " based on this we believe that the word "person" includes both males and females. In fact, in July 2008 the general manager of the traffic department Major Fahad Saud Al Bisher said to Al Watan newspaper that the newly implied traffic system "doesn't include any article that prohibits women from driving." (http://www.alwatan.com.sa/news/newsdetail.asp?issueno=2845&id=62095&groupID=0)
Fourth: We stress that Saudi officials presented in King Abdullah and his Interior Minister always said that the women driving issue is left for the Saudi society to make a decision on. This is evident in the rural parts of Saudi where Bedouin women drive their cars freely, and it can also be found in Al Dharan in the eastern province, in the campuses of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and in King Aullah University of Science and Technology. No has ever stopped women inn these areas because people there have ben accustomed to women driving. The rest of us have been denied this basic right because of customs. It is our mission to to follow their steps and make women driving across the country the norm not the exception. This can't be done unless we are supported by the authorities that should create appropriate environment to protect the drivers unlike nowadays where they are stopped, have been given violation tickets, detained and sentenced to lashes and even a term in prison.
Finally, we believe that Ms. Shaima Jastaniah has the right to file a lawsuit against the Jeddah judge who issued the verdict, sheikh Abdul Majid Mohammad Al Lihidan. The lashing sentence is a humiliating one that she received without committing any violation under Saudi law. She has the right to clear her name and restore the dignity of all Saudi women.
Members of the initiative My Right to Dignity
Twitter | @w2drive
The Saudi Basic Law of Governance:
Saudi Traffic System: