By on July 10, 2018

The women of Saudi Arabia have been under a strict no-driving ban for the last 61 years but, thanks to a decree by King Salman, they’re back behind the wheel. Getting to that point was not easy, however. Leading up to the ban’s repeal, female activists spent years driving against the law in protest and speaking out for their right to do so. Among them was prominent women’s rights activist and retired professor Sahar Hasan Nasif, who was arrested in 2013 after posting a video of herself driving.

Ford, which has taken an interest in the cause, promised her a new Mustang after it was announced Salman would give women the right to drive and apply for a license without a male guardian. The new laws came into effect on June 24th, and Ford shipped the vehicle to a dealership in Jeddah.

Nasif tweeted previously that the Mustang was her favorite vehicle and that she was excited to purchase a yellow example when the time came, prompting Ford to give her one on the house. 

As kind a gesture as this was, the activist likely didn’t need the charity. In her protest video she can be seen driving what looks to be a 2013 Lexus LS 460 (which would have been brand new at the time). In fact, many of the female drivers protesting in Saudi Arabia appear in late-model, high-end automobiles — leaving us wondering how those clinging to the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder have fared both before and after the ban was lifted. At least three known activists remained jailed.

Saudi Arabia may be a wealthy country overall, but the average household income remains significantly lower than that of the United States. While the Saudi Arabia’s king remains the national patriarch, the recent push to modernize and give women new rights appears to be coming from Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud — who cites both social and economic reasons for giving women the right to drive. Ladies behind the wheel means more women in the workforce and more auto sales, which is good for the Saudi Arabian economy and and manufacturers across the globe.

However, Ford’s gestures in the region aren’t empty. The company remains incredibly vocal on the matter, posting tips for Saudi women hoping to take their first steps towards car ownership and creating a new partnership with Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University. While the former is really just a clever way to help women arrange a visit to their local Ford dealership, the latter is an expansion of the Ford Entrepreneurship Academy to include more programs at Effat University and Nourah bint Abdulrahman (both of which only accept women).

Helpful or not, we know this is primarily positive publicity for Ford. But it’s hard to be jaded when it involves people who were prohibited from driving finally getting the right to do so. Even the most crotchety, contemptuous old American probably thinks it’s okay for women to drive.

Frankly, the women in Saudi Arabia probably need as much support as they can get right now. The public response toward Saudi women receiving new rights is mixed. On the issue of driving, videos of women behind the wheel have garnered unfavorable comments mixed in with the praise. However, the negative comments are far more interesting. “The Saudi believes that his sister and his wife is a prostitute, so he says that the gunboats will have sex with everyone,” wrote one man in Arabic. “But the Pakistani driver led her to do so, and with him the Saudi lost his mind in the head of his penis.”

While some of this message may have been lost in translation, the male writer clearly has deep feelings on the issue of women driving — as well as the current relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This comment ended up as one of the more popular responses to a brief clip showing Lujain al-Hathloul driving illegally as a form of protest in 2014, but it also saw numerous objections. It should also be noted that Hathloul has remained in prison since the driving ban was lifted, and has not been in contact with her family since 2017.

As for Nasif, the public backlash hasn’t stopped her from driving. She has taken delivery of her yellow Mustang GT, promising to never sell it.

“This is just amazing. From the announcement of the decree on lifting the ban last September, to actually having my very own Mustang, it really is a dream come true. I still can’t believe it,” Nasif said at the dealership in an interview with the Saudi Gazette. “I just love the Mustang. From the moment I rented one in California in 1999, I knew I wanted my very own Mustang. I loved the seats, the shape, the [roar of the engine], the fact it was a convertible; I loved everything about it and still do.”

[Image: Ford]

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19 Comments on “Ford Promoting Female Drivers in Saudi Arabia, Gifts Mustang GT to Activist (As Others Remain Jailed)...”

  • avatar

    She’ll trade it in for a Hellcat inside of two months.

  • avatar

    It’s only very rarely an additional 15M customers pop up over night. Can’t blame Ford for trying to get in on the publicity early.

    I hope this plays better over there than it does here in the US, though, because to me this smells cheap and ungenuine. If you want to be associated with political change maybe you should have put your money where your mouth is before it was safe to do so.

  • avatar

    I’m inclined to say something overly judgmental and self-righteous about the social order in the Kingdom, but it was *barely* two generations ago in the United States that we had evils in our laws that restricted the freedoms of certain classes of people. And outside the USA, don’t forget that most every western democracy also has their own evil skeletons, many of which are still in living memory.

    So, TTAC Best and Brightest, point out injustice wherever you see it and even point it out loudly, but choose your words wisely when you comment on the people who are responsible for those acts. We’re all not so different from each other and none of us are as pure as we might want to believe.

    Oh- and it’s about time they changed the law over there! Good for Ford too.

    • 0 avatar

      We have codified civil rights violations on the books now, all of which are disguised as social justice and most of which have badly damaged (intentionally) the vulnerable people they claimed to protect.

      Many people on TTAC support these programs, including a taxpayer-funded program in which the fetuses of racial minorities are parted out to the biomedical industry. That is why many people on TTAC should not speak.

    • 0 avatar

      All of this is true – no one has a clean nose – but the Kingdom of SA is unique in it’s foot dragging on human rights. For example, they were a laggard in outlawing slavery…. in 1962.

      So if you’re over 55 (if my math is correct), you were born when slavery was still legal in SA.

      That being said, Mauritania outlawed slavery in 1981.

  • avatar

    Having lived in Riyadh for two years, I can’t imagine why anybody would WANT to drive in Saudi Arabia. The things I saw people do behind the wheel still give me chills three years after having left.

    • 0 avatar

      One of my friends flew helicopter EMS in Saudi Arabia for a few years. A lot of his work was with traffic accident scenes… and on that note he was never worried about job security.

  • avatar

    I doubt Ford was working behind the scenes prior to today. Good of them to show up for the party. Anyway, the virtue signaling grows old, but what are you going to do? Unless you make vapid overtures to human rights, you won’t get any free press. Whoever keeps the gate controls the password to get through.

  • avatar

    When will they start their suicide spiral by letting women vote ?

  • avatar

    She should turn off the traction control, and do some donuts.

  • avatar

    My only peeve here is with the headline. Gives is a perfectly acceptable word; why must we continue to verb nouns?

    *yes, I did that on purpose.

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    I just have such an uneasy feeling about a country that has no problem separating heads from bodies. The one thankful thing about this country is when they do this to women, they don’t even have them unwrap beforehand.

  • avatar

    It is still an oppressive regime that plays fast and loose with terrorists.

  • avatar

    Cars that seem fancy to us are at best middle market over there. A Lexus LS is just a fancy Camry really ;)

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