Community reacts to Saudi women drivers

Community reacts to Saudi women drivers

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Women in Saudi Arabia are gaining some of their rights as they will soon be able to drive a car.

It's a story trending in our state and across the world.

WDAM talked with local members of the community Wednesday who believe this is a global symbol of the oppression of women.

"For me, born in Bethlehem, Palestine, everybody is driving," said longtime Hattiesburg business owner and member of the Islamic Center, Jerry Buti. "Men and women, my wife she drives, and my sister she drives. Everybody is driving."

Buti said that's not the case in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

"I'm glad they are taking it off the books and they give the freedom of the women to drive," 
Buti said.

University of Southern Mississippi Associate Professor of History, Dr. Heather Stur discussed what is happening to Saudi women in her classroom. She believes this new law, that will take effect June 2018, is empowering for all women, including in our state.

"The fact that women are now getting the opportunity to drive legally, something we take for granted in the U.S. and really in any modern country, is a major step towards allowing for more rights for women, civil rights for women," 
Stur said. 

Stur said Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest allies of the U.S., but there has been a lot of controversy about the lack of civil rights and liberties for women in that part of the world as the U.S. works to bring democracy and freedom to parts of the Middle East.

"I really hope this is the first step towards an expansion and a continued expansion of rights for women in Saudi Arabia," 
Stur said.

"Living in this country for the past 40 years, it's taught me a lot of things like you need to have an open mind, you have to be humble and to love everybody," Buti said.

Buti said this change will not only help the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but believes the economy will also see a positive change.