1 thought on “MBS and Saudi arrests – women drivers”

  1. When I was British Ambassador in Qatar in the early 80s rumours swept the British community that all women would be banned from driving. Such rumours were endemic in a small country with a – relatively – huge number of British residents and were invariably wrong. Indeed I had offered to give a reward to any member of staff who heard one that could be substantiated. However, I agreed to receive a delegation of an indignant group of British wives who were demanding to know what the embassy were proposing to do about it. I explained that my powers were limited but resigned myself to meeting them. After calming them down I reminded them that Britain was no longer an imperial power but I would find out.
    So I called on Sheikh Khalid, the hard and powerful brother of the Amir and broached the subject. He sighed and asked if I had ever visited a woman’s jail in Qatar: they were disgusting. How could his courts sentence a British woman to one of them ? Hitherto, a blind eye had generally been turned where the British were concerned but there had been complaints that other expatriates were treated more harshly; times were moving on and he wished the law to be applied fairly to one and all. In fact he had no plans to ban any women driving. If British women were willing to take the risk of landing up in jail for a traffic offence good luck to them.
    Two weeks later a British mother speeding home from the school hit and killed a Pakistani labourer on a bicycle. She was jailed. The British women’s society called a public meeting in a hotel conference room and I faced the outraged mob – “The embassy is useless”, “How can you let them do this ?” and so on. I tried to explain how Sharia treated unintentional killing, the immediate arrest for penance, establishing the facts and, for practical reasons, protecting the person responsible from public anger and revenge. This cut no ice, but she was let out a few days later.

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