Saudi Women's Driving School (2019) - full transcript

Saudi women embrace a new way of life and the freedom that comes from being behind the wheel when they are allowed to drive legally for the first time.

Without freedom you can't feel
like you're a human being.

You will feel like you're a thing.
You're not a person.

The ministry of the interior
would like to announce

to all citizens and residents
that all women are absolutely prohibited

from driving cars
in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It added that any woman who violates
this regulation will be penalized.

Saudi women staged
an unprecedented demonstration

to demand the right to drive cars
like women in every other Arab country.

We are trying to force
the government to let us drive.

We want to drive!

We are ignorant and illiterate
when it comes to driving.

You'll find a woman with a PhD,
a professor at a college,

and she doesn't know how to drive.
We want change in this country.

Hear this, Saudi Arabia
has just announced

it will allow women to drive cars.

Saudi Arabia was the only country
to have a ban on women driving.

The change will take effect
in June of next year.

At least ten women's rights activists
were arrested.

Some were released, others branded
as traitors in pro government papers.

In criminal law this is categorized
as high treason.

This is a very serious crime
and carries very serious penalties.

Today I'm an independent person.

For us Saudi women
this was something huge.

It had a very big effect on us

and it is difficult for people outside
Saudi Arabia to imagine that.

My name is Sarah Saleh.

I've never driven a car.

I have been selling cars
in this showroom

for approximately six months.

I have already been working
for this company for ten years.

At the beginning I was working
in the call center, in customer care.

As soon as women were allowed to drive,

I was moved straightaway
to the showroom.

A woman understand the needs
of other women better than a man does.

You can change the interior colours

and you can choose
whichever color you like.

Oh I like it.

And this is my dream car,
the Taurus.

I've been dreaming of having a car
of my own

so that I can go to work by myself.

And hopefully it will be a reality soon.

As soon as it was announced
that women could drive,

I was one of the first to apply
for lessons.

I registered straightaway
without thinking twice.

I am just waiting for my chance
to come, so that I can finally drive.

The Saudi Driving School
is considered to be

the biggest driving school
in the world.

The school is only for women.

It has 700 instructors

and about 250 cars.

What's up with that lady?

She's been sitting there for an hour!

Come on, go, go!

Now it's peak time.

There are huge numbers of people

who have applied
to the Saudi Driving School.

I was one of the first people
at the school when it opened.

When I think that I couldn't drive

and that now I'm a driving instructor
and that I can drive...

I feel it's an accomplishment,
to be honest.

This is my first day of lessons,
God willing.

I am used to sitting behind the driver

in the back seat.

I am very excited
about learning to drive.

- Hello!
- Hello Sarah, how are you?

How are you?

I am well, praise be to God.
Are you ready?

Now put your gear in D.

Yes, well done!

- In the name of God, let's start.
- How fast should I go?

At 20 km/h, because there
are learners here.

Now lift your foot
and the car will start.

Keep the car straight.

Give your left signal.

Well done, Sarah.

Adjust the car
so that we don't hit the sidewalk.

Signal and turn left. After this car.

Careful, you are very, very close.

- Go, go.
- But there's a car coming.

- No, go forwards.
- But...

- Yeah, but it's clear now.
- Look, there is a car passing!

Now go, there's no one else there.

- Was I supposed to stop?
- Yes, you should have stopped.

Allowing women to drive is important.
I have no problem with it at all.

I like it, but personally

I wouldn't let my children drive.

I wasn't happy about it.

I won't allow my wife to drive.

First of all, I am jealous.
People would see her.

This is what makes me prevent
my wife from doing it.

Driving is important and necessary
for a woman.

One of my daughters has diabetes.

Sometimes she would faint
and I couldn't help...

I felt powerless.
I couldn't do anything.

Also, my husband is always traveling
because of his job

and I wanted to make life
easier for him.

That's why I learned to drive.

My family was proud of me.

What is the role of the wife
in Saudi society?

I don't know how to answer this...

Your role as a wife in Saudi society...
It's about customs and traditions,

visiting my mother, being at home,

taking care of the children,
their needs...

My role as a wife in Saudi society
is to offer my children

a proper Muslim education... help
my husband with the burdens of life...

Be in charge
of their school education...

Be in charge of their school education.

- Make them study, follow them...
- Enough!

This is a "friendly" conversation.

When a woman is inside the house,
she is protected...

she doesn't even need makeup.

At home, this is her kingdom,
she can live how she wants.

And this is what our religion tells us
to do

in relation to covering and uncovering.

I like to compare women

to the palm tree we take care of.

And it is not to belittle her,

because the palm tree undoubtedly
has a great value in Saudi Arabia.

If I leave it outside, it's not the same
as keeping it in my house,

protected, well-maintained,

When it is outside in the burning sun,
exposed to sandstorms,

it will wither and die.

Things have changed.
Wives are more like men now.

Women's rights are something
the whole world is asking for.

However, as I said before,
not all rights,

because there are things
that men can do but women cannot.

The father is still in charge.

He's not in charge of everything,

but he's the one
who sets the right direction.

"Every shepherd is responsible
for his flock,"

as the Prophet says,
peace be upon him.

The woman is in charge
of her job and her children too,

but within the limits
set by traditions and customs.

Things are very different
now from how they were in the past.

Yes, it's a big turning point.

A great and bold one, too.

In Saudi Arabia, in the past,

the restriction on women
were extremely difficult.

Men and women cannot be
in the same office.

Wherever there is a chance that a man
and a woman can mix in an office,

that sector was not a place
for women to join.

They cannot be treated
in the same hospital surgery.

They cannot go to the same university.

They cannot go to the same school.

Even for entertainment.

If they want to go to a restaurant,

usually there is a curtain
separating the men and the women.

But all this kind of segregation spaces
are now collapsing.

Women can now go to football matches,
they can go to concerts

and now we see that Saudi women
are allowed to enter public spaces

where men work or are present.

During the economic wealth
associated with oil,

there wasn't a great pressure on women
to go out of their way and seek jobs.

However, as these economic resources
begin to dwindle,

and we are living
in the post oil economy.

Now it has become important for women
to actually get jobs.

My name is Shahad al-Humaizi.

When the only driving school
in Riyadh opened,

I was one of the Activists
who had challenged the driving ban.

Praise be to God, I am one of the first
girls to drive in the Saudi Arabia

and also one of the first girls
to become an Uber driver.

Everyday I work as an Uber driver
for five to seven hours.

The fact that my family worry about me

since I became an Uber driver
is expected.

The thing that worried them most
is that I do not know

what kind of people
I might have in my car.

My first day as an Uber driver,
I was actually worried.

It was the first time
I had a stranger in my car

and drove him somewhere.

There are some people
who have not accepted

the idea of women
driving here in Saudi Arabia,

and even less so the idea
of a woman being an Uber driver.

Some times
I've been to a passenger's house

and, when he realized I was a girl,
he suddenly canceled the trip.

It's difficult accepting
that people are against this

but you have to fight
and convince yourself

that this is to be expected.

However, it has been decided now...
nobody can appeal against it

because this is a Royal Decree.

And nobody can oppose a Royal Decree.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy.

The king is the supreme leader.
He can decide on everything.

From the status of women
to foreign relations.

The red line is always going
to be crossed

if someone mentions the king or
the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman

in a negative way.

Citizens do not have freedom of speech.

We've got kids with us.

We've got a very safe, capable driver
behind the wheel.

Just stay cool...

Praise be to God, we will now go
on to the North Ring Road.

And there is no problem at all.

Peace be with you,
this is Loujain al-Hathloul

who has just arrived in Riyadh
and is going home.

She is driving and happy.

God willing, in a decade from now

we will be laughing
at this video. Peace.

Many people are confused
inside Saudi Arabia and outside

about why we have an openness,

in the history of the country.

But at the same time
there is this sort of repression

that is taking place across the board.

And many people ask me
the question: Why this is happening.

And the answer to this question
is that this is an absolute monarchy

that does not want to give credit
to anybody apart from itself,

when it comes to social,
economic and political change.

What most people don't know is that

even when women were banned
from driving, they did drive.

The first time I drove
was with my father

when I was in fourth grade
in elementary school.

It was in the desert.

He sat me on his lap,

I just held the steering wheel
and I started driving.

I know many people
who learned to drive in the desert.

If we drove in our neighborhood
and the police saw us,

we could get punished.

Saudi women grow up strong

because they face difficulty
and pressure from society.

The stereotype that Americans,
Europeans and the whole world

have in their minds is... that women
are enslaved in their own houses,

that they do not go out.

The reality is that they are women
who rely on themselves

It makes you feel different,
coming to a place like this.

Far from the noise of the city.

For me, the desert is
just the best place to come

and get lost in my thoughts,
it's far from anyone else.

When he was still alive, my father
was one of the biggest supporters

of women driving and was hoping
for this Decree to be issued.

I believe that if my father
were still alive,

he would support me...
more than any other person.

But my father died three years ago.
God have mercy on him.

and I am sure that if he were still here
he would be extremely proud of me.

Today we are at the
"Saudi Time Attack" here in Riyadh

where we have seen female race drivers

participate for the first time ever
here in Saudi Arabia.

And today, yeah, it's actually a very
big day because it's the last round.

I started driving
when I was 13 years old.

I really wanted to take myself
and my family around.

And I told my mum the idea
and she liked it and she was supporting.

I was disguising as a young boy.

When I hide my hair I look like a guy.

So it was really easy for me.

I was so afraid.
I used to scream a lot because of Amjad.

And he was driving so, so bad.

But after that
I used to they used me as...

- The reverse sensor.
- The reverse sensor.

So I looked out the back
and I make sure no, no cars are there.

No cars.

- She's like, "Okay, you can go. Keep..."
- Come on. Yeah yeah.

I started racing actually

after I joined Formula Student team
in my university.

I wanted to be the driver so bad,

because they were underestimating
all females in the team.

They were only looking
for males to be drivers.

So I wanted to prove them wrong.

I really like competitions.
Especially if it includes beating guys.

There's thick smoke coming from the car.

Actually, it's very scary.

There is black smoke right there
because the yellow car is on fire.

The driver got out the car, thank God.

And now the recovery team
are working and he's safe.

Every time I see an accident like this
I really...

I realize how, how dangerous
this sport is.

But my sister is brave.

She knows
what she's doing and I trust her.

Hello, please come in.

Welcome, we are happy to have you here.

Here is my mother. God bless her.

I am single and I live with my family,
of course,

with my mother and my two sisters.

I have two brothers, but they live
with their wives, not in our house.

I live in this kitchen with my birds.

Praise be to God,

I spend my time here
until my daughters come home.

I've looked after them
since they were very young.

My husband,
may God have mercy on his soul,

died eleven years ago.
So my life was a constant struggle.

I supported my children,
I made them study.

I instilled this in them.
I mean, we would not go out.

God gave them the chance to work,
so praise be to Him.

Of course I will help my family too
and especially my mother.

I will take her to hospital,
to the market.

How are you, mum?

The king did something special by
letting you do this, may God protect him

because he knows that the girls
of Saudi Arabia are as good as the men.

Each of them is worth thirty men.
You can bet your own life on it.

Now you just have to learn

and hopefully you will have your car
and feel free.

You can come and go
whenever you need,

you can go to work...
take me places, go get things for me...

Of course.

And even though I'm old,
if I have the chance I will drive too.

I won't wait for you
to come back from work.

I will pick you up...

No darling, I'll drive, so I can go
to the market, to the doctor...

I'm serious about driving.

We can now, so I want to.

- Are you ready?
- Of course.

Keep going straight
so we can go out through the gate.

What's wrong, are you scared?

No, you're up to the task.

I'm with you, don't be scared.

Here, here, here!
Be careful... stop here!

Be careful.

Accelerate. Here, here, here.

Relax, Sarah, relax.
Focus on the roundabouts.

Focus a bit.

Go a bit faster,
then turn left at the roundabout.

Where are you going?

- No, Sarah, you are making a mess!
- You told me to go... I don't know...

I told you, roundabouts can
be confusing sometimes.

It's because you talk to me... I don't
know whether to go left or right.

Park here.

That's enough. Put the gear in P.

You haven't understood roundabouts...
at all.

How long have you been working
for Uber?

The day you told me I was very shocked.

I started three months ago...

Driving has actually become
a source of income for many girls.

I am seeing more women
in all sorts of fields now.

Yes, and it's happening quickly.
I am very proud of them.

These days when you see job offers,
all of them want girls, girls, girls!

We all have male colleagues
at work and other places.

Just four years ago,
when I first started university,

people who discourage me saying,

"How are you going to work
in a hospital? With men?

And night shifts?"

But now literally four years later,
I am working there fine.

I've been surprised
by how accepting people are...

especially if you look at where we were
and where we are now.

- Uber?
- Yes.

Peace be with you.

- It's cold today, isn't it?
- Very cold.

I know lots of guys
who work for Uber but...

this is my first time seeing
a woman driving for Uber.

Are you in favor of women working
for Uber or opposed to it?

No, I am totally in favor of it.

There's nothing to stop women
working for Uber.

To be honest,
at first I was a bit scared

when they announced
that women would be allowed to drive.

- You were scared?
- Yes, really scared.

- Why?
- I was scared until I went abroad

and got into cars driven by women.

- So you changed your mind?
- Yes, I completely changed my views.

My confidence has increased...

there's nothing about women's brains
that means they can't drive.

Now I sometimes think...

women will take our places, our jobs.

Look, to be honest
we're not interested in that.

The point is not for us to compete
with men, it's for us to be equal.

Are you opposed to that?

No, I'm not against that,
but I think it might not stop there.

Like I said,
women by nature are emotional.


So emotions could be used
to apply pressure

because, if they got results
once or twice,

then I'm worried
what the next demands will be.

Ok. God bless you, Shahad.

I really enjoyed your driving,
which I'd been scared of.

I've left you
with a good impression then.

Thank you and God bless you.

The right to drive is important
for working women

and for all women who choose to drive.

But it is not enough to think

that the ambition of Saudi women
will stop at the wheel.

The Guardianship system
is one of the critical restrictions

that women face in Saudi Arabia,

it is a mix of social
and cultural values

and a set of religious interpretations
specific to Saudi Arabia

that give women less power than men

when it comes to deciding
on important issues in their lives.

The Guardianship system dictates
that women are minors

even if they are adults.

Usually when a father dies,
the Guardian becomes the brother,

if a woman gets married
then the husband is her Guardian,

if she's divorced or the husband dies
then her son becomes the Guardian.

I agree with opening up more,
but as for Guardianship...

Men are strong
and there is a verse from the Quran

which says that men are the protectors
of women, in everything.

I will support her, and God bless her.

If Guardianship is abolished,
this will be the end.

There won't be any reason
for a man to be there.

- God help me.
- It's alright, focus now.

Focus on achieving a time per sector.

- That will be easier for you.
- True.

God willing, I won't get distracted.

Relax, relax as much as you can.

- If you get stressed, you will be lost.
- But I have to accelerate.

You will go "full throttle",
but you will be "smooth".

I'm fascinated by speed
and I really enjoy beating people.

I have big ambitions;

I am really dreaming of winning
a world championship.

It's really crazy but I believe
that's gonna happen one day.

I believe it's possible

because everything
we thought that was impossible,

it's actually happened so why not?

He said you can't film this.

She's fine, thank God, she's fine.

What happened, it was a snap oversteer,

it happens with every driver
and for me this was a lesson.

It's a really interesting experience
because now I learnt

how to overcome such accidents
and problems in the future.

And now for the women's category...

And the champion
of this season's Saudi Time Attack...

And also a name that's starting to be
well-known in the media...

This season's champion is...
Amjad al-Amri!

Congratulations to Amjad al-Amri
for winning this season's championship.

When I win I feel really great.

A girl on the podium
was my dream actually.

I feel so powerful, I feel great,
I feel like it's really happening,

I'm in the future.

I think me and everyone
in Saudi Arabia is so optimistic

because we're all sensing
all the changes.

Saudi women are creative,
Saudi women are doing very great jobs

and they're now doctors,
they're scientists,

they are many huge things.

We're going forward, we're improving.

The thing is I don't want to show that
everything is fine when it's not fine.

Because we have many problems but...

But we don't wanna show
the problems and...

Negative, we don't want to be
very dreamy about the situation here

in Saudi Arabia
but we want to be realistic.

We have a different culture
from other countries.

There are some females
who can't do whatever they want to do

because of their families.

The problem now is with the strict
families or close minded families.

Rahaf, how does it feel to be in Canada?

A young Saudi woman
is on Canadian soil

after being granted asylum
in that country.

The 18 year old arriving in Toronto
just within the past hour...

Ok, I'll take the flowers.

Ok so everyone,
this is Rahaf al-Qunun,

a very brave new Canadian.

I was not treated respectfully
by my family

and I was not allowed to be myself
and who I want to be.

As you know, in Saudi Arabia,
this is the case for all Saudi women,

except for those that are fortunate
enough to have understanding parents.

The Saudis deny they had tried
to force the teen to return home.

Her case is the latest to highlight
Saudi Arabia's strict Guardianship laws

that force women to have a male
relative's consent to travel or marry.

On social media a trending topic was
the accusation that Canada

was politicizing her story,

using a family problem to settle scores
with Saudi Arabia.

Don't politicize humanitarian issues,
it's not right.

To clash with Saudi Arabia
you have to do it directly,

not by using this young lady...

Girls, listen...

Did you hear about the girl who escaped

because she claims
she was being treated violently?

Yes, I heard about it,
it was all over Twitter...

Public opinion was focused on it.

The only news about us
is either that we can drive now.

Or that woman
are subjected to violence.

They take one person and say
that all Saudi Arabia is like that...

That all Saudi girls are like that.

But perhaps she was just unlucky
to have a family who treated her badly.

These things do happen,
but you can't generalize...

The reality's very different.

There are normal people, too...

Ok, there are unusual cases
where the situation is really bad...

I mean, at the end of the day,
it depends on the father,

the family, the upbringing...

This doesn't happen
just in Saudi Arabia;

it happens all over the world...

Both in western and Muslim societies.

But they point their fingers at us.

It's as if we're still living in tents.

People abroad think
that life in Saudi Arabia is bad...

No way.

Seriously, especially life for women
in Saudi Arabia.

We've been around the world

but never felt as comfortable
as we do here.

Who would have thought that women would
be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia?

This was the only thing left.

I can work, I can go out,
I can go shopping, I can go to a café...

There's no-one
who can stop me doing this.

Each country has its own rules.

In America they're different,
in the Gulf they're different,

in the kingdom they're different...

We have to respect
every country's rules and laws.

Every country has its own freedom.

The driving ban became a symbol,

it was not the only right
that Saudi women wanted.

The first demand:

Set the same age of majority
for women as for men.

The second demand:

Abolish all regulations
that legitimize Male Guardianship.

It's extremely difficult
to be an activist in Saudi Arabia

and escape imprisonment.

First of all, we don't disagree at all

with religious authorities
or with Islam.

We disagree with those man-made laws

which were introduced in the state
system from 1982 until now.

And which have
no relation whatsoever

either with Islam
or with our customs and traditions.

We are talking about state laws
that affect people

who are not lucky enough to have
an understanding guardian.

For the first time,
the Saudi official press

published their photos
with the word 'Traitors'.

The prosecutor said that their charges
are related to national security,

their charges are related to working
with foreign governments,

their charges are related to working
with people

who seek to undermine
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

- Peace be with you.
- Peace be with you too.

Do you know this is my first time
in an Uber with a woman driver?


There are more girls
working for Uber now.

Oh, great.

You must have seen
all the on-going changes

and the decisions that have been taken.

What do you think is still missing?

To be honest...
they have done everything.

But in your opinion, do you feel
that there is anything left?

What I think...
and this is something that...

something that most
Saudi women are discussing now is...

What is it called?


Having a male guardian
who does everything for you

that you're meant to do
for yourself.

I am sure you saw...

do you remember the hashtags
before the driving ban was lifted

"Saudi Women want to drive" and so on?

Now you must have seen
the hashtags of women

demanding the abolition of guardianship.

They want to get rid of the system
of having to ask permission to travel.

Do you support
or are you against this?

Because a big part of the society,
especially you men, are against this.

Well... you see...

to be honest, Male Guardianship...

There should be conditions.

For instance,

if a girl wants to go abroad to study,
learn, and things like that...

It's normal that she can travel
without permission. You get me?

As for tourism and things like that,

I think that the Male Guardian
should be asked.

Why are you against a girl
going abroad for tourism

without approval from her Guardian?

If you can go abroad, why can't we...

Why are you against this?

Maybe it could be allowed
at a certain age...

She needs to be aware and
understanding of what is good for her.

You see,
this is what I am talking about...

Once guys reach a certain age,

they can travel
without permission from their Guardian.

And this should apply to both sexes...

I mean,
if a girl turns 21 she's an adult.

Looks like you, Shahad, are one
of the feminists behind the hashtags,

those on social media.

Well, you see...

...there is at least
a little bit of feminism in every girl.

But have you seen all the changes

going on in Saudi Arabia
in the last few years?

- Yeah, of course.
- I think society has really changed

especially people of our generation,
people in their twenties.

The previous generation
has a different mentality from ours.

I believe that men and women
are almost equal.

But surely,
with the current developments,

they will be even more equal.

Society hasn't opened up very much...

it's still very closed-minded
and scared.

With time everything will be fine...

Women will live exactly like men.

They are our sisters.

They will get their rights, God willing,
and we will always be by their side.

I am ready because, praise be to God,
I have trained enough.

I've learned so much about roundabouts,
but I feel I might get confused.

God willing, I will pass straightaway

and nothing will stand in the way
of this achievement.

They always say I'm a strict examiner

but I always imagine
the lady with her kids or with her mom

and if I feel she's gonna be safe
on the road, so that's cool.

If not, I will, no,
she have to you know train.

You know it's dangerous, that's why
they call me a strict examiner.

Oh God, grant me success.


This is the immediate fail section...
here we have the minor faults section.

The test is very easy
if you know how to drive.

If you need more training,
I will tell you,

"Sarah, you need more training."

Hopefully, there won't be any problems.

In the name of God,
we will now go out to the street.


Is there something we forgot?

The mirror?


We will move to the left lane...

Don't forget
to check over your shoulder.

Back to the right lane.

Go straight at the roundabout.

U-turn at the roundabout.

U-turn, yeah?

U-turn there.

- Shall I go all around the roundabout?
- Exit here.

Our speed here is 50.

- Change lanes?
- Stay in your lane.

Speed needs to be 50.

Now turn left into the school.

Now park on the left...


But slow down. Pull over here.

If you want to adjust anything,
you can do it now.

- Is it alright?
- No, I think it's fine.

Look, it's a bit towards the left.

Only a little bit.

How do you think it went?

Ok, but I forgot that thing.
I don't know.

But, I mean, you won't fail me
for that... God willing?

I will tell you now.

You made some mistakes...
one, two, three...

Ten mistakes...

- But you've passed.
- You mean, I did it... really?

- Congratulations.
- Thank you, God.

- Congratulations!
- Praise be to God.

- Thank you...
- God grant you success.

- You deserved it, my love.
- Thank you so much.

Well done.
I'm very happy for you, Sarah.

Thank you.

God grant success to you
and all the girls.

I passed!

Praise be to God.

Hi Amal, did you see that I passed?

- Congratulations! Many Congratulations!
- God bless you.

That's the best news I've had all day.

It's all thanks to your efforts,
you spared me no effort.

Thanks so much, really.

Are you getting in, mum?

There is no god,
but God and Muhammad is His Messenger.

In the name of God.
What do you think, mum?

- You're not scared of me driving?
- No.

How do you find it, mum? Seriously.

You're a better driver
than your brothers.

I feel I have started
a new life because...

It's something I'd been waiting for,
something I was hoping for.

And the beautiful thing is that
I can now drive the car I want.

I think that in a few years

Saudi females will be as strong
as what they want to be.

We're looking for more changes.

It would be really amazing
if all females in Saudi Arabia,

despite the mentality of their families,

have their own rights of deciding
their way of living.

Whatever happened to Saudi women before,

we believe that
we are the new generation.

We believe that nothing can hold us back

and we will do it
as long as we believe in ourselves.

I am grateful for the changes
occurring at the moment.

Allowing women to drive was
one of the first steps

towards a great change
here in Saudi Arabia.

- This is the road, look.
- This is our house.

Praise be to God,
we've arrived safely.

Praise be to God.