Wajeha Al-Huwaider is a Saudi Arabian activist journalist and writer. She is became well known as Saudi’s first woman to drive publicly by posting a video of herself driving in Saudi Arabia on YouTube. Since 2003 it can be said that Wajeha Al-Huwaider has been under harassment by the state and individuals within that do not support her progressive views on women’s rights.
Saudi Arabia, a state that has been well documented in its suppression of women’s rights has passed various laws that prohibit women from performing what those in the western worlds may see as mundane tasks. To list a few these include not being able to go anywhere without a ‘mahram’ (a male relative), not allowing women to drive, women not being allowed to vote and women are not allowed to compete freely in sports.
In addition to her bold political stance against the government to better women’s right in Saudi Al-Huwaider is also a co-founder alongside Fawzia Al-Oyouni of The Association for the Protection and Defense of Women’s Right in Saudi Arabia. This is a non-governmental organization founded to provide activism for women’s rights in the country. The organization grew out of a 2007 movement to gain the right for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Although the association has not been legally licensed by the government they still work towards the aim of increasing representation of women in the government as well as protecting women against domestic violence.
Wajeha Al-Huwaider believes that Saudi Arabia needs to further the rights on women and gender equality in the state. Her activism has caused many waves in the country and led to her being arrested in September 2006 for organizing a protest on women’s rights.
In 2011 Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with the kidnapping and attempting to aid Nathalie Morin to escape an abusive marriage and flee to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh. The charges were initially dropped, however in 2012 the two women were charged with Takhbib, a lesser crime of inciting a woman against her husband. In June 2013 Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni were convicted and sentenced to ten-month imprisonment with a two-year travel ban.
Wajeha Al-Huwaider is swimming against the current and is trying to spark a match where there is seemingly no oxygen. However, her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Several international human right bodies alongside key political figures fully support the work she is doing in the country for the betterment of women’s rights.