SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Some women in Sulaimani came out this week protesting against a Saudi book translated into Kurdish that considers driving for women forbidden.
They organized a car parade on the city’s streets. They also drove to Sulaimani’s court and its religious department to express their objection to the translated book, originating from Saudi Arabia where it is illegal for women to drive.
Hozan Omar is a university student. After her studies, she is out on Sulaimani’s streets earning a living for her family.
She told Rudaw that she depends on her work to earn a living for her two children.
She says that she is concerned about the book published.
“Men look at you in two ways,” Omar said who has been a taxi driver for a year. “Some see you as a woman who is working. While others think like this is not meant for you [as a woman].”
She remains defiant though in the face of the book, and those who object to her rights.
“Driving is my basic right, and will practice it. I earn my living in this way. There is nobody who could strip this right from me.”
A women rights activist who took part in the public protest said that women have still more to achieve than the current rights they enjoy.
“Despite all the shortages, we are still present,” Khanim Rahimi said, “We do not accept the current rights we have. Our life conditions should be made even better. That is why our message today is that not only do we drive, but that driving for women has become a modern necessity.”
The book also received criticism from religious authorities and Islamic parties.
The high religious authority in charge of issuing religious decrees in Kurdistan said that the book does not reflect the merits of Islam. While the women organization of the moderate Kurdistan Islamic Union, the largest Islamic party in the Kurdistan Region, expressed their disbelief that such a book could still be published in this age, adding that there is no doubt that women have the right to drive.
Niyazi Hawramani, an Islamic preacher who showed solidarity with women protesters said that the decrees found in the book are foreign to Kurdistan.
“We believe these kinds of fatwas are fatwas related to the Arab culture as opposed to being a religious or legitimate religious decree,” Hawramani said, “we do not have a religious verse either in the Quran or the Hadith that forbids driving for women.”
Traffic police officers are happy about the driving style of women.
“They are very good in driving. They have no [such] problem," Tahir Khalil, a traffic police officer said. "Car accidents happen more to men than women because women are more committed to the traffic rules."
According to figures published by Sulaimani traffic police, there were 1,919 car accidents in 2016, of which 1,856 involved male drivers, and only 63 car accidents involved female drivers.
In the same year, 4,730 women received their driving license.
“Streets are beautiful with our presence,” a banner read on one of the trucks driven by a woman driver in Sulaimani, as part of the public protest.