It's January and April Fools' Day is still months away, right? Because an article in the Daily Telegraph headlined "Saudi Arabia to Lift Ban on Women Drivers" had me glancing cynically at my calendar and then double-checking that I hadn't been redirected to the Onion. After all, one would expect news of this sort to be trumpeted by every last news outlet and women's rights organization -- but the Telegraph and the Feminist Majority Foundation seem to be the only outlets actually running with the news. After reading the Telegraph report, it's clear why: The only confirmation of the report comes obliquely, from unnamed government officials.
One such shadowy figure offers: "There has been a decision to move on this by the Royal Court because it is recognized that if girls have been in schools since the 1960s, they have a capability to function behind the wheel when they grow up. We will make an announcement soon." The only on-the-record evidence comes from Deputy Information Minister Abdulaziz bin Salamah. "There is change on the way," he says. "I think the fair view is that one can be against it but one does not have the right to prevent it." That's hardly a blood oath that the ban on women's driving will be soon repealed.
Maybe the Telegraph has a scoop and the royal family does indeed plan to "issue a decree by the end of the year." After all, just earlier this week, there came an official announcement that Saudi women can now stay in hotels alone without a male guardian. It's certainly possible that King Abdullah is on a dramatic reform roll (note, though, that the Telegraph's sources say it's designed as a way to squelch women's recent calls for greater freedoms), but I'm still waiting for that royal decree.