We have been tracking Saudi groups on Facebook. Since the protests in Egypt there have been social networks calling for change in the Kingdom. These calls for change have been concentrated around women's rights. Until recently Saudi has been pretty quiet. But things have changing.
A Facebook group called Women2Drive is being used by a Saudi protest movement which is simply trying to teach women to drive. Saudi regime has never been modern or humane, but in a nation without public transport and massive open spaces the simple right to drive is pretty basic.
I actually remember women learning to drive when I was young. My mother only learned to drive in her mid-twenties. We moved to place well outside of a major city and until she learned to drive she was very isolated. I also remember it being something of a traumatic time in the life of my family.
Results for Women2Drive
So when we say that women are learning to drive in Saudi Arabia we are talking about something that happened in the west maybe 70 years ago and the earliest, not 700. Women's rights in the west are not that advanced. But to think that in 2011 there is a nation with major trade relations in which is it illegal for any women to drive is disturbing. The insecurity and fear of the Saudi Royal family must be very deep not to give on this simple issue.
In a nation with so much oil revolution is unlikely. Bush social networks play a major role in life in the modern Saudi Arabia. We have often been surprised by the extent of tweeting we see coming from parts of the Kingdom. We have predicted for a while that the network capacity in Saudi Arabia is sufficient for a Jasmine like Social Media inspired protest to spread, and we might be seeing it now.
On June 19 a major global drive to promote #women2drive took place, and we saw some very high tweeting levels from Saudi Arabia during it. Likely this event is forming something of a buzz.
You can get some background on this story from AlJazeera