Free to Drive, Saudi Women Still Must Take a Back Seat to Men

By Margaret Coker

With her bubble-gum pink hair and stylishly ripped jeans, Doaa Bassem goes a long way to redefining what it means to be a Saudi woman these days.

At age 14, she learned how to change the oil of her father’s car and dreamed of owning a classic Trans Am. Although she assumed she would be barred from driving the sleek, loud muscle car, she wanted the fun of taking the engine apart and rebuilding it.

By 17, she had entered into an arranged marriage. Within a year, she had given birth to a child, divorced, then remarried and divorced again.

Now, at 29, she is a single mother who works, lives on her own and plans to be among the first women who take to the streets on Sunday, the first day they will be legally permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that is the last country in the world to bar women from driving. Ms. Bassem won’t be behind the wheel of a sports car, though. She will be riding a Harley.

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