Human Rights Advocates Detained in Saudi Arabia (Right to Drive) ( I am My Own Guardian Movements)

Gretchen Cooper
Posted May 21, 2018 from United States

This story is near and dear to my heart. If you have read any past posts of mine, you will know why.

Why would Saudi officials choose to silence these activists after a 30 year struggle to obtain legal driver's licenses? Has the movement pushed too far? Demanding human rights of freedom of movement, thought, speech, attire? Why would the Saudi government choose to "allow" permission for women to drive and then weeks before the official day detain/arrest/silence the very advocates that let the world know their plight?

I feel connected to these accidental activists.

I was fired from my driving job by a Saudi prince Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Aziz (Sudairy Seven) and former deputy defense minister in KSA. We "won" our lawsuit against him and 2 hiring companies. He died in default and it seems relatively impossible I will ever recover the funds owed to me amounting in $130,000. He also owes two other women this amount, plus a big chunk of legal fees. THIS IS HIS FAMILY LEGACY. He died in default, never once in eight years responding to the charges of gender discrimination.

I am grateful for being fired while female. This ordeal taught me advocacy doesn't pay the bills, but much like child rearing...you get paid in smiles, hugs, thumbs up and nice comments (sometimes not so nice) about being a silence breaker. It taught me about patience, disappointment and the persistence it takes to tell your story to make a difference and benefit all.

My heart and thoughts go out to the 10+ detainees. I hope you are all set free and released without charges of TREASON against your beloved country. I hope the June driving day is peaceful and those who stand strong to obtain the rights get to participate fully without harassment.

Honk Honk!!

Here is the latest NPR article Saudi Women's Activists Arrested (Men too)

I follow Manal Al Sharif for more personal and up to date info on the issues...Manal

Here is my Twitter handle Gretchen Cooper

The photo is of Manal and I a few years into our legal battle with named Prince.

 

 

 

Comments 12

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Olutosin
May 21, 2018
May 21, 2018

Strong women: May you tribe increase Amen. We are with you all the way, in solidarity and sisterhood.

Gretchen Cooper
May 22, 2018
May 22, 2018

There are women in their 60's-70's who have been vocal and public about this issue in a very closed society in KSA. Their movement towards driving and freedom has spanned nearly 3 decades. They face charges of treason and who knows what else will follow... They are the strong, brave and courageous. I hope by telling my story and supporting online, we can assure them the international community is paying attention and they are not alone, they will be released, and they will drive themselves to freedom.

coolasas
May 22, 2018
May 22, 2018

Hello Gretchen,

Keep up the fight especially for the ones you truly believe in. I just wish that situation in the greater Middle East, not only in Saudi Arabia changes for the women and girls and they enjoy not only few human rights but all of them.

Good luck and stay positive.

Coolasas

Gretchen Cooper
May 22, 2018
May 22, 2018

Thank you for posting from the Philippines!

Jill Langhus
May 22, 2018
May 22, 2018

Hi Gretchen. Thanks for sharing your update on Saudi female drivers. That is upsetting and not right:( I hope this turns around soon. I'm following your Twitter handle now so that I can keep posted on the events of this challenge as it unfolds. Please keep us posted on here as well.... onward and upward is the only way!!!

Gretchen Cooper
May 22, 2018
May 22, 2018

Thanks for following on Twitter. The date women are suppose to be able to drive is June 24th...

Jill Langhus
May 22, 2018
May 22, 2018

You're welcome. Okay... got it:-)

QueenVirtuous
May 24, 2018
May 24, 2018

Darling Gretchen,

Breaks my heart to read of your ordeal and what the women in Saudi Arabia are going through just to obtain a legal driving license. The hypocrisy with which these leaders carve themselves a good name only to turn back later on to use their power against the undervalued masses is just shameful.

One thing you said resonated with me so much. You said, "This ordeal taught me advocacy doesn't pay the bills, but much like child rearing...you get paid in smiles, hugs, thumbs up and nice comments (sometimes not so nice) about being a silence breaker. It taught me about patience, disappointment and the persistence it takes to tell your story to make a difference and benefit all."

Anyone who is into advocacy just because they think it pays the bills and brings fame and fortune is in for a big disappointment. This road is a difficult one to travel, and we do it because we love to set people free, to bring sunshine into people's live, to see frowns melt away into smiles and tears of joy, and to be an instrument of positive change. This is the joy of advocacy.

You have a pure heart! I've followed you on Twitter. Please be strong, my love. This battle shall be won, and you and all the Saudi women will have the last laugh. I promise.

Please, keep us posted.

Gretchen Cooper
May 24, 2018
May 24, 2018

Very nice of you to take the time to write such a heart warming post. One man said "She is just trying to get to the top." The top of what? It took 5 years of daily research on the Saudi Royal family just to see what I was up against. The fact Manal posted her viral video of herself driving in Saudi at nearly the same time (in 2010, when I was fired) helped me realize I had got into a situation, where as an American I had recourse. The Saudi women I had read about or spoken with were just amazed we had the ability to peacefully protest and support the driving issue on the street. This is unheard of for them, as all demonstrations are not acceptable, (depending on who you are and what you have to say.) The global outpouring of support for Manal gave me hope for our own case, to set a precedent for future women who wish to drive for employment or personal reasons in any country!

QueenVirtuous
May 24, 2018
May 24, 2018

What that man said is something I hear a lot in my work. It's jealousy. Ignorant talk from ignorant folk! These people who speak so will obviously not lift a finger to ever help a heavy laden donkey. Yet they would hate on anybody who tries to be selfless and advocate for justice for women in the society. Don't let them quench your fire, dear.

I'm much saddened by the way the royal family is going about this. Thank you for unearthing all these truths about the situation of women in Saudi Arabia. The authorities and the royal family would blind us with their glitz and glamour, but we won't be fooled.

I tell you, you are a great comfort to the Arabian women for your bravery in being a foreigner and yet fighting for them like you do. The Saudi women have long been overwhelmed by intimidation. It would take an outsider to raise their hopes again. God bless the American spirit!

The women of Saudi really do need international support. You have put your very life on the line for them, and I don't think the Universe can thank you enough. There's just something about you.

On behalf of all the women of Saudi Arabia, I say thank you (as inadequate as it may seem right now).

You know, I strongly believe that you will recover all your losses. All of it! Much more than you can ever imagine. It's called good karma, and it's coming your way. You will win. Just hang in there, my Queen.

Hugs and kisses to keep you warm.

Gretchen Cooper
May 24, 2018
May 24, 2018

Going back 9 years...the moments after I was told I couldn't perform my job because I am a woman/female was very shocking. After I got home and the shock settled down, I was contacted by two other women drivers in the detail. All three of us had been fired on the same day for the same blatant reason.
I saw my daughters faces, and then many, many women ancestors who had gone through much worse and even future women. It was a powerful moment in which I summoned strength to push forward and made my decision to take action against the hiring companies and the Prince.
A man said to me "You are creating alot of problems. Maybe if you are quiet/keep your mouth shut...they will hire you again on the next contract."
It was fuel added to a fire burning inside. I resolved to see the case until the end, tell the whole truth, and never use the words "fight or battle" referring to this issue or case. My only regret is that I didn't have a phone that could of recorded that heated moment in which those men fired me. One man came forward and put on record the exact events and words said to me. For him, I am always grateful he stood on the side of truth and supported us. As for the rest of the 50+ men in the detail...they were not supportive and only covered their own asses. Truth.

QueenVirtuous
May 24, 2018
May 24, 2018

Heated moment?! What I don't get is this. What could be soooo infuriating about a woman driving? What?

I tell you that my heart goes out to those Saudi women. No Saudi woman would've been able to speak up like that on her own. No. Their men know the power they have over the women and this is why they try to shut you up quickly so that you won't "infect" their women with your courage. But honestly, I think it's too late already. It's never true that when you are silent then things will get better. That man doesn't want to admit that your being fired wasn't just about you, it was about the fact that they can't stand a woman being free and having the same rights and privileges as they do.

I'm happy about the man who recorded the event and supported you. He's a good man, an honest man. But he's just one against so many! Little by little, even their men will become instrumental in uncovering their own duplicity. I believe so. Little by little.

Oh but the journey is still far. Still, don't back down.

I know first hand what it feels like to be in your situation. Your daughters are blessed to have a mother like you. They are.