Witness the absurdity of the Saudi system:
Saudi women still can’t drive cars, but they can sell them. Potential buyers can go to an all-women showroom where, for the first time, other women will help them choose a car and answer questions about horsepower, carburetors and other automotive features.
Neither the saleswomen nor the female buyers can take the car out for a test drive because women are banned from driving in Saudi Arabia even though they have been allowed to own cars for decades and hire male drivers. Almost half the autos belong to women.
The kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islam has long limited what women can do outside the home, seeking to keep them from coming into contact with men who aren’t relatives.
So touchy is the issue of women driving that people who previously called for dialogue about whether Saudi Arabia should remain the only Arab nation that bans female drivers have been largely silenced by a wave of condemnation from conservatives. Mindful of those sensitivities, the Riyadh car dealership that opened the all-women showroom asked that its name not be used.
The seven female saleswomen at the spacious showroom insist they aren’t pushing for female driving but only providing comfort for women who want to buy cars and don’t like to go to dealerships run by men. With the sexes segregated in schools, restaurants and banks, interaction between salesmen and women customers is awkward for many Saudis.
Of course, Dick Cheney recently visited Saudi Arabia in a desperate plea for regional assistance. Human rights for all Saudis? No, “democracy” is being saved for the Iraqis.