Makkah woman whose car was burnt remains defiant


By Hatim Al-Masoudi

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

— Salma Al-Sharif Al-Barakati whose car was burnt down in Al-Jamoum region near Makkah by some youths opposed to women driving said she is determined to be behind the wheels.

"The incident will not deter me. I will never go back on my decision to drive," she said.

Salma accused two young men from her village of setting her car ablaze and said she complained to their families that they threatened to prevent her from driving but the families told her that they would not be able to deter them.

The police arrested the two culprits and turned them over to the Public Prosecution for further investigations prior to sending them to court.

According to a statement issued by the Makkah Governorate, one of the two young men bought petrol from a nearby gas station while the second set the car ablaze.

The incident took place in Damad village near Al-Jamoum region in the middle of the night.

Barakati said she bought her car for SR14,000 and that it was fully insured.

Security authorities in Makkah investigated five young men suspected of being behind the incident but they all denied to have any hand in it.

The two of them who were referred to the Public Prosecution also denied the charges but the police said there was enough evidence to prove them guilty.

Fahd Al-Rouqi, deputy chairman of the municipal council in Makkah, said he would buy a new car for Salma next week.

He said the young woman was supporting her father, husband and children and was in need of assistance.

“Social responsibility makes it imperative on me and my countrymen to stand behind her and support her in her predicament," he said.

Wadie Al-Barakati, the village mayor, denounced the incident and said it was against the ethics of the Saudis who were brought up to respect the others and never to harm them.

"Women driving has become a fact of life after it has been approved by the ruler," he said.

Ahmed Ajab, legal consultant, said a discretionary punishment would be waiting for the accused.

"This will be decided by the judge in the Summary Court depending on the investigations of the police and the public prosecution," he said.

Ajab said punishment in the public right will be imprisonment and whip lashes and in the personal right the two accused will be fined the value of the car.

Salma has been living on a monthly salary of SR4,000 which she received from a supermarket. She used to pay nearly half of the amount to the taxi driver.

Soon after lifting the driving ban, she applied for driving license and paid SR2,520. She was extremely happy for having gotten an opportunity to sit behind the wheel.

“I brought the car from a Pakistani through a friend. Ever since I started driving the car I was hearing abusive comments from young men and they said: “We don’t like girls to drive.” Later she received threats such as “We’ll punish you.”