Saudi Arabia is known for its strict laws towards women. Until recently, women needed a man’s consent to work, study and seek health care. In fact, it is against the law for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. One brave young woman put herself at risk to help a man during a medical emergency.
Ashwaq Al-Shammari was heading home from her university when her bus driver began to feel ill. He complained of dizziness and pulled to the side of the road before he fell unconscious. Ashwaq and her friends came together to revive the bus driver as they were stranded in the middle of the road. When it became apparent he could not take them home, Ashwaq took charge and hopped in the driver’s seat. Although it was illegal, Ashwaq’s father Zahir had taught her some driving skills on his farm. It was time to put them to use.
She first drove the minibus to a nearby store to get the driver some water. When that did not help, she took him to his family’s home for assistance. His family then transported the ill driver to the nearest government hospital about 50 km away. Doctors diagnosed him with a brain stroke. The girls’ decisive actions not only give the driver some first aid but saved his life.
Zahir Al-Shammari was especially moved by his daughter’s actions. “I’m extremely proud of my daughter, whom I taught driving at my farm when she was young. Her voluntary work was part of her social responsibility,” he said to the Saudi Gazette.
The Western World continually scrutinizes Saudi Arabia for its sexist policies. Most religious authorities prohibit female drivers, and drivers licenses are not issued to women. Some reports claim that the driving ban’s enforcement is subjectively applied in rural areas, which helps explain Ashwaq’s surprising skill.