An astonishingly well done acapella rendition of the famous 1974 song “No woman, no cry” by Bob Marley makes a playful dig at Saudi Arabia’s long-time ban on female drivers, just as a national campaign protesting the prohibition in the ultra-conservative kingdom kicked off Saturday. The song is appropriately called “No woman, no drive.”
The video, posted to YouTube on Saturday, shows what appears to be several young men — but may be just one man — decked out in red-checkered keffiyehs and white robes, often worn in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, clapping, whistling and singing their way though the altered lyrics to comical effect.
The “lead” singer, introduced as Hisham Fageeh, an artist and social activist, begins by saying that he doesn’t really listen to music but while studying in the US, a “song by a Jamaican guy” caught his attention and he decided to do his own version with “lyrics relevant to [my culture].” Fageeh’s Twitter bio lists an email address that ends in .sa for Saudi Arabia.
With lyrics such as “I remember when you used to sit, in the family car, but backseat,” and “ovaries all safe and well, so you can make lots and lots of babies” — a reference to the ridiculous statement last month by a Saudi cleric who said driving risks damaging women’s ovaries and pelvises — the video certainly make a point.
“Hey little sister, don’t touch that wheel,” the song goes on, in an apparent show of support to the women defying the ban across the kingdom Saturday.
Though no specific Saudi law bans women from driving, women are not issued licenses. Powerful clerics who hold far-reaching influence over the monarchy enforce the ban, warning that breaking it will spread “licentiousness.”
In the run-up to the campaign, police warned that anyone disturbing public order would be dealt with forcefully. Ultraconservative clerics also protested earlier in the week against the online petition campaign, which was launched in late September and says it has more than 16,000 signatures. The account’s website, oct26driving.org, and official English language YouTube account were hacked on Friday, according to activists.
The kingdom’s first major driving protest came in 1995. Some 50 women who drove their cars were jailed for a day, had their passports confiscated and lost their jobs. In June 2011, about 40 women got behind the wheel in several cities in a protest sparked when a woman was arrested after posting a video of herself driving.