The Middle East Channel

Hands off the wheel

If this year’s Arab freedom movements had a soundtrack, it’d be an eclectic assortment, from the densely operatic storyline that saw the deposement of Hosni Mubarak, to the thunderous mortars and bomb blasts of Libya, to the staccato work of government snipers in Syria. The most recent track would likely prove to be among the ...

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Hail, SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi men stand next to their car in the Hail desert, around 700 kms north of downtown Riyadh, 02 June 2007. Known for its old forts and historic structures, as well as its traditions and heritage, Hail is now thriving to be an agricultural, industrial and commercial centre. AFP PHOTO/HASSAN AMMAR (Photo credit should read HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

If this year’s Arab freedom movements had a soundtrack, it’d be an eclectic assortment, from the densely operatic storyline that saw the deposement of Hosni Mubarak, to the thunderous mortars and bomb blasts of Libya, to the staccato work of government snipers in Syria. The most recent track would likely prove to be among the more modest: the car horns currently being honked across Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has largely been immune to the uprisings and revolutions sweeping the region: minor rumblings by the Shiite minority in the Eastern Province were quickly quieted, and the government handed out billions of dollars to citizens in a preemptive measure to quell any would-be dissent. But a campaign by Saudi women claiming the right to drive — the conservative gulf monarchy is the only country in the world that forbids women to operate automobiles — threatens to shake-up the status quo.

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Cameron Abadi is a deputy editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @CameronAbadi

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