In just one year things have changed dramatically for women in Saudi Arabia. That said, the changes are continuously rolling in. The Saudi Arabian government just announced that women are now permitted to ride bicycles.
Women like Amirah al-Turkistani were particularly touched by this change. In 2015 she was studying in Boston and experienced freedoms she never thought possible for a woman. She particularly enjoyed riding her bicycle while there. When she was scheduled to return to Jeddah Amirah decided to bring her bicycle back with her.
In 2015 a women riding bikes in Saudi Arabia was unheard of. Her friends laughed at the idea of her bringing a bike back to Saudi Arabia. Religious police in Saudi Arabia are constantly watching public spaces. They strictly enforce conservative dress codes, bans of alcohol, music, stores being opened during prayer times and the unrelated mixture of men and women. If they would catch a women on a bike they’d take it away.
Today with the new law in set, Amirah can often be found riding her bike along the Jeddah seaside. Sometimes she is with her husband and kids, other times she is completely alone and he religious police don’t even try to stop her.
Despite the new law women must still wear abayas. Although even the dress laws are becoming less strict. One can wear different colored abayas these days and don’t have to settle for the traditional colored ones.
Amirah commented on the changes, “Jeddah today isn’t the same as Jeddah five, six years ago,” she said. “The scrutiny on clothes (has eased), there’s more places to go, working opportunities for women are the same as for men.”