tv QA Manal Al- Sharif CSPAN August 4, 2019 8:00pm-9:02pm EDT
daring to drive: a saudi woman's awakening, about her decision to challenge the saudi government's ban on women drivers, an act . after that, a hearing on congressional term limits. brian lamb: manal al-sharif, you have a book called, "daring to drive." why did you write this? manal al-sharif: why? tough question. i never thought of
writing a book. when i started the movement, i gave a speech. i was invited to give a speech. people cried to that speech. people gave me two standing ovations. this never happened in the history of that conference. when i came down the stage, this lady came to me and she said, "when are we going to read your story?" and i thought, who would ever be interested in reading about my insignificant life? but that really sparked the idea of writing this book. lamb: when was that? al-sharif: i gave the speech in 2012 and that is when i started writing it. lamb: where did you give the speech and why? al-sharif: it was also a freedom forum and it was hosted by human rights foundation. it is based in new york and they invite activists from all around the world to tell their stories of standing against tyrants and standing and fighting for human rights. that was in oslo. lamb: let's start from the beginning. where were you born? al-sharif: i am born in mecca in the year of trouble, i call it, which is 1979. lamb: your parents. what are they like? where were they born? al-sharif: yes, mom she is from libya. that's north africa. she met dad because of faith. she came for hajj and she met my father in mecca. they fell in love. they got married. my father is from mecca. lamb: and what is hajj?
al-sharif: hajj is a -- so once in a lifetime, for the muslim who is able, he is required to perform hajj, which is visiting the holy site of mecca and performing certain rituals and that will make your faith complete. lamb: picture on our screen right now of what? of what? what is that? al-sharif: that is my hometown, mecca. this is the holy kaaba. one of the rituals we perform, tawaf, seven circles around this holy kaaba. i miss mecca. lamb: and who can go there and why do they go there and how important is it? al-sharif: so the kaaba or mecca is for muslims only. so non-muslims are not allowed to visit the mecca or medina -- the two holiest cities for the muslims. and so only muslims go there. we go either to perform hajj once in a lifetime or you can go for a visit which is called umrah. umrah is a small version of hajj that you can do any time of the year and it literally means visit -- to visit the holy site of mecca.
lamb: do you have any idea how many people have died there at the hajj or in mecca around this kaaba. al-sharif: died? for what? died from what? lamb: stampedes. over the years, we have read about them. al-sharif: yes. lamb: where there are so many people there that you might have thousands of people die? al-sharif: it didn't happen many times really. it happened few times for some reasons that they explained why. the last -- not the last hajj -- i can't remember the last one in which it happened, which over a thousand died, but it is not really often. security there is very strict and they always have these hundreds of thousands of people organizing the hajj for the muslim to make it smooth. i did hajj myself as a muslim, as a devout muslim, you have to do it once in your lifetime and it was very small. so accidents happen in big gatherings, when you talk about a million of muslims in a very
small city, the size of mecca between mountains. it is a valley between mountains. accidents does happen, yes. lamb: what do muslims get out of going there? what's the purpose? al-sharif: so in islam, you have five pillars of islam and to be full muslims, you have to fulfill these five pillars. the fifth pillar in islam -- the first pillar for example is to believe in god. there is no god but allah and the prophet is his -- and mohammed is his prophet, peace be upon him, and the last pillar of islam is performing hajj. this is why muslims go to mecca to have the full faith -- to become full muslims i would say. lamb: how long do you spend there? al-sharif: for hajj -- so for hajj, it depends on how long you want to spend there, but for the hajj days itself, you don't have to be there more than a week, but people like to spend more time in mecca. lamb: who pays for it? al-sharif: you pay for it. everyone pays for himself and we believe that if you pray -- so
when we pray, god accepts our prayers, but in mecca, each prayer you make is worth 100,000 so this is why it is very important for the muslims to go there. it is like you can pray one year and if you go to mecca, you stay there one week, the deeds you get from mecca being in mecca, praying in mecca it's worth years of your lifetime. lamb: in your book -- and the one thing and -- i read your book, i am not sure, maybe i missed it, but what would you say your muslim faith is today? al-sharif: me? lamb: yes. al-sharif: i am muslim. lamb: do you believe? al-sharif: yes, of course i believe in god. i pray for prophet mohammed. i am just against radical islam. i am against the orthodox islam that is being taught to us in schools growing up. lamb: one of the things that is in your book, every time the prophet is mentioned. al-sharif: yes. lamb: are the initials pbuh and if you just said it, why do you do that every time you talk about prophet mohammed? al-sharif: it's a sign of
respect to prophet mohammed that when you mention his name and it is not only for prophet mohammed by the way, so if i mention the name of any prophet, adam, abraham, moses, jesus, we have to mention, "peace be upon him." it is asking blessings from god to them for giving us -- for leading human kind to the faith, to god, to the truth. lamb: what is the most important thing to you about being a muslim? al-sharif: a lot of things but i think the peace that you get being a muslim, the peace that you get believing in god and it is interesting that people have this misconception about islam that it is the ideology faith that we see today and the violence, it is not islam. islam means submission to god and the first thing when you meet a muslim, they say, "peace be upon you." so it is peaceful. it calls for
morals. it calls for good deeds. it calls for a lot of good things in any society that they want to have there. what we lost from islam is the preaching and the scholars, they are emphasizing on trivial things that made us lose the essence of islam which is being in peace with yourself, being in peace with the other, accepting mercy. we lost that, i don't know, somewhere in the -- when it became political. when it was used as a political weapon. lamb: when did that start? al-sharif: oh throughout history, religion has always been used -- whether islam, whether any other religion being used as a political weapon. in europe, the inquisitions and the muslim war -- when you use one faith against the other and you call them infidel. any ideology actually use to gain power that is when it becomes dangerous. lamb: where do you live now?
al-sharif: so i used to live in saudi. i moved to dubai and live five years -- few like only two months, we moved to sydney, australia. lamb: and that is where you live now? al-sharif: yes, that's where i live now. lamb: are you married? al-sharif: i am married with my second husband who is from brazil and we have a boy. lamb: and your first marriage ended in divorce and how old is your -- the young man that you had? the boy? al-sharif: abdullah, my first son. abdullah is -- right now, he is 11 and my second boy, he will turn three next month. lamb: why did you pick australia? al-sharif: long story short, my husband is working there now, but he didn't want to go back to brazil because it is violent and he wanted to go to a country where he can have a better life for our kids, for daniel. lamb: you tell us in your book a lot about your divorce. al-sharif: yes, okay. lamb: why? al-sharif: not a lot -- did i talk a lot in the book about the divorce?
lamb: enough. al-sharif: i just talk about it because it was so difficult for a woman to get divorced because she is not supposed to. i didn't get support from the family. they were against it. although i explained it, it is an abusive relationship and the saudi courts is not a friendly place to women, really, it's frowned at from the society, from the court, from the legal system for a woman to get divorce. it's really difficult. but for me, when i got divorced, it was kind of liberating when i left my ex-husband. lamb: you talked about how you met your husband in the first place and another relationship you were interested in that didn't develop. give us that and when did that all happen? al-sharif: you mean, my first husband relationship? lamb: no, a man you were interested in before you met your husband. i mean, you talk about your personal life and all that, but what year did all that happen? al-sharif: actually, my first husband was first love. i wasn't interested in any man before. i had crushes on men lamb: yes, that's what i mean.
al-sharif: yes, so i grew up in a society where men and women are isolated. my own cousins, i cannot see them. when i got my period, once i reached -- when the girl reaches puberty, she is not allowed to see men, so the only man i see is my father and my brother. the first time, i see a man or i interact with a man who was different than my father and my brother was when i got my first summer job. i was 23 and i remember -- 22, actually and i remember it was interesting to see -- to find that i can work with all these men and talk to them for the first time in my life after reaching puberty. i don't know if i am pronouncing it right. i got so many crushes actually, but it would last for a week and leave and it made sense later on for me because i was not allowed to be introduced to the men world, how they talk, how they -- what they think of, even just talk to them.
you create this, i would say bizarre situations that leads to bizarre feelings. lamb: so what are the rules and where do the rules come from on how a woman lives in saudi arabia? al-sharif: so the first rule for a woman is-- her best place is her home, not her job, not education, not the mosque, not outside -- it's her home. so it is highly encouraged for us to stay home and if i ever i want to leave the house, it should be for urgency, it should be for something, really, really important and i have to take the man's permission to leave the house -- my husband, my father. also the segregation between the sexes and you find it in all --everywhere. if you go to a restaurant, if you go to a bank, if you go to government office -- there is always the men and women are segregated. the schools and the university -- when i went to the university, i have never seen my teachers. all of them were -- most of them
actually were men. i have never talked to them. i see them through closed circuit tv, cctv. this is how i used to see my teachers. we were not even allowed to talk to them. we had a teacher in the class, she was called in if we had a question and she asked this question on our behalf. so it's -- this is how we grew up. also, the list of things you cannot do just being a woman was really huge. you cannot dress anything in public, but you have to put on the abaya. it was expected in my city because it was a very conservative city, mecca to cover my face, not to talk to men. it wasn't encouraged to use our first names, so at the end of the school, when they would call my name -- if my father is outside, i am not allowed to be standing outside. they have to call me through the mic, the guard, the security guard. he calls for the mic or the gatekeeper. he calls my father's name. he doesn't call my name and the list goes on and on to lamb: let me just interrupt just
trying to show a picture. we have two still photographs i want to show you and have you explain it. this is the first one. al-sharif: yes, this is us in saudi arabia, but actually, they are showing their hands, they are showing their feet. things are different now. we were fully covered and we had to put on the abaya in mecca at least, in my city. this is very conservative. lamb: what is the difference between what we are looking at there and the abaya? al-sharif: yes, so this is the millennia. this is new generation. they don't accept to cover their face and now, they are wearing colorful abayas which was something that was frowned at. you can never wear -- when i worked in aramco in the eastern province, i insisted on wearing colorful scarves and i was totally different than everyone else, but now, more and more girls even wear the colorful abaya and i hope things loosen up. they are pushing the roles to be able to choose the clothes they want. the decent or the modest clothes they want as
a muslim, but it should be an abaya. it shouldn't be black. lamb: how much of what saudi arabia requires of women is because the prophet laid down these laws years ago? al-sharif: how much from lamb: is it from the prophet is this created by the kingdom right now their own rules? al-sharif: okay, there are rules from prophet mohammed for sure, but it is all about the interpretation of these texts that comes from prophet mohammed, so there are -- as i expand for example, the five pillars of islam that we follow, but there are rules that are imposed that are not meeting the 2017 -- the 21st century. one of them -- i will just give you one example. at the time of prophet mohammed, they expect the woman when she travels, she has a man companion. makes sense because it was very dangerous when you travel. there will be thieves, there will be killers. there are deserts and you are using caravans and camels, it takes days.
now, we don't need that. i don't need a guy to travel with me to protect me. he is not going to carry a gun and protect me. so the rules when they are taken from textbooks that is 1,000 or 1,400 years ago, it should be reinterpreted to meet the current situation. that's the problem we face with the scholars in islam, when they say, "you cannot interpret it any way, but it should be done exactly the same way it was done in prophet mohammed's time." for example, cutting hands. you cannot tell me now, you have correctional facilities and we still cut hands. and this is -- this debate has been going on with the scholars. i am not a scholar, but it terrifies me when they still insist that we cut hands. lamb: have you ever known anybody who had their hands cut off? al-sharif: the who? lamb: their hands cut off? al-sharif: i have known someone? lamb: have you known somebody? al-sharif: no, i haven't known, but it was carried out in saudi arabia. i haven't heard about it
recently, but it has been carried out in saudi arabia. lamb: what if you announced yourself or they find out you are a homosexual, what happens? al-sharif: oh you get killed in saudi arabia. lamb: killed? al-sharif: yes, you cannot announce that you are a homosexual in saudi arabia. religion is very -- i try to stay away from religion because i am in peace with every single different faith and belief and sexual orientation, but mention these things in my country, it is frowned at. you cannot discuss homosexuality in my county for example. it's something that is a taboo that we cannot talk about in saudi arabia, so i keep these beliefs to myself and i try to push the things without offending the believers, i would say, the things that i believe should change in my country and has no base in islam that you are pushing it on us. lamb: would you explain -- and you mentioned this about your mother and father and your sister and teachers and others
that beat you as you were growing up? when you say beat you and your ex-husband, what does that mean? what did they -- when somebody -- define beating? al-sharif: so growing up, my generation was expected to discipline your kids with a stick, we call it a bamboo stick or kayzuran. it was expected in the school that if you don't behave, you also are disciplined with a wooden ruler, so we were brought up this way. so mom and dad would discipline in the house if they think we misbehaved and the same thing happens in the school. one boy was killed because his teacher beat him badly and then they had to ban the beating in school, but the beating in the houses, it was not criminalized until recently. there was anti-domestic violence law that was passed recently. it is not enforced yet, but it is a good start to stop this, i would
say, culture of that you can discipline someone by beating them, the physical abuse, i would call it. lamb: who beat you the most in your lifetime? al-sharif: my sister. she beat me the most. that's interesting lamb: who beat you -- where was the most severe beating and i mean, i am kind of leading up to whether or not that was your ex-husband you refer during this al-sharif: i had my share of beating growing up in saudi arabia and that ended actually my marriage that time when i left my -- it was because of the physical abuse, not only the emotional abuse. lamb: how would -- what would his physical abuse be like? al-sharif: physical abuse with the hands. lamb: with the hands. al-sharif: yes, punching and lamb: did you have any place to go when your ex-husband was punching you and all of that al-sharif: in saudi arabia, if a woman go to the police and she reports the man, they would summon him. they would ask him to sign. they would not put him in jail, even if she has a medical report. they would summon him and he had to sign a pledge promising not to beat
her again. the problem is that she gets sent to the same abuser's house and this is the case of (miriam letabe), she is a girl who is 29 years old. she was beaten. she complained against her brother who was younger than her. her father complains and gets her to drop the charges and she was sent to jail and not her brother. the social media went into a frenzy. they let the girl out. six months later, she is living in an abusive house. she finds a job. she leaves the house. they put her back in jail for the crime of being absent from her abuser's house. so that's a problem that we don't have even if there are shelters for women in saudi arabia. it is poorly, poorly, poorly managed because they treat those abused women victims as criminals. they lock them in those houses. and for a woman to leave the shelter, she leaves the guardian who is her abuser to sign the papers, so she leaves the shelter or jail let's say.
there is also the story of dina ali lasloom who have run away from her abusing -- abusive family. they caught her in manila. she was on the way to australia for asylum. they caught her in manila and they sent her back -- handcuffed, duct-tape in her mouth and she is jail. she is in a correctional facility for women in (rafaeli). this will happen to the abused women in my country. lamb: i want to play for you an interview that i did here in 2006 with turki al faisal who at the time was the ambassador from saudi arabia to the united states and we talked about women in the saudi societies. it is not very long, about 40 seconds. (video starts). al faisal: the most prized woman today in saudi arabia is a woman with a job. she is encouraged by her parents to go and find a job because she brings in income and they don't have to spend money on her. her siblings look up to
her and want to do like her and equally importantly, she is sought after by suitors and i think this is what is going to happen to women driving, to people going to common events together because social changes is what will drive these factors. (video ends) lamb: so what do you think of what he said? that was 11 years ago. al-sharif: wow. is it? lamb: where were you 11 years ago? al-sharif: i was working in aramco. lamb: aramco. al-sharif: yes. lamb: so what do you think of what al-sharif: i agree that social change is the one that will lead change in saudi arabia that i always -- and this is the beautiful thing about saudi arabia by the way. the government invests so much in women education. i get free education. i got free education. i went to computer science college and women are sent now abroad to study for their master degree, phd and even bachelor degree fully covered by the
government. they invest a lot in our education. our problem is, the frustration when they go back home, when i finish my education, i don't find a job because we are only 14 percent. it was 11 percent like two or three years ago. now, we are 14 percent only of the workforce and we are highly educated women. half of the society, but we can't find jobs. and i believe a woman can reach her full potential -- cannot reach her full potential unless she gets a good education and she is financially independent from the man, so she can really own her life and own her decisions and i do agree, educated working women is what saudi arabia needs today. lamb: i want to show you some video. it's an old video of aramco and then i want you to explain what aramco is. this is another short clip just to give you a sense of what it looks like. (video begins) male: his majesty, abdulaziz ibn
saud, king of saudi arabia. he had faith that somewhere within these far reaching sands was the key to a richer life for the saudi arabs who so long have known scarcity and want. perhaps this country so unproductive on the surface might contain minerals below the surface including oil. on may 29, 1933, after weeks of discussions, there was a meeting at kazam palace on the outskirts of jeddah. it was there that saudi arab government officials representing his majesty signed a concession covering roughly 320,000 square miles. this was the starting point of a new american business venture abroad. (video ends) lamb: reportedly, that company, aramco is worth between $1 trillion and $10 trillion. nobody knows for sure. they don't publish it. what is aramco? al-sharif: aramco is right now the name -- it used to be the arabian-american oil company.
the government in the 80's and the 70's, they bought the old shares and became fully owned by the saudi government and now it is known as the arabian oil company. that's aramco and aramco is in charge of producing oil, all oil fields under the control of aramco. they are the largest -- we used to be until 2015, i think -- we used to be the largest producer of oil in the world, until america took over. that's aramco. it was started by americans. now, it is fully owned by saudis, but it did inherit, i would say the discrimination laws against women from the americans and it was not changed in the last 80 years and the company was started in 1933, actually, yes, 1933. lamb: so you are blaming america for the discrimination against women? al-sharif: this is the interesting thing. when the company started, and i know women who worked in aramco before it was owned by the saudis, there was a lot of
discriminative laws by americans in aramco against women in this company. that's interesting. the saudis inherited it and they kept it, i think. maybe, they created their own rules, i don't know really the history. it is a very secretive company. they try to keep a very low profile. they don't like bad publicity and they are going public next year. they like only to say -- to keep their low profile, but in my book, there is a whole chapter where i bring up a lot of policies that are unjust and discriminating and gets to me for being not only a woman, but also for being a saudi woman working in aramco. lamb: so when you were working at aramco, what were the years? al-sharif: i worked -- i joined them in 2002 and i quit my job in 2012. and it was the only place for me -- we were 60 girls graduating from computer science in king abdulaziz university in jeddah. we were only two girls from that whole 60 class -- 60 girls class -- that got jobs. i
was very lucky to get a job with aramco because for me at that time, 2002, there were no jobs for me to work anywhere. lamb: what was the difference between living in the aramco al-sharif: compound? lamb: . compound and living in the rest of saudi arabia? al-sharif: so when i joined aramco in 2002, unfortunately, as a saudi woman, not as a -- women can live in the compound, but as a saudi woman, i was not allowed to live in the compound and i was not allowed to live in a -- i was not allowed even to rent an apartment outside the compound because the government wouldn't allow me to rent an apartment as a woman. i was not even allowed to stay in a hotel room because the government also wouldn't allow me to rent a hotel room without a man. it was up to 2007; out of policy, the company allowed women to live in the compound. that's when i got my divorce out. when i found a place to stay, i left my marriage and that's when i think saudi arabia
really changing starting 2007 and 2008 in the company. lamb: by the way, where is this -- your son from the first marriage? al-sharif: he is in saudi arabia with his grandmother. lamb: not with his father? al-sharif: no, not with father. he took him from me after i got married again and he is living with his grandmother. lamb: when can you see him? al-sharif: i always go and see him. i always go and visit him because he lives in the grandmother's house. this is more for my own mother too. lamb: so you can go in and out of saudi arabia even though you are not living there anymore? al-sharif: no, i wish i can move back to saudi arabia, but my second marriage is not approved and not recognized by the government. for me as a saudi to marry a non-saudi, if i am a man or a woman, the rules applies to both, i need a special permission from the minister of interior, which they wouldn't grant me until now and i know it is because of my activism, i wasn't granted this permission. so my two sons never met each other. i cannot take daniel hamza, my second son, i cannot take him with me to saudi. he is not recognized as my son. i am still, under the saudi law, i am
still divorced, but i am five years married. and my first son, abdullah, he cannot visit me. he cannot leave the country. lamb: when can he leave the country? al-sharif: he leaves the country with his father, but he cannot leave the country with me. lamb: at what age though is he independent? al-sharif: oh my god, 21st. lamb: so you have to wait until he is 21, so he can travel on his own. al-sharif: yes, hopefully, when he is a teenager, he can speak up for himself and he requires and demands the right to visit his mother. lamb: how many times have you been in prison? al-sharif: you know what, just one time. i don't know, sometimes, they write that i have been multiple times. no, it's just one time. the first time i was in detention, they arrested me and they released me and the second time, i was sent to prison for driving while female. lamb: is that an actual term they use in saudi arabia? al-sharif: yes. yes. it was in my paper. driving while female. lamb: what do they mean by that? al-sharif: it means that it's a woman driving a car, as simple as that.
lamb: why is that a big deal? al-sharif: they will come in and really argue that it is a society issue. women can't drive, the society don't want them to drive, but when i go out and drive, the society doesn't stop me. i drove. there were other cars there. none of them stopped me. the one who stopped me are the authorities. we told them there is no law that prevents me from driving. the traffic status code doesn't specify the gender of the driver license holder, but they insist that we cannot issue you a driver's license even if you go and apply for a driver license. and they say it's the custom. it's urf. it is complicated in saudi arabia. i always think it is a political issue. it has nothing to do with the society or religion. it is a political decision to allow women to drive or not. lamb: what year did you do the famous video? al-sharif: 2012. lamb: so we are talking five
years. al-sharif: sorry, 2011. sorry. lamb: six years ago. al-sharif: yes, six years ago. lamb: i want to show -- begin to show it and i will ask you to explain it. al-sharif: okay. lamb: but here you are behind the wheel in saudi arabia, what town are you in? al-sharif: i was in al khobar city. it is 10 minutes from where i used to live in aramco. lamb: in aramco. al-sharif: yes. lamb: okay, let's roll it. (video begins) al-sharif: (foreign language). (video ends) lamb: explain what we are watching. al-sharif: a woman driving. this is what we are watching. lamb: who is shooting the video? al-sharif: it was my amazing and inspiring activist friend, (wajihah) which is ironically, i never met her. i met her because of this movement. lamb: and what impact did this
video have? al-sharif: when we posted this on youtube, it got -- it was trending, it was number one trending in youtube, not only in saudi arabia, around the world because of the saudi made it trending, everyone was like watching what was going on with this video. i got 700,000 views because of this video. i made sure when we were taking -- when we were shooting the video, i made sure to show that this is for example, al rashid mall, landmarks in the city of khobar. because they kept saying, "no, women cannot drive outside. it is never going to happen." and we proved, "no, it can happen." lamb: what led up to your decision to do this? al-sharif: so in 2011, we had the uprising going on. everyone wants to bring social change. we have a lot of frustrations with corruption, with unjust laws. one of the unjust laws we have in saudi arabia is the ban on women driving. i was in the states in 2009. at the age of lamb: here in the united states. al-sharif: yes, in new hampshire, the live free or die
state, i got -- at the age of 30. i got my first driver's license. when i went back to saudi arabia, i was paying -- i bought my car in 2007 and it was the year 2011, this one, almost four years later. i finished paying the car loan. i cannot drive it. i have a driver's license, i cannot drive it. i almost got kidnapped walking in the street looking for a taxi because it was late at night and i couldn't find a driver to take me back home. that led -- all of these frustrations with all of these years, i live in a country where there is no public transportation, where there is no pedestrian city that i can walk and a woman to leave the house, to do anything in her life, she needs a car and to function or to drive this car, she needs a man. so the movement was june 17, which is coming in two days, three days actually, and this
movement is simple. we said on june 17, we will go out and drive because we want to normalize women driving. you never seen a woman driving in the street in a huge country, the size of three texas. you can put three texas inside saudi arabia and women can't drive. we wanted to change this by this movement and the movement is going on. it never stopped. we are still campaigning for the right to drive. for us, the right to drive is more an act of civil disobedience because a woman is not supposed to drive. we show that we are able, we are capable of driving our own life and being in the driver's seat of our own destiny by doing this act of civil disobedience. lamb: but you say that when people saw you in a car over there, they would yell, things like you are a whore and prostitute and all kinds of nasty things. the men would do this. al-sharif: actually that was when i was walking alone in the street at 9 p.m. and my face was uncovered. that's when i got the harassment. when i drove the car with (wajihah), no one talked to us. they were looking at us.
they couldn't believe that i am a woman driving and they would just talk to his wife or talk to the people around them, and they would let us go. lamb: why do the men care so much about women being covered? al-sharif: in saudi arabia, i think it is just men -- it is a global issue when it comes to the control over the woman body. it is a battlefield for men. you have to be a certain way or you have to cover up because your body doesn't belong to you. the body belongs to the man who owns you or the man -- or the men, i would say how they want to look at a woman. this is what bothers me a lot. lamb: how nasty were people to you when you are uncovered? al-sharif: really nasty. especially in my hometown, mecca. it was so difficult for me sometimes, i would just have to throw my head scarf on my face because they would not approve women walking without covering her face. things are changing now. i can roam freely now without my face being covered, especially the young generation are helping stopping
the people questioning your belief for uncovering your face. lamb: explain this, this is some video from the pbs program, "frontline," you probably have seen it, the voice of will lyman, but this is the -- these are the religious police. we will see this and then i want you to explain what -- who they are and what they are supposed to be doing. al-sharif: okay. (video begins) lyman: yasser films the men who enforce the country's islamic laws, the saudi religious beliefs. dressed in traditional islamic clothing, they patrol the streets and shopping malls. their official title is the committee for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice. activists have been filming and sharing videos to expose their practices and to show ordinary saudis standing up to them. (crosstalk) (foreign language)
they force women to cover themselves and drive people out of cafes to go and pray. these rules are based on a strict form of sunni islam known as wahhabism. it is the religion on which saudi arabia was founded. (video ends) lamb: who are the religious police? al-sharif: who are the religious police? lamb: who picks them? al-sharif: the government picks them. it is as powerful as the ministry. the head of the religious police, we call them hay'ah and it used to be this way. it is changed now, thankfully. i wrote a piece about it in new york times called rein in the religious police, what i call to really cripple the absolute power they are giving when they walk in the street, being able to arrest people for reasons they don't understand because they don't
have a list of sins that they will check the adherence to following these, i would say laws or the sins they have to check that no one is committing. they didn't have that. it is very subjective. so they would go on the street, out of the blue, you are sitting and talking to your friend in the, say in a cafe, he would come and attack you and say, "your eyes, you are putting so much makeup," if you are uncovered now. he could -- i remember my brother was once -- he -- it was a very crowded place. they were waiting in the mall and he just put his hand around his wife and they arrested him for doing that. why do you show public -- signs of public affection in public? and he said, "she is my wife. i am just protecting her from the people around us." he was arrested. and he was interrogated. he was locked. so they used to do these things. they chased two boys in their car. they played the music loud on the national day, they chased them. they pushed them
over. they forced them to be pushed over a bridge. both the brothers died on the national day for listening to music in their car. things changed now. so last year, i think it was last year when they had to take the power of arrest from them. so they have to call the police if they see something that is un-islamic. the religious police has been always a problem in the society because you don't feel a normal life there. you always feel you are being watched. your morals are always questioned and it is always subjective on the mood of the religious policemen, member and where he would insult you, call you names, even beat you without facing any consequences. lamb: go to your prison experience. al-sharif: yes. lamb: who arrested you and why? al-sharif: in prison?
lamb: when they originally arrested you and then put you in prison. who did that? al-sharif: so i was arrested the first time on purpose because i wanted to pass by a police car and get arrested, the second time, i drove. i was with my brother. i proved a point by -- when i was inside a traffic police station, i proved the point that i did not break a law. i broke custom or urf and they are not allowed to arrest me, and so i said, "i am going out again and driving." the same day at 2 a.m., they sent the secret police to my house in aramco compound because the police cannot go inside the compound. they had to send the secret police and i was arrested and sent to jail without a trial, the same night. lamb: what year? 2011? al-sharif: 2011 in may, yes. lamb: where were you? al-sharif: i was in my house in aramco. lamb: where did you go to prison? al-sharif: in dammam women prison. lamb: and dammam is where? al-sharif: it's like 15 minutes from the dharan where i used to live. lamb: and they picked you up at 2 a.m. in the morning. al-sharif: yes, 2 a.m. in the morning. lamb: and how long was it before
you were in a cell? al-sharif: oh yes, it was right away. so they came at two. i didn't leave with them until 4 a.m. and from 4 a.m. around 2 p.m., i was in jail, i was in the women's jail. lamb: and how did they treat you between the time they picked you up and the time they put you in a jail cell? al-sharif: so they have these ways of interrogation. so the first one, he was like, "everything is fine. we are just having some questions. sorry to bring you this early." they asked the questions. the guy disappears and then things changed. they do another interrogation, but this one, they take your phone, they take away your phone. they took my brother away. they took my bag and they brought a woman, a prison guard woman sitting next to me while they are doing the same interrogation, the same questions. i was strip searched when i arrived to the prison and lamb: by a woman? al-sharif: by a woman and they didn't explain to me why i was there. i said, "can i talk to my family? can i talk to my -- can i find a lawyer?" and they
refused to do that. i had to plea and insist because once i am in jail, i don't know. would people know that i am in the prison? and for what? what was the crime? no one explained to me. it was just interrogation. i had -- i managed to get a call to my sister in law and when i called her, i said -- ahmed was the one from my group managing twitter," and i said, "tell ahmed to tweet about it." she said, "what is tweet?" i said, "just tell ahmed, he knows." and he did tweet about it that i was arrested and sent to a woman prison. lamb: so there are men that are on the side of women wanting to be more open? al-sharif: oh my god, of course. my brother was one of them. he was with me when i drove the second time. my dad, he is the one who got me out of jail when he went to talk to the king. lamb: but you tell us a lot in your book that your dad was mad at you a lot. al-sharif: things changed. so i changed growing up from an innocent person to radical muslim to more moderate muslim and more open and now to an activist. lamb: and your family lived in poverty?
al-sharif: yes, we did, but once you get a job, once you work and all of us got jobs, the three kids, it's much easier to move out of poverty. so there is a way out of poverty in saudi arabia because education is free and once you get a good job, you can move out of poverty and most of my generation, or at least the city where i lived, which is a poor city, it is not a rich city, mostly, my generation, they picked up their family. they moved their family out of poverty. so to go back -- what was the question that we started with lamb: well, you were in -- well, we were talking about your parents living in an apartment, but the thing i want to get to in the prison experience. al-sharif: yes. lamb: cockroaches. al-sharif: oh yes. lamb: describe the cockroaches. it is even a title of one of your chapters. al-sharif: yes, it was prison bars and cockroaches. i hate cockroaches so much. i think all women hate cockroaches. it was just a -- when i mentioned cockroaches about prison, it was just to tell you how filthy it
was. so it was very dehumanizing. it was very humiliating, the situation in the prison and i was deeply shocked at how women are strip searched when they go inside the prison, crammed in these rooms. i was lamb: how many in one cell? al-sharif: i didn't -- i can't remember, but we had around 12 bunk beds in each cell and these cells were really small, but the 12 bunk beds had more women, more than 12 women, of course, there were women with their kids in jail. they gave birth to these kids in jail. it was sad and it was shocking to me the situation there and they brought it up to the attention because most of the women there were non-saudis. lamb: non-saudis. al-sharif: yes, most of them. more than 90 percent of the women there were non-saudis. lamb: they leave the lights on 24 hours?
al-sharif: yes, they leave the lights 24 hours. we didn't have -- the bathrooms didn't have doors. they are no mirrors so you forget how you look like. lamb: no mirrors the entire time you were in prison? al-sharif: no, i think for security reasons they don't allow it because they could use it as a weapon. there were children with us. there were kids there in jail. there was a very -- the whole situation was humiliating. the first night for me, i slept on the floor because they didn't give me anything. they just pushed me. i was taken from my home, interrogated. i was pushed in jail. no one told me why i was there. no one explained to me where should i sit or go or do -- it was staggering. it was lamb: did you sleep al-sharif: it was the most shocking experience i went through. lamb: how much did you -- i don't know how to ask this question, did you sleep with cockroaches? i mean, were they crawling all over you? al-sharif: over the foot, over your face, over your hands. everywhere you are sitting, there are huge cockroaches
walking along and like, they live with you to the way that you get used to seeing them around you. lamb: how long were you in that cell? al-sharif: i was there for nine days. there was an international rally that really led to my release in 2011 and i am very thankful for that. lamb: how did you have an international rally? who was behind it? al-sharif: i think that video got the attention of the world. when i published that video, i got the attention of saudi arabia and the woman behind that video was sent -- because we were a group of women. it was -- and men by the way, it wasn't only me. but i was the face. i was made the face because no one wanted to do the video. i was crazy enough to go out and drive with (wajihah) and i became the face. and the world knew this is a girl who drove. she is sent to jail for driving. that brought the attention of the world. my tweet, i talked to the cnn by the way before -- at 2 a.m. when they came to my house, i picked up the phone with the reporter who did an interview a week earlier and i told her, "there are people. i have no clue who they are. i don't know where they are taking me. please write about this thing." and she did.
she wrote about it. lamb: so where do you get -- i don't know what you call it, i shouldn't use the word chutzpah, but that would be the wrong word, but where do you get the strength to do all of these? where did you learn how to do all of these? in other words, get the attention of the media, find an agent, write a book -- all of that. where does this come from? where did you learn this? al-sharif: i didn't even know i needed to find an agent. i knew i wanted to write a book. i think when you know what you want, things just manifest in your life. i wanted to drive because for me, driving is a way of emancipating women because i believe that driving is the key to change our situation in saudi arabia and to end the male guardianship in saudi arabia. this was my belief.
i just didn't show up and i had no clue that the driving will be the symbol of resistance in saudi arabia. we used it as a symbol of resistance. the book agent, i had no clue. i wanted to write a book and i had no clue what to do, so i talked about for around me for activists. one friend, he said, "you need a book agent." and he introduced me to a book agent. lamb: lynn nesbit? al-sharif: it's peter bernstein, my book agent. lamb: oh peter bernstein. al-sharif: yes, yes. i met his dad first, robert bernstein. lamb: sure. al-sharif: he ran the human rights watch and the first thing he told me, "you should write a book." his father, my agent's father. lamb: his father, robert bernstein. al-sharif: i met yesterday and he said, "you should write a book." i told him, "you remember, you planted that seed that i should write a book and i just said, who would read my story, really?" lamb: you gave credit to lyric winik, who is she? al-sharif: so i had five different collaborators. the -- your -- to be successful in writing a book, you need two
things of essence, the first one, finding the right agent who believes in you who would be always there, which i was very blessed to have peter and amy bernstein as my agents and finding the right collaborator. i had very disappointing experiences with the previous collaborators and i had to sit down and i told peter, "peter, i am going to write the book. i am done with collaborators. i do interviews for six months and they disappear. they don't give me a single word." because all my life, i have always -- i have always wrote. i blog. i wrote diaries. i wrote stories. i wrote it in arabic, translated in english by a native speaker and then, lyric showed up as my fifth collaborator after i wrote most of the book, which is the good news, she had the transcript of the interviews before plus my written translated chapters. and she did a fantastic job. i didn't have
faith in her at this time because i was mad at all the previous collaborators and had no clue that she would do -- she did a fantastic job. lamb: lyric winik is the wife of jay winik, have you met jay winik? al-sharif: no, i have never met her husband. lamb: he is a historian we see here all the time, but the interesting thing you just -- the name bernstein -- peter bernstein, robert bernstein is a jewish name. is there any irony to this that you had a al-sharif: interesting right? lamb: a jewish agent. al-sharif: i have no -- so this is -- my best friends really are the jewish friends. they are the most successful. they are the one who make things go, make things and they are most connected and i have -- i am very proud that i have them as my friends. one of them is daniel pink, he is actually who introduced me to someone who introduced to my agent and then daniel pink is friends with the american jewish committee in new york. lamb: why do you think that is? al-sharif: i think they have been -- because they have been prosecuted in the past. they have been blamed for all the
evil in the world and that made them -- that made -- when you really corner someone, when you prosecute that someone, that make them choose one of two, either become radical, adopt the faith-faith. i wouldn't call it the ideology faith or become very successful. that's the beautiful way of resistance i think the jewish did here. most successful friends that i have are the jewish friends. lamb: i want to ask you about a couple more things. one of them, i want to show you some video of your hometown of mecca. a very rich place in saudi arabia, lots and lots of money. why in the world would mecca look like this? (video begins) male: i am going to show you how people live here. lyman: yasser brings his hidden camera to a slum on the edge of the holy city of mecca. male: people are living in real
misery here. children selling things. oh my god. look, it's a dump. look at the sewage. (foreign language) the way money is spread, it's kept among the ruling family. it is not spread to the people, only what is left, the crumbs are spread to the people. (video ends) lamb: that's from frontline in 2016, the name of the program is "saudi arabia uncovered." al-sharif: agree and disagree, okay. we get a lot of benefits for free. by the way, i disagree with getting benefits for free. i want to pay taxes and i want to get these benefits because i am paying the taxes. i don't want any giveaway from anyone. i agree that we have over 66 slums
in the holy city of mecca. i lived on the skirt of one of these slums and we have -- because of the faith, a lot of muslims come from very poor countries to mecca and they stay, illegal immigrants. and most of these illegal immigrants when they stay legally, they build their houses in the mountains illegally and their kids don't go to schools and that end up in creating all of these enclaves of illegal immigrants, a lot of crime, a lot of poverty there, but also, the meccans, like me -- i'm sharif, i am from the original people of mecca, from abraham time. the meccans didn't themselves do -- we neither had a park for example. we didn't have infrastructure in my city. and mecca makes so much money out of the religious tourism, the umrah and the hajj and this money doesn't go to mecca. it doesn't go to build the infrastructure in the city, to make it clean, to make it livable by its own
people. people are too afraid to speak up against this because in a county with an absolute monarchy, speaking about the distribution of wealth, about the corruption could get you in jail, could get you arrested, could get you in so much trouble. lamb: so here is the second question that ties into this, a country that is basically a religious state. al-sharif: yes. lamb: how have you kept your faith when you have people that are leading this country, a religious state that have done all of these things that you have just explained to us. al-sharif: yes, how i kept my faith? lamb: yes. al-sharif: my faith has nothing to do with them because i know whatever they promote is not the real faith. it is a diversion of the faith. the ideology of faith that we are fighting back. i have my own faith without needing them because i come from -- my grandfather is prophet mohammed himself. we had real
faith and it was just used in a political way to gain political power. that's the thing i am against. when you come to this realization that your religion is being used, actually abused and misused, you become angry really and you try to go back to the true islam that is calling for peace and coexisting, it doesn't matter your color, it doesn't matter your tone, it doesn't matter -- even your religion, i respect you. i respect your religion. i respect your faith as long as we live in peace. lamb: am i an infidel? al-sharif: no, you're not an infidel. so according to the salafi wahhabi, anyone who doesn't believe in their way or their interpretation of islam is an infidel that includes other muslim faith by the way, the shia, the ismaili, the sufi -- that's their version of islam. i believe we are all human. it doesn't matter what you believe in. you are hindu, you are buddhi or -- religious should be
used to call for peace. we need a dalai lama in each religion. we need a dalai lama in the -- for islam that calls for forgiveness, for coexisting, for love instead of calling for hate. lamb: what do you think the prophet would think today about the atmosphere in saudi arabia? al-sharif: he would be very angry. lamb: why? al-sharif: because it is not the true islam. it is not what he called for. calling for hate, this has nothing to do with islam. it is un-islamic to call for the hate of the other. he had the jews living in medina. he had the -- he married a (coptic) who is a christian. what is happening today is using islam to gain political power over whatever, for me that's unholy. for me, that's something really that makes me angry. lamb: you have any idea what the leadership in saudi arabia or even in the muslim countries thinks of this book?
al-sharif: they haven't read it yet, but finally, after years of being indoctrinated, the government is realizing and is acknowledging they made a mistake. the schools now, all the religious books that we were studying had been changed. they they have been -- they removed the parts about the hate for the infidels, they removed these parts. so they are acknowledging that after it backfired. after own sons and daughters backfired. when you have terrorist attack, when we suffered more terrorist attacks than any other part, more than in europe for example, we have people going to mosques and bombing these mosques; all the muslims on friday -- friday is the holiest day for us in the week. they realized it is a mistake and now, there are a lot of things happening to, i would say, rebel that those ideas, but
the problem is not in here really, the problem is we did so much wrong things in the past, how do you go and undo them? when you have the same ideology being taught in -- for people who come for scholarship, study in saudi arabia and then they go back home with that ideology, how are you going to undo this? this is why you have radical islam being on the rise in very peaceful countries like indonesia, which is the largest muslim country in the world. how do you undo this? that's the important question today for the saudi government because they have a big responsibility for spreading the ideology of love and coexisting as it was before when they spread the ideology of hate. lamb: our guest lives in australia right now, married to her second husband. al-sharif: indeed. lamb: who has a child; how is
the young child? al-sharif: daniel hamza will turn three next month. lamb: three years old and the name of this book is called, "daring to drive." manal al-sharif, thank you very much for joining us. al-sharif: thank you. announcer: all q&a programs are available on our website or as a podcast on c-span.org. announcer: sunday on q&a, professor of political science at middle baruch college in vermont talks about the reaction of middle berry students to author charles murray appearing on campus in march of 2017. stanger weresor attacked after the event.
that is q&a next sunday on c-span. c-span's washington journal come alive every day, with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up monday morning, author and johns hopkins bioethics degree program director travis reeder talks about his new book, in pain. strugglecists personal -- with opioids. as part of our podcast week, we will talk with larry o'connor, about examining politics and the news of the day. be sure to watch c-span's washington journal, live at 7:00 eastern monday morning. and catch podcast week all this week on washington journal starting at 9:00 a.m. eastern. on tuesday it is rachel kuester, producer of the new york times the daily. on wednesday, markley and glover coast of global dispatches. still haul chris podcast host of al tell you what.
and on friday, jennifer host of congressional dish. announcer: tomorrow the president of radio free asia on the impact of their programming on china and north korea. live coverage begins at 12:00 astern >> c-span has live coverage of the 2020 presidential candidates at the iowa state fair starting thursday at 1:45 eastern with montana governor steve bullock followed by joe iden and then former hud julian castro and then beto o'rourke. senator kamla harris. amy klobuchar. senator elizabeth warren and
senator cory booker. starting thursday on c-span. watch any time online at c-span .org or listen live from wherever you are on the go using the free c-span radio app. >> next, a senate hearing on congressional accountability and whether term limits should enacted. another chance to see q & a when saudi arabia women's -al-sharif ist mala talks about her book "daring to drive". now the senate judiciary committee held this hearing on term limits and whether they are effective, especially when dealing with a lack of