In Homage To The New Driving Laws, Rotana Tarabzouni Writes An Ode To Saudi Women

Saudi Arabia, Rotana Tarabzouni, Saudi Women, Saudi Arabia driving ban
Marcella Cytrynowicz
In 2013, LA-based Saudi singer Rotana Tarabzouni released a song in hope of the day women would be able to drive in the Kingdom. With the new law allowing women behind the wheel this month, she writes about opportunity exclusively for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia

"Come June 24, Saudi women will finally get behind the wheel and rock the streets they know so well. We will be a hopeful headline for advancement around the world. Then, our news cycle will pass in a wave as the next crisis-du-jour bubbles to the surface. People will change the channel or flip through their Instagram feed and forget all about it. And the Saudi woman will still be there. She always has been. I write this as a celebration and deep soul recognition to the Saudi woman that is often sensationalised in a moment of controversy or victory, then forgotten. Allow me, my Arab sisters and Harpers Bazaar Arabia readers to tell you just how extraordinary and eternal you are.

To the Saudi women that laid the foundations before us, you are the giants and we stand on your shoulders. You didn’t stop. You were a mastermind of patience and resilience in a world that wasn’t ready. You envisioned a better world for me, my sister and generations to come. Though it hadn’t materialised yet, that was the world you raised me in. My generation is so proudly dressed in your character today. To my generation, allow me to tell you how much you delight me.

Highly intelligent, you know how to hear no, and get it done anyway. It’s in your blood. I’ve watched you do this time and time again. You are oh-so polite and ruthless in the pursuit of your dreams. It has always made me smirk. You lobbied for the right to vote and get elected in municipal court. You went to the Olympics. You became head of the Saudi stock exchange. You climbed mountains. You had hard-hitting conversations with your father and brother about your place in the world. You made art. Man, oh man, did you make art (that’s another article). Arwa Alali, you dragged me out of class in middle school and told me I had a gift with my voice – a voice that could lead and change if only I would quit being such a brat in class. Thank goodness for the Arab woman’s direct approach. My artistry was born from that moment of discipline.

For the last five years I have raised my voice and pursued music full-time as a writer and performer. It has been the most challenging and rewarding pursuit I’ve ever undertaken. I would not be here if it weren’t for the support and passion of the Arab woman. One by one, we found each other across the globe through social media, became allies and formed a support system.

With each year, we get more organised and more involved in each other’s projects. Most importantly, we found trust and support in our womanhood. May this live on for us. May we continue to believe that there is more than enough space for all of us Arab women in every industry. May we forget about being the ‘first’ of anything, let us just focus on being what we are together. We are the rocks and fertile earth of our societies. We need each other.

So as you bump your Kendrik or Rabeh Sager in your cars soon, hold the following thoughts steady in your heart. This new normal of driving was once extraordinary. Let that excite you. Let it set you on fire knowing that there are so many new ‘normals’ to come.

You are not your movement. You are not a sensationalised moment on TV screens. You are here, permanent and undeniable as the earth. Always holding it down and always taking up the space that you deserve. You get to watch your little sister, your daughter, your grandchildren drive to where they want to be.

The world has more ‘yes’ in it because of you. Stay just the way you are. And if they call you crazy, well then just know you’re on the right road. Pun intended.”


From the June 2018 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia, Rotana Tarabzouni, Saudi Women, Saudi Arabia driving ban
Marcella Cytrynowicz