Shady drivers give Asir women a 'bumpy ride'

Published: May 12, 2010 00:22 Updated: May 12, 2010 00:22 

ABHA: Working women in Asir endure much when it comes to transportation to and 
from work. Recently, police in Asir arrested many private drivers, the majority 
of them expatriates, involved in carrying drugs, including hashish.

A police source told Arab News that an Indian driver had recently been 
arrested; he was under the influence of drugs and his passenger was a woman. He 
was subsequently deported.  

Drugs are not the main problem when it comes to private drivers hired to 
transport working women. There is the issue of khulwa (unrelated men and women 
being together) as well. Unfortunately, the Asir area lacks a special limousine 
company; the only one charges such high fares that a woman could fly from Abha 
to Jeddah! Women are complaining, especially businesswomen and women employees 
in the health and education sectors.

A Saudi woman working in the media sector said she had discovered that she was 
being used by one of the drivers she hired to distribute qat, a substance much 
used in Yemen but which is illegal in Saudi Arabia. The police at checkpoints 
usually look the other way when a driver is driving a woman. The woman did not 
know about her driver's illegal activities until she read in the newspaper that 
he had been arrested for smuggling qat. 

Drivers advertise for customers in newspapers and posts in supermarkets and 
schools. They often put their phone numbers and specify that their wives 
accompany them so women will feel comfortable. Another Saudi woman said that 
such people are sometimes more dangerous than the Qat dealers. They try to 
convince the women that the woman in the car is the driver's wife when, in most 
cases, she is not related to the driver. The women are often hired to pose as 
driver's relative.

A Saudi teacher said that she had almost been the victim of one of these gangs. 
 She explained: "I hired an Arab driver and a woman he called his wife was 
present. One day, they stopped in front of their house and  insisted that I  
come inside with them. I was suspicious because I scarcely know the driver or 
his wife. I refused as politely as I could but they insisted which made me 
suspicious. I asked the driver to drive me to one of the schools because I had 
something urgent and he insisted that he would take me after I came inside. 
When I insisted on going to the school, he got angry and drove me there. When I 
reached the school, I phoned him and asked him never to come again." She said 
that she got suspicious that he might be a gang member, a possible blackmailer, 
working with the woman allegedly his wife. 

The official spokesman for the Asir police, Col. Abdullah Al-Qarni, said that 
the police had arrested some of these drivers who were guilty of suspicious 
activities. He said  the drivers  are dangerous and families, especially women, 
should beware and avoid them. He said: "Either they should have a family driver 
or hire a car that is legitimately a business." 

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