To mark Brunei’s National Day, which celebrates the country’s independence,
Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew a Royal Brunei Airlines plane from Brunei to Jeddah.
The landmark occasion came just over three years after Captain Sharifa Czarena Surainy became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia.
“Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation,” she said at the time.
“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it.”
The airline says its committed to getting more women into the industry as it currently offers an Engineering Apprentice programme to both males and females.
But the airline’s landmark voyage also highlighted the restrictions women still face in Saudi Arabia. Although there is no law that prohibits women from driving, it is a rule imposed by conservative Muslim clerics.
In recent years, women have used social media to protest against being forbidden from getting behind the wheel. The Women2Drive campaign has nearly 18,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook and asks women to post images of them driving.
In December 2014, Loujain al-Hathloul was detained after she tried to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Maysa al-Amoudi, a friend who turned up to support her, was also detained. Both were released after more than 70 days in custody.
Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch said at the time: “After years of false promises to end its absurd restrictions on women, Saudi authorities are still arresting them for getting behind the wheel.
“The Saudi government’s degrading restrictions on women are what bring shame to the country, not the brave activists standing up for their rights.”