Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Netanyahu deletes tweet featuring photo of James Foley

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Read more

FOCUS

Lifting the veil over China's air pollution

Read more

ENCORE!

Tango Takeover in Paris

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Steely resolve of reporters exploited by pared-down employers'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US judge calls Argentina bond swap offer illegal

Read more

  • Europe launches navigation satellites to rival GPS

    Read more

  • Besieged by problems, Hollande faces unhappy return from summer holidays

    Read more

  • Iraqi Sunnis quit govt talks after mosque massacre

    Read more

  • US demands Russia withdraw aid convoy from Ukraine

    Read more

  • PSG fall flat once more against Evian

    Read more

  • Fed Chair says US job market still hampered by Great Recession

    Read more

  • August 22, 1914: The bloodiest day in French military history

    Read more

  • Central African Republic announces coalition cabinet

    Read more

  • Hamas publicly executes "informers"

    Read more

  • French firebrand leftist to quit party presidency, but not politics

    Read more

  • Fear of Ebola sky-high among Air France workers

    Read more

  • US says Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen'

    Read more

  • Malaysia mourns as remains of MH17 victims arrive home

    Read more

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu set to be Erdogan's new PM

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

Middle east

Saudi women defy driving ban by taking to the wheel

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2011-06-17

A month after Manal al-Sherif was arrested and imprisoned for filming herself driving, a small group of Saudi women took to the roads on Friday to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on female drivers.

Several Saudi women got behind the wheel on Friday in a “Suffragette-level” protest against rules that ban them from driving cars in the conservative, male-dominated country.

A Facebook campaign page titled “Women2Drive”, as well as the reactions from thousands of Twitter users, have helped push this small act of civil disobedience onto the international stage.

The campaign was inspired by the arrest last month of 32-year-old Manal al-Sherif, who posted a video of herself driving on YouTube.

On Friday there were reports of “several” women driving. But in an ultraconservative country where such behaviour is virtually unknown, it was still a significant act of defiance – even if all the reports were of women driving with a male relative. Saudi women are required by law to be accompanied by a male relative when they venture out.

Microblogging site Twitter was flooded with messages of support on Friday and triumphant comments on those staging these acts of defiance.

Times of London columnist Janice Turner tweeted: “Today, women in Saudi will challenge the driving ban, risking arrest, loss of jobs & children. This [is] Suffragette-level bravery.”

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtan, a Saudi rights activist, said he had been driven by his wife Maha through the streets of Riyadh.

“My wife, Maha, and I have just come from a 45-minute drive, she was the driver through Riyadh's streets,” he tweeted, adding later that she “has taken her necessary belongings, ready to go to prison without fear!”

Stopping the 'spread of vice'

Other reports said that women had driven in front of police patrols and that some men had dressed up in the traditional black abaya – the full-body covering worn by Saudi women – to confuse the authorities.

These acts of civil disobedience are partly inspired by the “Arab Spring” revolts. And while on a much smaller scale than some uprisings across the region, they are likely to put pressure on the Saudi government, which will have to decide if it will adopt a more liberal approach to driving and risk the ire of the country’s powerful clerics.

This nascent defiance might also encourage women to seek wider freedoms in a country where they need permission from a male guardian in order to travel or to take up a job.

Saudi Arabia has no written law banning women from taking the wheel. But Saudi citizens are obliged to have a domestic driver's license for driving in the country – and these are not issued to women.

The ban on granting women licences comes from fatwas (religious edicts) issued by senior Muslim clerics. These clerics say that stopping women from driving prevents the spread of vice because women cannot leave their homes to interact with strange men.

Families often hire live-in drivers so that women do not have to rely constantly on their male relatives.
 

 

Date created : 2011-06-17

  • SAUDI ARABIA

    Saudi king intensifies media censorship

    Read more

  • BAHRAIN

    Saudi troops enter Bahrain to quell violent protests

    Read more

COMMENT(S)