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Saudi women fined for defying driving ban

afp

At least 16 Saudi women have been fined for defying a ban on female driving after they responded to an online campaign and got behind the wheel in protest, police sources said Sunday.

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At least 16 Saudi women have been fined for defying a ban on women driving by getting behind the wheel in protest, police sources said Sunday.

The women ignored threats of punishment and arrest from the authorities and drove on Saturday as part of an online campaign entitled "Women's driving is a choice".

"Police stopped six women driving in Riyadh and fined them 300 riyals ($80) each," said police deputy spokesman Colonel Fawaz al-Miman.

Each of the women and a male guardian – who could be a father, husband, brother, uncle or grandson – had to "sign a pledge to respect the kingdom's laws", Miman told AFP.

Police in the Red Sea city of Jeddah also fined two women for driving, according to police spokesman Nawaf al-Bouq.

Saudi newspapers, meanwhile, reported that six women drivers were stopped by police in Eastern Province and at least two others were stopped in other parts of the kingdom.

Online campaign

A dozen Saudi women posted videos of themselves driving on the Twitter account of the campaign, @oct26driving.

Activists issued a call on social media networks for women across the kingdom to drive their cars on Saturday, October 26, to challenge the ban.

The campaign's website, www.oct26driving.org, was hacked over the weekend and rendered inoperational.

The interior ministry warned on Wednesday that it would act against anyone who attempted to "disturb the public peace" by congregating or marching "under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving".

The next day, ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told AFP: "It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support" of this cause.

Efforts to get the driving ban repealed were first launched more than a decade ago.

The Saudi absolute monarchy is the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive.

Public gatherings are also officially banned.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

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