#Women2Drive: Saudi Women Take to the Streets

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Since last month, when Manal al-Sheirif was arrested for driving her car in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, activists have been promoting June 17th as a day of protest against the inferior treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. The goal was to get as many women as possible out on the street driving their cars. This action may not seem significant to westerners, but it is a hugely symbolic in a country where the offense could land a woman in prison. The picture is of a ticket that one woman received; below are videos and descriptions of the event:

Videos of Women Driving (June 17):

Washington Post: Saudi women defy driving ban

At least 29 women in Saudi Arabia drove their cars Friday, after Internet campaigns inspired by the uprisings across the Arab world urged them to flout the country’s de facto ban on female drivers.

At least one of the women is believed to have been arrested in Riyadh, the kingdom’s capital and one of its most conservative cities, online activists said. She was later released.

Los Angles Times: Saudi women get in the driver’s seat to defy ban

She got her driver’s license in Indiana. She likes to drive fast.

And on Friday, Maha Qahtani, 39, in a face-covering niqab, raced through the streets of Riyadh in her family’s blue Hummer H3, defying Saudi Arabia’s religion-inspired bans on female motorists.

Just before 6 p.m., police in six squad cars pulled her over. They ordered her from behind the wheel and into the passenger’s seat. But they seemed more terrified than Qahtani.

They let her off with a ticket for driving without a Saudi driver’s license. She was elated, laughing about the incident.

Arab News: Saudi women drive home a point, again

The campaign, Women2Drive, called on Saudi women to begin driving their cars on June 17. Although there is no law against women driving in Saudi Arabia, they cannot obtain driver’s licenses. The arrest and release of Manal Al-Sharif a few weeks ago for driving in the streets of Alkhobar did not discourage women to press the issue. The campaign was about enabling women to carry out their regular errands just as their husbands and fathers and brothers do.

“The only reason why I did this is because I believe that it’s high time for a change and I don’t think it would harm anyone if women drive,” said one of the women who drove in Jeddah but did not want her name to be made public. “Friday was like a test day, just to see how people would react to us driving. All I can say is that it was more than normal. No one spoke to us and no one even bothered to look at us, it was like its normal for women to be behind the wheel.”

New York Times: Saudi Women Defy Driving Ban

Although random acts of women driving were reported in major cities across Saudi Arabia on Friday, the protest against the longstanding ban appears to have been smaller than initially anticipated after the Saudi government imprisoned a main organizer for nine days last month.

Scattered reports by social media and an informal network of activists suggested that the number of women who drove was in the dozens, with few incidents of confrontations with either the traffic or the morals police reported. At least half a dozen women who were stopped were escorted home and admonished not to drive again, said activists reached by telephone.

Maha al-Qahtani, an information technology specialist for the government, drove around Riyadh in clear weather for 45 minutes with her husband, Mohamed, a human rights activist, in the car. She braced for a siren after passing each of about five police cars, she said, but they ignored her.

“I woke up today believing with every part of me that this is my right, I woke up believing this is my duty and I was no longer afraid,” said Mrs. Qahtani, adding that she brought a change of clothes and a prayer rug with her in case she was detained.

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One Response to #Women2Drive: Saudi Women Take to the Streets

  1. Pingback: Weekly Roundup 6/19 | Mideast Reports

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