Women Protesting Driving Ban, Arrest In Saudi Arabia


By Tonya Garcia Comment

*Update after the jump.

Saudi women, outraged at the arrest and detention of a 32-year-old woman who planned a protest against rules barring women from driving, are taking to Facebook with comments and video evidence of their daring support.

Manal al Sharif, an IT specialist, launched the “Women2Drive” campaign, which encouraged women with foreign drivers licences to take to the road June 17 for a peaceful protest of Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers. It is the only country in the world to have such a ban and rules that keep the sexes separate mean women can’t take public transportation either.

Al Sharif posted a video of herself driving and launched a Facebook page for the protest. As a result, the page has been taken down, threats against any woman who would participate in the protest have been made, and al Sharif was arrested over the weekend.

At first al Sharif was sentenced to five days, but that has been extended another 10 and police have said her son be taken from her, according to Jalopnik. Women have gone online to show their support of al Sharif, many anonymously posting video of themselves driving. We support al Sharif and all the Saudi women in their efforts.

*Update: The Guardian reports that al Sharif has been freed by Saudi authorities and has promised to make no further efforts towards getting women driving rights. The news puts the Women2Drive campaign, and the planned protest on June 17, in jeopardy.

In a statement published in the newspaper al-Hayat, al Sharif says, “Concerning the topic of women’s driving, I will leave it up to our leader in whose discretion I entirely trust, to weigh the pros and cons and reach a decision that will take into consideration the best interests of the people, while also being pleasing to Allah, and in line with divine law.”

A friend and fellow activist Wajeha al-Huwaider says she believes al Sharif was told to stop her campaign.