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Women in Saudi.

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Readers might remember the case of Manal al-Sherif, a young Saudi woman arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia?

Well, more women are fighting back against petty restrictions and the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, France 24 reports:

“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!” “

Update 1: Time covers it too:

“The beginning of the trip was uneventful. I tried to keep my camera discreetly in my lap and shoot the occasional frame, so as to not draw attention to us. We rode through Friday afternoon traffic, attracting some double takes and a few stares, but overall much less reaction than I would have anticipated. Her eyes, all that could be seen from underneath her all-encompassing hijab, darted in and out of the rear view mirror.

We coasted along King Fahd Road in Riyadh. The traffic seemed to grow more dense by the minute. She was nervous and her husband was giving her directions. “Don’t change lanes, slow down, you are going too fast!” he said. Then, turning to me in the back seat, he declared proudly, “She’s a good driver!”

The backseat driving made me smile—so universal between husbands and wives, no matter where in the world you are.

Given the longstanding prohibition against women drivers, I wondered if the police would stop us. I flashed back to the cramped prison cell in Sirte, where I was held by the Libyan government in March along with three male colleagues from the New York Times. There we were splayed out on soiled foam mattresses, a bottle of urine in the corner of the cell, a box of dates on the floor. I was sure the Saudi prison would be cleaner.

I took the discs out of my camera, hid them in my bra, and put the camera back into my backpack. “

Update 2: This is the Facebook page of Women2Drive.

Free Manal al-Sherif.

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The Washington Post reports that Manal al-Sherif was re-arrested after being released recently:

“CAIRO — Saudi authorities have re-arrested an activist who defied a ban on female drivers in the conservative kingdom, a security official said Monday.

Manal al-Sherif was accused of “violating public order” and ordered held for five days while the case is investigated.

The 32-year-old al-Sherif launched a campaign against the longtime ban last week by posting a video clip on the Internet of herself behind the wheel in the eastern city of Khobar.

Through Facebook, the campaigners set June 17 as the day all women should drive their cars. The page, called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,” was removed after more than 12,000 people indicated their support for the call. The campaign’s Twitter account also was deactivated.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

Al-Sherif was initially detained for several hours on Saturday by the country’s religious police and released after she signed a pledge agreeing not to drive.

She was re-arrested on Sunday at dawn, said a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “

Update 1: The 17th June 2011 could be an interesting day in Saudi Arabia:

“This law is simply a backward, visceral objection to the thought of a woman behind the wheel, a physical embodiment of a volition which is too offensive to enact. It is about maintaining some semblance of control, the erosion of which it is thought would be complete if women were allowed to drive.

There is this odd view of women in the kingdom as being always on the cusp of dissolute behaviour – reminiscent of an attitude towards slaves who would rebel and murder their owners if not kept perpetually oppressed. This is a ghastly spiral, where the worse the victim is treated, the worse they are likely to be pre-emptively repressed. When arguing against allowing women to uncover their heads or faces in public, some (men and women) respond that if that if this were to pass, women would surely walk around in semi-nudity.

It doesn’t occur to these people that public codes of dress do not exist in most other Arab countries, and women still manage to dress in a culturally appropriate way. Women are allowed to drive throughout the conservative Arabian Gulf, and these societies have not imploded in moral degradation.

The Saudi driving ban is a social, rather than political, issue, over which the authorities would rather not incur the religious establishment’s wrath or create controversy. But if there is one lesson Arab rulers would do well to heed, it is that withholding rights raises the chances of an explosion of dissent.

The arrest of Sharif certainly appears to have done nothing to dissuade the Women2Drive campaign from going ahead; if anything it seems to have garnered it more publicity. There are reports that the religious police are teaming up with traffic forces to patrol and stymie the campaign. If these are to be believed, then Saudi Arabia is in for a first-of-its-kind confrontation on 17 June. “

Driving In Saudi Arabia.

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Women in Saudi Arabia can’t even drive their own cars, without a driver or a relative to do that job for them. Many are effectively prisoners in their homes, still some brave women are fighting back:

This is their channel on YouTube, ksawomen2drive.

Update 1: Manal al-Sherif has been detained for driving herself, AP has more:

“RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Authorities detained a Saudi woman on Saturday after she launched a campaign against the driving ban for women in the ultraconservative kingdom and posted a video of herself behind the wheel on Facebook and YouTube to encourage others to copy her.

Manal al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,” which urges authorities to lift the driving ban. She went on a test drive in the eastern city of Khobar and later posted a video of the experience.

“This is a volunteer campaign to help the girls of this country” learn to drive, al-Sherif says in the video. “At least for times of emergency, God forbid. What if whoever is driving them gets a heart attack?”
Human rights activist Walid Abou el-Kheir said al-Sherif was detained by the country’s religious police, who are charged with ensuring the kingdom’s rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings are observed.

Al-Sherif was released hours later, according to the campaign’s Twitter account. The terms of her release were not immediately clear.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

Women are also barred from voting, except for chamber of commerce elections in two cities in recent years, and no woman can sit on the kingdom’s Cabinet. Women also cannot travel without permission from a male guardian and shouldn’t mingle with males who are not their husbands or brothers. “

Written by modernityblog

21/05/2011 at 21:42