Saudi Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel has tweeted her support of women driving in Saudi Arabia today.
“I am proud to be Saudi. To all Active Saudi women, thank you for your efforts,” the post read.
The princess was responding to news that Shaima Ghassaniya, convicted of driving in Saudi Arabia last Thursday, had avoided ten lashings after the Saudi King Abdullah revoked the sentence.
“#women2 drive Thank God, the lashing of Sheima is cancelled," the princess tweeted. "Thanks to our beloved King. I'm sure all Saudi women will be so happy, I know I am."
The princess , who is married to billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Amira, has remained a strong supporter of women’s rights in conservative Saudi Arabia, urging for the empowered Saudi woman.
This twitter news is a continuation of the empowered Saudi woman’s fight to end the driving ban in the conservative kingdom.
Ghassaniya was one of 40 Saudi Arabian women protesting the driving ban. Many women filmed themselves driving as a part of the protest “My Right, My Dignity”, which aims to reward civil rights to women in Saudi Arabia, posting their videos on YouTube.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not permit women to drive. While a part of the population holds on to and accepts the unique nature of Saudi society, complete with its restrictive gender opinions, many women are beginning to lash out and seek change.
The driving protest provoked public outcry. Kawaiti feminist Rana Al-Abdulrazaq described the protest as “[Women] fighting a tradition of ignorance and masculinity.”
Attorney Waleed Aboul Khair, who will be prosecuting another female activist Najalaa Harrir for driving, carried out official questioning Sunday morning in the urban metropolis of Jeddah, in preparation for Harrir’s trial.
The case proves interesting because there is no official, written law stating women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia.
Rather, the driving “ban” is an Islamic sharia law; a decision made by political groups consisting of powerful and conservative Muslim clerics, such as the Office of the Mufti and Ministry of the Interior.
The renouncement of the lashing punishment comes just days after King Abdullah’s reform allowing Saudi women to run for and participate in municipal election, beginning in 2015.
They will also be able to participate in the currently all male Shura Council, which provides general economic, political, and social council within the kingdom and between foreign nations.
Although this is a giant gain for gender equality and freedom, Saudi feminists remain critical, arguing that King Abdullah is not moving fast enough for women’s rights, especially considering the fact that the political reform will not be implemented for another four years.
Critics also express skepticism of King Abdullah's announcement because he never used the actual word "vote," and activists worry that this announcement will become obsolete in the upcoming years.
Famous Egyptian feminist and columnist Mona ElTahaway tweeted: “Royals & ultra-conservative clerics claim society ‘not ready’ 4 women to drive. More like royals, clerics not ready 4 women's rights.”
Critics argue that after rewarding women the ability to run for office and participate in the Shura Council, laws such as the driving ban have become irrelevant and petty.
“The climate is more suited for these changes now - the force of history, moral pressure and the changes taking place around us,” wrote famous Saudi columnist and former editor-in-chief of the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, Jamal Khashoggi.
Currently, Saudi Arabian women must always have a male guardian, and are not allowed to travel outside of the country without a male guardian’s consent. They also cannot open bank accounts or attend school without male assistance.
Activist Manal Al Sharif was another woman arrested for driving during the June protest.