Saudi Women Stand Up for Their Rights to Drive

Some women in Saudi Arabia were seen Friday, openly driving cars in defiance of the ban on female drivers in the kingdom known for its strict restrictions on the rights of women.

In a move similar to the pro-democracy movement sweeping across the Arab world, the protest is largely being organized on social networks.

Some women have been posting videos of themselves on various social networks as they operated automobiles to press for the “right of Saudi women 2 drive protest." Many Saudi women have reportedly signed up on social media sites to take part in the protest.

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As the protest kicked off, some women were seen driving to stores. Others reportedly made pleasure trips in their cars without their usual male chauffeurs in and around the capital, Riyadh.

It was not clear if the women have the support of their husbands, but observers said some of them did not restrain their wives from embarking on the protest.

The movement is believed to be growing, but it is not known yet how many women are likely to join in a nation where it is accepted that women are subservient to men.

No arrests have been made so far, although a woman driving in an SUV in Riyadh was reportedly stopped by a policeman. She was allowed to continue her trip.

However, a female activist, Manal al-Sherif, was sentenced to jail for two weeks last month for violating the ban.

Only men are allowed to drive automobiles in the oil-rich kingdom. But there are no official national or provincial laws forbidding women from going behind the wheels of cars.

Islamic laws, widely accepted and respected in the kingdom, however, restrict women from driving.

Muslim leaders believe that if women are allowed to drive, and go wherever they want on their own, they could turn the liberty into license to engage in activities that could result in unfaithfulness to their husbands. For that reason, most Saudi ladies are chauffeur-driven. Some husbands carry their wives everywhere they go.

The women may be on the way to winning their rights to operate automobiles, as their movement is believed to have the blessings of key member of the Saudi royalty, including Prince Talil.

Saudi authorities arrested 47 women during a similar protest in 1990, but the government has been careful this time to avoid any actions that may provoke its citizens, since the pro-democracy movement began in the winter.

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