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Saudi women back at the protest wheel

2014-10-28 08:20

FEMALE DRIVING BAN: Many female drivers, such as this Saudi activist, have posted images and videos of themselves behind the wheel to oppose the country's ban on women driving. Image: AP

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Activists pushing for the right of women to drive in Saudi Arabia have declared their online campaign a success.

The kingdom is the only country in the world in which women are not allowed to operate a car.

The campaign that began in 2013, encouraging women to post images of themselves at the wheel, revved up again since the beginning of October 2014. Dozens of women have driven and posted during the latest campaign, one activist said, although she knew of only two who hit the streets Saturday (October 25)  and Sunday (October 26) as the campaign peaked

FEMALE ACTIVISTS AT RISK

The activist said: "A day hasn't gone by without receiving one or two videos of women driving. Men and women have also posted messages of support."

The activist said she did not want to be named because the interior ministry, she said, had threatened her with arrest if she speaks publicly about the campaign. In 2013 activists also focused their demands on October 26, when at least four driving videos were posted on YouTube; at least 16 women were fined for taking the wheel on that day.

VIDEO: Saudi Arabia female-driving activist

There is a "huge risk" for female drivers, the activist said when asked why more had not posted images of themselves this year. Women have previously been arrested, cars have been confiscated, and one received 100 lashes, she alleged.

"So, women are afraid," the activist said.

On Thursday (October 23) the interior ministry issued a warning to would-be female drivers and their supporters. The ministry said it would "strictly implement" measures against anyone who "contributes in any manner or by any acts, towards providing violators with the opportunity to undermine the social cohesion".


That means the campaign had had an impact, the activist said: "I think it's pretty successful. If we're getting a reaction, that means we're effective."

Sahar Nasief defied the warnings and got behind the wheel anyway on Sunday (October 26).

Nasief said: "The roads were full of police cars... everybody was on alert," she told AFP from the Red Sea city of Jeddah after running a 15-minute errand in her car because her driver wasn't available.

The authorities' response shows the driving campaign has been "very successful," she agreed.

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Read more on:    saudi arabia  |  driving ban

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