x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Saudi women to take driver’s seat in protest against driving ban

Twenty women say they will take part in the campaign in the kingdom’s Eastern Province on October 26.

RIYADH // Women in Saudi Arabia have vowed to get behind the wheel next month to protest against the kingdom’s long-standing ban on women drivers.

An online petition entitled “Oct 26th, driving for women” had on Sunday gathered more than 5,800 signatories.

“I will drive on October 26,” Nasima Al Sada said. Twenty women have said they would take part in the campaign in the kingdom’s Eastern Province.

“Many women are enthusiastic about learning to drive, or to teach other” women how to drive, Ms Al Sada said, as many Saudi women have obtained driving licences in foreign countries.

“There is not a single text in the Sharia Islamic law that prevents us from driving. Any pretexts used to do that are based on inherited customs,” said the online petition.

“Just as revered women (at the time of the Prophet) rode horses and camels, it is our right to drive cars – the mode of our modern age, unless you want us to go back to mules and horses,” the petition said.

The last day of defiance against the ban was on June 17, 2011, when few women answered a call to drive, with some stopped by police and forced to sign a pledge not to take to the wheel again.

“I can’t drive because of the pledge I signed,” said Najla Al Hariri, who took part in the protest in 2011, expressing strong support for the new campaign.

The 2011 call, which spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and severely punished after demonstrating in cars.

* Agence France-Presse