x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Five women drivers arrested in Saudi Arabia

Women taken to police station after 'training for driving' in three cars at an empty plot, a week before a protest by Saudi women who are planning to take the wheel in a demonstration against the ban on female drivers in the kingdom.

RIYADH // Police in Saudi Arabia arrested five women yesterday for breaking a ban on female drivers in the kingdom.

The women were arrested north of Riyadh in Hettein district, according to one of those arrested. She said that they were "training for driving" in three cars at an empty plot when two police officers arrived and detained them.

The women, who are aged between 20 and 30, were taken to a police station in Sahafa street, and their male guardians were called in, said one woman, who used a mobile phone that they were allowed to keep.

"We did not break the law. We were not driving on the road," she said.

The arrests come a week before a protest by Saudi women who are planning to take the wheel in a demonstration against the ban that the kingdom enforces as part of its strict application of Sunni Islam.

The organisers of the June 17 demonstration emphasise that no law in forbids women from driving and that the ban is based on a fatwa, or religious edict.

A Saudi woman was arrested last month after being caught driving in Eastern Province, triggering a national campaign urging King Abdullah to release her and lift the ban.