x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Women ask Saudi king to let them drive

Hundreds petition Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to allow women to get behind the wheel and drive on the kingdom's roads.

RIYADH // Hundreds of people have petitioned Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to allow women to get behind the wheel and drive on the kingdom's roads.

The move comes on the first anniversary of the Women2Drive campaign that was launched in June last year.

The signatories, who numbered nearly 600 yesterday, are asking the king of the only country in the world that forbids women to drive to "encourage women who have obtained driving licences from neighbouring countries to begin driving whenever necessary."

They also called on the monarch to "establish driving schools for women and (begin) issuing licences."

The petition thanked the king, who is a cautious reformer, for giving women the right to vote in municipal elections that are schduled to take place in 2015.

It went on to stress that "our initiative is not aimed at violating laws".

"We only want to enjoy the right to drive like all women over the world," added the petition.

It was signed by the women's rights activist Manal Al Sherif, the icon of an internet campaign launched last year that urged Saudi women to defy the driving ban.

"The petition will be handed to the king on our campaign's anniversary on Sunday," said Najla Hariri, a Saudi mother who was arrested and held briefly in custody for driving in the western city of Jeddah in August.

Sheima Jastaniah, who was pardoned by the king after she was sentenced to 10 lashes for breaking the driving ban last September, has also signed the petition.