x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Saudi women who defied driving ban fined

The Saudi women who got behind the wheel in defiance of a driving ban have been fined, police say.

A Saudi woman said she got behind the wheel on Saturday and drove to the grocery store without being stopped or harassed by police, kicking off a campaign protesting the ban on women driving in the kingdom. Oct26thDriving campaign via AP
A Saudi woman said she got behind the wheel on Saturday and drove to the grocery store without being stopped or harassed by police, kicking off a campaign protesting the ban on women driving in the kingdom. Oct26thDriving campaign via AP

RIYADH // At least 16 Saudi women have received fines for taking the wheel on a day set by activists to defy the kingdom’s traditional ban on female driving, police said today.

Few women braved official threats of punishment and drove on Saturday in response to an online campaign headlined “Women’s driving is a choice.”

“Police stopped six women driving in Riyadh, and fined them 300 riyals ($80) each,” said the capital’s police deputy spokesman, Colonel Fawaz Al Miman.

Each of the women, along with her male guardian – who could be a father, husband, brother, uncle, or grandson – had to “sign a pledge to respect the kingdom’s laws,” Col Miman said.

In Jeddah, police also fined two women for driving, according to the Red Sea city’s police spokesman, Nawaf Al Bouq.

Saudi newspapers, meanwhile, reported that six women were stopped by police in Eastern Province, and at least two others were stopped in other parts of the kingdom.

A dozen Saudi women posted videos on the Twitter account of the campaign, @oct26driving, showing themselves driving.

Activists had originally issued a call on social media networks for women across the kingdom to drive their cars on Saturday to challenge the ban.

Some say they received telephone calls from the interior ministry asking them to promise they would not drive on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the ministry said it would act against anyone who attempts to “disturb public peace” by congregating or marching “under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving”.

The next day ministry spokesman General Mansur Al Turki said: “It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support” of this cause.

Activists say Saturday was chosen as a “symbolic” date as part of efforts first launched more than a decade ago to press for the right to drive.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving. Public gatherings are officially banned.

* Agence France-Presse