Saudi Arabia: Despite threats, Saudi women defy driving ban

27th Oct 2013

A few women filmed themselves driving in Saudi cities on Saturday, defying government warnings of arrest and prosecution to take part in a campaign against men-only road rules, activists said.

But some others stayed at home, put off by phone calls from men who said they were from the Interior Ministry, reported organizers of the demonstration against an effective ban on women drivers.

Police put up checkpoints in some parts of Riyadh, Reuters witnesses said, and there appeared to be more traffic patrols than usual on the streets of the capital – the latest sign of the sensitivity of the issue in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom.

“I know of several women who drove earlier today. We will post videos (online) later,” one of the campaign organizers told Reuters by phone.

Five videos were published on the campaign’s YouTube feed and Twitter on Saturday morning, dated October 26 and purporting to show women driving in Riyadh, the oasis region of al-Ahsa and the city of Jeddah.

It was not possible to verify when they were filmed.

King Abdullah has pushed some cautious reforms, expanding female education and employment. But he has also been careful not to open big rifts with conservative clerics.

Mosques across Saudi Arabia broadcast sermons on Friday telling women to stay at home.

Protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia, and public demands for political or social change have traditionally been interpreted by the authorities as an unacceptable challenge to the ruling al-Saud family’s authority, local analysts say.

However, organizers said their call for women to drive on Saturday was not a political protest as they had not called for gatherings, rallies or processions of cars.

Instead they have asked women with foreign driving licenses to get behind the wheel accompanied by a male relative and drive themselves when performing everyday tasks.

A website set up by the campaigners to petition the government appeared to have been hacked on Saturday morning, displaying a black background illuminated by glowing red lightning bolts and bearing the message “Reason for the hacking: I am against women driving in the land of the two holy shrines”.

The kingdom’s powerful religious establishment is lavishly financed by the state, but it has opposed several government efforts to gradually increase women’s public role in society.

On Tuesday, around 150 conservative clerics gathered outside the royal court in a rare protest against the pace of social reforms in Saudi Arabia, including women’s rights. One prominent cleric, Sheikh Nasser al-Omar, was filmed describing the campaign for women to drive as “a conspiracy.”

However, supporters of the campaign can point to increasingly public support for the idea of women driving in the media and among prominent Saudi figures.

This month three women in the Shura Council, an appointed quasi-parliament set up by King Abdullah to advise the government on policy, said the Transport Ministry should look into allowing women to drive.

They argued that the ban made it hard for women to work or look after their families and that it caused financial hardship for families who had to employ a full-time driver.

Some Saudi newspapers have also published editorials arguing women should be allowed to drive.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)


5 Responses to “Saudi Arabia: Despite threats, Saudi women defy driving ban”

Muhammad MukhtarNovember 29, 2013

A man is not superior to a woman, neither is a woman superior to a man; however, the man is a degree ahead of the woman in the family. A believing man and a believing woman has the same responsibility as Muslims.


PaulFebruary 25, 2014

Go Saudi women! The rest of the free world supports you. A society can only make genuine progress with input from men and women. We are horrified that you live under oppression because of your gender. You have our support.


fridus leenaertMarch 15, 2014

thousands years of terrible neglect have pussed muslim women into dire straights, creating a miserable world. Educate your women, free them and face the world as men otherwise the whole world will blame YOU..


J NdluliMarch 22, 2014

Why is the issue of a woman driving even under discussion? How backward is the attitude, that women need to have the man’s permission to be mobile. Is this the face of Islam … and in the country that is the center of Islam?


Rameez SehgalApril 8, 2014

Amazing how the West rallies behind and supports any little protest that women make in Saudi. And the reason they give is – they want to see the Muslim Women free and their state elevated.

What about Muslim Women in Palestinian Refugee camps? What about their freedom? Forget freedom, what about their state of health? Have you even raised your voice (or finger to type) against the atrocities committed by Israeli forces for the past 6 decades?

Have you ever raised your voice about Muslim Women and their plight in Kashmir – where Indian forces have killed thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed their families and continue to rape them in the guise of house-to-house search?

What about the freedom of women in Syria? Oh im sorry, your long term political interests will be compromised if you stopped Mr. Asad from his rage of killing and destroying civilians. Right?

What about freedom of Afghani women and children who are killed by drone strikes. Or perhaps you think its ok because they are all terrorists anyway and you just dont want to bother your lazy brain cells to identify who is a terrorist and who is a civilian.

But you get super hyper, when ever there is a talk of saudi women and their driving rights. Because you want your cars to be sold in this money rich region and so that your auto plants keep running, all the folks on your assembly lines keep getting paid and feed their families. Right?


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