Women in Saudi Arabia are organizing a nationwide protest on October 26 against the de facto ban on female drivers. A group of women who want authorities to lift the ban on their driving have launched an online campaign urging female drivers to stage a demonstration by driving on October 26.
Almost 15,500 women and men signed a petition on the campaign’s website in favor of lifting the ban. “There is no justification for the Saudi government to prohibit adult women citizens who are capable of driving cars from doing so,” says the online petition.
A leading female blogger, which has repeatedly called for Saudi women to defy the driving ban, was detained in Riyadh on Thursday as she was filming a female friend while driving. Eman al-Nafjan was in a car that was stopped by police in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, as she filmed her friend driving. The blogger has been calling on Saudi women to upload videos of themselves driving in different parts of the country.
As the two women were pulled over, al-Nafjan was live tweeting, posting a picture of the police car along with the message “Police stopped us.” The tweet generated a lot of reactions and supportive messages from Twitter users throughout the country. The two women were released shortly after.
Although no traffic law specifically forbids women to drive in Saudi Arabia, religious edicts are interpreted that way. Traffic police don’t issue driver’s licenses for women and don’t recognize licenses issued abroad.
Recently, a Saudi cleric said in an interview that Saudi women should not drive because it could cause damage to their ovaries by forcing the pelvis upward. The comment has been widely interpreted as a reaction against the October 26 driving campaign.
However, women are determined to gain their right to drive, and many Saudi men support them, as you can see from one of al-Nafjan’s videos posted below.
By Dan Mihalascu