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Dozens of Saudi Women Challenge Ban on Driving

  • Cecily Hilleary

Cartoon credit: Carlos Latuff/Operamundi

Cartoon credit: Carlos Latuff/Operamundi

On Saturday, more than 60 Saudi Arabian women slid into drivers’ seats and took to the road in defiance of the de facto ban on women driving.

No women drivers were arrested, but at least one woman complained that she was followed throughout the day by unknown individuals in unmarked cars. Others say they were pulled over and required to sign a pledge not to drive again.

Last week, Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Al-Turki threatened that all violations would be dealt with—whether women driving or demonstrators supporting them.

Activists also say they received telephone calls Friday from the Interior Ministry , which told them it might apply cyber-laws that ban political dissent to any individuals supporting Saturday’s women’s driving campaign; violation of these laws could result in five years in prison.

Writer and teacher Tariq Al-Mubarak was reportedly jailed overnight Sunday for his support of the women's campaign. In an October 6 op-ed on the Asharq Al-Awsat website, Al-Mubarak issued a call for a change in the status of "Gulf women" in general, saying, “We need to reconsider some concepts of Islamic jurisprudence, keeping in mind the human dignity that has been endorsed by all religions."


The campaign had the support of another well-known Saudi male. Comedian and activist Hisham Fageeh posted a video on YouTube poking fun at traditionalists who oppose women taking to the road. Entitled “No Women, No Drive,” it’s a play on the well-known 1974 reggae hit by Bob Marley and the Walers, “No Women, No Cry,” which has gone viral since its release Saturday.

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