News / Middle East

    Saudi Authorities Warn of Punishment for Women Drivers

    Saudi Authorities Warn of Punishment for Women Driversi
    X
    October 25, 2013 4:49 AM
    Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry has warned women not to go ahead with a planned campaign Saturday to defy a ban on female drivers.
    Video from VOA
    Reuters
    Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry has contacted organizers of a campaign to end the ban on women driving and told them they will be punished if they go on defying the male-only road rules, some of the campaign leaders said on Thursday.

    The women organizing the campaign have been posting online footage of themselves driving in Saudi cities, and have called on Saudi women with foreign driving licences to get behind the wheel on Saturday.

    The campaigners hope to take advantage of the ambiguous nature of the kingdom's ban on women driving, which is not explicitly enshrined in neither the kingdom's Islamic sharia law nor its traffic code.

    Saudi Arabia frequently earns bad international publicity over the issue, but any change in the effective ban on women driving might ignite the wrath of religious hardliners.

    On Wednesday the Interior Ministry issued a statement reitering that it was illegal for women to drive, but the authorities now appear to be stepping up their efforts to quash the campaign by individually contacting women involved.

    "He said he was calling on behalf of [Interior Minister] Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and that I and any other woman should not drive and if we are caught we will be punished,'' said one of the campaign organizers.

    The woman said she now planned not to drive on Saturday, although she still supported the campaign and had previously filmed herself behind the wheel in the city.
          
    Another woman involved in the campaign, who also asked to remain anonymous, said she still planned to go ahead.

    The Interior Ministry telephone calls follow a small protest by a group of conservative clerics demanding government action against the women. One of them, Sheikh Nasser al-Omar, described the campaign as a "conspiracy''.

    A ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached to confirm that the body had contacted the women.

    Women who have driven in the past have often been charged with the relatively minor offense of driving without a valid Saudi licence, which are not issued to women in the kingdom.

    But some have also been charged with more serious offenses, such as disturbing public order or staging political protests, which are illegal in the absolute monarchy.

    The campaigners say that by driving on Saturday they will not be staging a political protest, as they have not asked women to drive together in groups or to congregate in one place, even if they are in violation of traffic rules.

    Stern warning

    "The concerned authorities will enforce the law against all the violators with firmness and force,'' said Wednesday's Interior Ministry statement.

    The ministry's spokesman, Major-General Mansour Turki, told Reuters the statement applied to women driving individually as well as in groups and that it was not meant to refer only to Saturday, but to women driving at any time.

    He said it also would apply to protests by groups opposed to women driving. Turki said the prosecution service would decide whether to charge women drivers with traffic violations or more serious offenses.

    Officials have often in the past said the driving ban is in place because Saudi society wants it there. Supporters of Saturday's campaign say they want to show by driving without provoking public anger that society has changed.

    They point to a recent move by some women in the kingdom's Shoura Council, a quasi-parliament appointed by the king to advise on policy, to challenge the ban, and to Saudi newspaper columns that argue women should be able to drive.

    "The government now is in an odd position. They aren't against women driving and yet they're preventing women driving. It's very awkward to be in this position,'' said Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi political science professor and columnist for the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    November 06, 2013 3:03 AM
    I guess when all of cruid oil is drawn out from the wells, women eventually would take over the job of king in Saudi Arabia and it would not take a long time. It is historically a general rule that women are smarter and more diligent than spoiled sons of rich people when economics get wrong. Thank you.

    by: Rafael from: USA
    October 31, 2013 11:29 PM
    She ( wemen) in general should not only drive, but take off the burka, join a community of female against the male oppression,
    forced marriage and reduce them to a baby makers only.

    by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
    October 26, 2013 3:03 AM
    Islam does not prevent women from driving any vehicle. In Saudi Arabia there's no law or traffic rule which very explicitly bans women driving. The ban based only on antiquated customs, but I do agree that Islam, like Christians and Judaism, treat women as second class citizens.

    by: Hasham Baquaa from: Saudi Arabia
    October 25, 2013 12:15 PM
    this silly move may undermine the Country authority and legitimacy... this could lead to a civil war at the worst time in the region history and lead Iran in control of the oil fields... do you want Iranian filthy theocracy to control the world life line of energy???
    support Saudi Arabia and say - down down with Iran

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.