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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.