News / Middle East

Saudi Women Defy Driving Ban

A female Saudi motorist speaks to the media after driving her vehicle in defiance of the ban on driving in Riyadh June 22, 2011. A female Saudi motorist speaks to the media after driving her vehicle in defiance of the ban on driving in Riyadh June 22, 2011.
x
A female Saudi motorist speaks to the media after driving her vehicle in defiance of the ban on driving in Riyadh June 22, 2011.
A female Saudi motorist speaks to the media after driving her vehicle in defiance of the ban on driving in Riyadh June 22, 2011.
Reuters
Saudi women's rights activists posted online photographs and video clips of themselves defying a ban on female driving on Thursday, two days after members of the influential Shoura Council called for an end to the prohibition.
 
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving, but debate about the ban, once confined to the private sphere and social media, is increasingly spreading to public forums too.
 
There is no specific law to prevent women from driving in the kingdom, but they cannot apply for driving licenses and have previously been arrested on charges relating to public order or political protest after getting behind the wheel.
 
The photos and footage showed various women driving on busy streets in the capital Riyadh. One clip, dated Wednesday, showed a woman driving in the traditional veil, with only her eyes showing, as other motorists slowed and gave a thumbs-up sign.
 
One of the women, posting on Twitter as Eman al-Najfan, tweeted a photograph of herself being stopped by police. She was taken to a police station, activists said, though it was not immediately clear whether she would face further action.
 
One female activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the publication of the video clips and photographs was the first part of a two-stage campaign designed to change attitudes.
 
In the second stage, women with international driving licenses will be asked to get behind the wheel on Oct. 26.
 
“To drive with a license should not be against the law,” she told Reuters, adding that many Saudis, including senior officials, had become more open to the idea of women driving.
 
“The authorities, the country, how people think has changed,” she said.
 
Conservative supporters of the ban, including members of Saudi Arabia's powerful clerical establishment, have said allowing women to drive will encourage the sexes to mix freely in public and thus threaten public morality.
 
Opponents of the ban say it means families have to employ expensive private drivers and makes it difficult for women to work or to do many other basic daily tasks.
 
They also point out that women in rural areas of Saudi Arabia frequently drive without being stopped by police.
 
A female member of the Shoura Council - a body appointed by King Abdullah to advise the government - proposed on Tuesday lifting the ban on women drivers.
 
The Council's transport committee must now decide whether to accept her recommendation and put it to the transport ministry.
 
Her proposal was widely reported in more liberal parts of the Saudi press and some newspapers published opinion pieces arguing that women should be allowed to drive.

You May Like

Video VOA ‘Town Hall’ Shines Light on Ebola Crisis

Experts call for greater speed in identification and treatment of deadly disease More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Funding Program Helps Extremely Poor in Ghana

Broad objective for Ghana's social cash transfer program is to lessen the impact of poverty on the most vulnerable people, elderly, orphans, those with disabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid