Saudi group campaigns against ban on women driving

Mon Sep 23, 2013 11:15am EDT
 
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By Mahmoud Habboush

DUBAI (Reuters) - A group of Saudi activists has begun another campaign for the lifting of a ban on women driving, urging women to get behind the wheel on October 26 in defiance, according to its website.

The "October 26 Driving" campaign says it has gathered 8,700 signatures for a petition it published on September 21.

"If the state refuses to lift this (driving) ban on women, we call on it to offer citizens its justifications for the ban," reads the petition posted on the website. "The state is not a father or a mother and the citizens are not children."

While no laws explicitly ban Saudi women from driving, citizens must use locally issued licenses. These are not issued to women, making it in effect illegal for them to drive.

At least two similar campaigns in the past two years have failed to bring change, with the authorities detaining several women and making them sign pledges not to drive again.

Nevertheless, King Abdullah has pushed some modest reforms to advance women's rights during the same period.

In January, he appointed 30 women to the Shoura Council, which advises the government on new legislation. He had said in late 2011 that women would be able to vote or run for office in the next municipal elections, Saudi Arabia's only public polls.

The "October 26 Driving" campaign urges people to put its logo on their cars on that day. It also urges women to learn to drive and asks family members to support women's right to drive.   Continued...

 
Female driver Azza Al Shmasani alights from her car after driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh June 22, 2011. REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed