Saudi women say they will keep pushing for right to drive

Sun Oct 27, 2013 11:38am EDT
 
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RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi women demanding the right to drive said on Sunday they would keep up their campaign a day after government warnings and a heavy police presence thwarted their call for many women to get behind the wheel.

Activists are asking Saudi women to go on driving in public and posting online photographs or films of themselves doing so, after putting dozens of such videos on YouTube in recent weeks.

A video posted online on Sunday showed a woman in the black headscarf typically worn by Saudi women driving with her son to and from Kingdom Hospital in north Riyadh earlier in the day.

"The campaign continues, in order to normalize driving in our country, whose laws allow the practice of this right," said a Tweet posted on the campaign's Twitter feed.

The activists say no specific law in Saudi Arabia bans women from driving, although women cannot apply for driving licenses. Government officials say a ban is in effect because it accords with the wishes of society in the conservative kingdom.

Activists posted 12 films on YouTube said to be of women driving on Saturday, and said some other women had also driven but without recording their exploits on video or in photographs.

Those who did drive were defying government admonitions backed up by a hefty police presence in the capital Riyadh. Interior Ministry employees had also contacted leaders of the campaign individually to tell them not to drive on Saturday.

"Yesterday there were lots of police cars so I didn't take the risk. I only took the wheel for a few minutes. Today I drove and nobody stopped me. For sure I will drive every day doing my normal tasks," Azza al-Shamasi, the woman who filmed herself driving to the hospital on Sunday, told Reuters.

In Riyadh, police erected impromptu roadblocks on Saturday and peered through car windows to ensure women were not driving. Many traffic patrols were also in evidence as the authorities tried to foil any defiance of the men-only road rules.   Continued...

 
A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser