Some Saudi women challenge drive ban

Fri Jun 17, 2011 6:00pm EDT
 
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By Asma Alsharif

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Some Saudi women appeared to have answered a call over social media to challenge a ban on driving, posting accounts and pictures of themselves behind the wheel in the conservative Arab kingdom.

Groups such as "Women2Drive" and "Women's Right to Drive in KSA" had called for a day of defiance, drawing more than 15,000 supporters on various Facebook groups.

"I drove with my husband, and a policeman stopped me and gave me a ticket, which stated that I was driving without a license," Maha al-Gahtani, a resident of Riyadh, posted on Twitter along with a picture of a traffic ticket with her name.

"I was disappointed that I didn't see any other women drivers," she said. "I did it to get my rights."

Besides a ban on driving, women in Saudi Arabia must have written approval from a male guardian -- a father, husband, brother or son -- to leave the country, work or even undergo certain medical operations.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute monarchy which applies an austere version of Sunni Islam. Religious police patrol the streets to ensure public segregation between men and women.

Two women, Shaima Osama and Manal Alsharif, were recently arrested for defying the driving ban, inspired by challenges to authority across the Arab world.

"I drove around my neighborhood with dad for 20 minutes," Dima Ikhwan posted on her Twitter page on Friday.   Continued...

 
<p>A Saudi woman looks out of her car in Jeddah June 17, 2011. REUTERS/Susan Baaghil</p>