Saudi women defy driving ban in online photos, video clips

Thu Oct 10, 2013 11:33am EDT
 
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By Angus McDowall

RIYADH (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 October 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.   Continued...