Riyadh warns against women driving campaign

Riyadh warns against women driving campaign
Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:55:36

Saudi Arabia has warned that it will take measures against activists who go ahead with a planned October 26 campaign to defy a ban on women drivers in the conservative kingdom.

On Wednesday, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying it would crack down against anyone who attempts to "disturb public peace" by congregating or marching "under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving”.

The Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki has insisted that "all gatherings are prohibited" in Saudi Arabia, but activists have repeatedly insisted throughout their campaign that no demonstrations will be held.

"It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support" of this cause, General al-Turki said.

The women organizing the campaign have been posting online footage of themselves driving in Saudi cities, and have called on Saudi women with foreign driving licenses to get behind the wheel on Saturday.

"October 26 is a day on which women in Saudi Arabia will say they are serious about driving and that this matter must be resolved," activist Manal al-Sharif, one of the organizers of this Saturday's campaign, said.

Activists have posted a message on social networks asking Saudi women, individually, to go behind the wheel, in a campaign in the world's only country that bans women from driving.

The campaigners hope to take advantage of the ambiguous nature of the kingdom's ban on women driving, which is not explicitly enshrined in either the kingdom's Sharia law or its traffic code.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International has urged the Saudi authorities to respect the right of women to drive.

"It is astonishing that in the 21st century the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to deny women the right to legally drive a car," Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program, said.


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