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svgadminsvgJune 16, 2012svgNews

Saudi Women Urged to Defy Driving Ban

Activists on Friday urged women to get behind the wheel for Sunday’s first anniversary of the Women2Drive campaign, which has resulted in the arrest of people defying Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers.

“The key to ending the ban imposed on women driving in Saudi Arabia starts with women themselves,” AFP quoted a statement from the Women2Drive initiative.

The statement urged “women who hold driving licenses (from abroad) to drive on the anniversary day, June 17, and document their acts.”

It also urged men to get in the passenger seat and support their wives, mothers, or sisters who decide to flout the ban in the act of protest, AFP reported.

The statement called on women to flood the traffic department with applications for driving licenses, knowing that women will not get such permits, and then to write to the head of the department to complain.

AFP reported that nearly 600 people petitioned King Abdullah on Wednesday to allow women to drive. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world they are banned from doing so.

The petition urged the monarch to “encourage women who have obtained driving licenses from neighboring countries to begin driving whenever necessary.”

It also called on the king to “establish driving schools for women and (begin) issuing licenses.”

“We only want to enjoy the right to drive like all women over the world,” said the petition signed by Manal al-Sherif, the icon of an Internet campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy the ban.

Many women have driven since the campaign was launched last year and many have been arrested and forced to sign a pledge that they will never drive again, activists say.

The campaign, which spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and punished after demonstrating in cars.

No law specifically forbids women in Saudi Arabia from driving, but the interior minister formally banned women from doing so after that protest.

A few months ago, al-Sherif and another activist urged judicial authorities to start proceedings on complaints they lodged after being refused driver’s licenses.

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