Saudi women inching closer to driving
Posted Wednesday, October 23 2013 at 15:26
DUBAI- Saudi female activists are gearing up to test a long-standing driving ban, with more defiant women already getting behind the wheel as the authorities seem to be taking a more lenient approach.
Under the slogan "women's driving is a choice," they have called on social networks for a turn-out on Saturday in a campaign in the world's only country that bans women from driving.
"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," said Manal al-Sharif, who was arrested and held for nine days in May 2011 for posting online a video of herself behind the wheel.
In a protest she led the following month, a number of women were stopped by police and forced to sign a pledge not to drive again.
The 34-year-old computer engineer who now lives in Dubai told AFP women have already begun responding to the call, and "more than 50 videos showing women currently driving" have been posted online during the past two weeks.
With the exception of two women who were briefly stopped by police, authorities have so far not intervened to halt any of the female motorists.
This, combined with what seems to be more social acceptance to the new phenomenon is encouraging more women to get behind the wheel along major roads across the kingdom.
A video posted on social networks this month shows a fully veiled woman driving in Riyadh as male motorists and families give her the "thumbs up" in support.
"There will be a November 26, December 26, a January 26, until authorities issue the first driving permit to a Saudi woman," said Sharif.
To reduce the risk of accidents, only women who have driving licences issued abroad are being invited to participate in the campaign. Obviously, none are issued in Saudi Arabia.
Dangerous for the ovaries?
But conservative religious figures are still opposed to women driving.
A Saudi cleric's warning last month that driving was dangerous to the health of women and of their children sparked an online wave of mockery.
"Physiological science" has found that driving "automatically affects the ovaries and pushes up the pelvis," Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan warned in remarks to news website Sabq.org.
"This is why we find that children born to most women who continuously drive suffer from clinical disorders of varying degrees," he said.