Saudi princesses spring BEHIND THE WHEEL

Posted: June 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

Saudi Women to Begin Driving Friday Despite Threats of Violence

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – Women across Saudi Arabia will begin driving their cars tomorrow one month after Manal Al-Sharif, a Saudi computer technician and mother, was arrested and jailed for driving her own car.

But the campaign and the international attention to Manal Al-Sharif’s arrest has led to an extensive backlash, with Saudis threatening to beat up any Saudi woman who attempts to drive or signs a Change.org petition.

“The risk is high and women are scared,” the group continued “Some of us have been specifically named in Saudi media as ‘traitors’, Saudi men have threatened to crack the windshield of any woman who tries driving tomorrow, and to beat up any Saudi woman who joined our Change.org campaigns. So this is not going to happen in one day, one week, or even one month. It’s just going to start tomorrow.”

Earlier today Saudi women sent a mass email (in Arabic) to Change.org’s membership throughout the Gulf reminding women to begin driving tomorrow.

Saudi women working with Change.org also plan to launch a campaign calling on car companies to stop selling their vehicles in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi women are also working with American women’s rights activists who have called on Oprah and other celebrities to publicly support Saudi women’s driving rights by joining a viral video campaign in which people all over the world are honking for Saudi women.

Change.org founder Ben Rattray spoke at length about the unprecedented success of Saudi Women for Driving on Al Jazeera’s The Stream, a daily program on social media which Rattray co-hosted on Tuesday.

“To see a grassroots movement of Saudi women’s rights activists use our platform to recruit tens of thousands of supporters in more than 150 countries has been truly heartening,” Rattray said Thursday ahead of the protests. “Inspired by the Arab Spring, these women have started one of the most significant women’s rights protest movements Saudi Arabia has seen in two decades. Change.org is about empowering anyone, anywhere to demand action on the issues that matter to them, and it is an honor to provide a platform for these Saudi women.”

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are not allowed to drive a car or even ride a bicycle. With no public transportation system, getting to work, school and medical appointments is complicated, expensive and dangerous for Saudi women. The dependence of Saudi women on men for transportation is repeatedly exploited by abusive fathers, brothers, husbands and hired drivers, and earlier this week a Saudi woman reported she had been raped at gunpoint by her hired driver.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Saudi Women for Driving
saudiwomenfordriving@change.org
Saudi Women for Driving is an informal consortium of Saudi women’s rights activists pulled together after the arrest of Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi mother arrested for driving her car. The group is working with Change.org to build international support for Saudi women’s right to drive.

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