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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 13:43 GMT
Saudi women make video protest
Wajeha Huwaider at the wheel
Ms Huwaider joins the main highway after driving in her compound
Saudi women's rights activists have posted on the web a video of a woman at the wheel of her car, in protest at the ban on female drivers in the kingdom.

Wajeha Huwaider talks of the injustice of the ban and calls for its abolition as she drives calmly along a highway.

She says the film was posted to mark International Women's Day. Thousands have viewed it on the YouTube website.

The last such public show of dissent was in 1990 when dozens of women were arrested for circling Riyadh in cars.

Last year, Ms Huwaider and other activists circulated a petition which was sent to King Abdullah urging him to lift the ban.

Many women in this society are able to drive cars, and many of our male relatives don't mind
Wajeha Huwaider
In the three-minute clip, she at first drives around a residential compound where she notes that women are allowed to drive because it is not a public road.

But about halfway through, without comment, she executes a left turn onto the main highway and proceeds to drive along it in defiance of Saudi law.

"Many women in this society are able to drive cars, and many of our male relatives don't mind us driving," she says in Arabic.

"I hope that by next year's International Woman's Day, this ban on us will be lifted," she concludes.

In February, two leading Islamic scholars said there was no reason to continue the ban.

However, many conservatives continue to resist reform, arguing it would lead to mingling of the sexes which is banned under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic Law.

The 1990 protest, coming at the height of the Gulf crisis when US forces had come to defend Saudi Arabia, was followed by a crackdown on the women drivers and their passengers.

The women were jailed for one day, their passports confiscated, and many lost their jobs.

King Abdullah has in the past said that he thought a day would eventually come when Saudi women were allowed to drive.


A selection of your comments:

I feel women here will be able to drive in the near future due to international pressure. We have to admit that some problems will emerge in the beginning, but our society will get used to it. There was a similar experience with satellite channels when they were first allowed. Women driving will be the same.
Fahad Al-Nafisah -Hafr Al-Batin Saudi Arabia, KSA

I am a Muslim woman who has recently moved to the Middle East from Canada. Driving is allowed for women in the UAE, yet I have chosen not to drive. The kinds of harrassment that a women is subjected to here are a cause of concern. I felt safe driving in Canada and not here in the UAE. For this reason, I salute the religious leaders who issued this law because it actually protects women.
Fatima Saad, Al-Ain, UAE

While I disagree with the law banning women from driving, I don't think society is quite ready for that change. People are aggressive and rarely obey any sort of traffic laws. Accidents are common and often end up in a fight. To throw women into the mix, many of whom have never driven a car, will only make the situation worse. Especially since many man do not treat women with the kindness and respect that they deserve, as is ordered in Islam.
Sommer Wahab, Madinah, Saudi Arabia

"Mingling of the sexes" This is cited as one of the reasons women should not be allowed to drive? How ironic.... I live in Jeddah and who do you think drives us (women) around now? Our drivers who are NOT part of our families! Hello! Hello! I'd much rather be in a car alone than with someone brought to me by an employment agency with questionable driving skills.
April Tosch, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

I strongly support the Saudi Government not allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia. It is proved that women have more weak hearts and get more confused or nervous than men. There are double the amount of vehicles on the highways than there is room for already. Having women on the road will make more rush and more accidents for no reason.
Khalid, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Maybe those who are against women driving are afraid that women may be better drivers. Men should be proud of a wife who can manage to drive and support her family because then they have the proof that she's in that marriage because of love for him, not because she doesn't have a choice.
Ahmed, Beirut, Lubnan

Having lived and worked in KSA, my opinion is, it's their country let them decide. Internal affairs such as this, are just that, internal, nothing to do with the rest of us.
Thomas, Haukipudas, Finland

The West is the real culprit. It does not respect women. They are treated as sex objects. They have to look sexy and walk naked to have any 'material' value in their societies. Women there have to work to pay for their livelihoods. In Saudi Arabia, a woman has to be cared for and paid for by their husband and or parents. Good for Saudi women!
Mowafaq Arab, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The Saudis are turning tradition into religion, this is the point of no return, what's next? How about burning books...believe me this will never stop. Give Saudi women the rights they deserve.
Qaiss Dashti, Kuwait

Women are quite heavily oppressed in Saudi. However, much of this is due to the beliefs held by male members of the family. There need to be laws to protect women and give them status equal to men. The fact that women cannot drive shows that in the eyes of many they are inferior to men. Ms Huwaider is a brave woman and I wish her luck.
Ele Reader, High Wycombe (used to live in Jeddah)

The ban should be lifted of course. However driving in the kingdom is the least of our worries. Some men in Saudi Arabia do not even view us as human. First we need female police officers with the same power as the male officers to protect us. I was once involved in a car accident in Saudi Arabia, the police officer was more interested in learning what the relation was between me and the driver rather than asking if I was OK or needed medical assistance.
a saudi woman, Saudi Arabia

What happens in case of a serious emergency when the woman has got to get help, for her or other family members - like going to hospital? All power to those courageous women who are standing up for their rights as humans.
Yared Issac, Addis Ababa,Ethiopia

I had to wear my husband's clothes as a disguise and drive to pick up my 3 year old daughter from nursery becuase my driver just suddenly decided not to work. I had to put someone with me in the car because I couldn't go into the nursery dressed up like a guy and I thought what a hassle! I have 2 beautiful cars parked in front of my door but I'm at the mercy of my driver!!
Alaa, KSA

If the authorities don't want the sexes to intermingle then why don't they allow women to drive and ban men from driving?
Nicola While, Brussels

I think it is a matter of fear; Saudi men do not allow women to drive because they fear the psychological change in the women┐s personality that will follow. Part of men┐s dominance is having special privileges that women don┐t have. Women in KSA now can┐t go out without having a man to drive which gives Saudi men absolute monopoly on their movements. Such control is praised by the Saudi culture, and men will not forfeit such advantage easily at all!
Bassam, Egypt

If the ban were lifted, this small symbolic act would improve a lot of image problems Muslims have in the west and open up the way for more advances in the observance of women's rights in the Kingdom and beyond. The latter, however, will probably be seen as a negative rather than a positive in the Kingdom. I think the ban should be lifted, but I'm not holding my breath.
Mehdi Rifai, Damascus, Syria

I believe the west is using those women as a gateway, to influence very basic Saudi internal affairs. If they respect women as they say, let them remove those women in glass windows, like a monkey who is only waiting monkey business... So back off and mind your own women.
Jamal Al Nakhlani, London - Yemeni

I lived for 12 years in Saudi Arabia and enjoyed the luxury of relaxing in the backseat as my driver tackled the busy and chaotic Riyadh highways. In time I have no doubt Saudi women will be driving - perhaps their lack of peripheral vision due to the traditional face and hair coverings ought to be addressed.
Maddeleana Merrigan, Dublin, Ireland



SEE ALSO
Saudi scholars back women drivers
21 Feb 08 |  Middle East
Saudi women challenge driving ban
18 Sep 07 |  Middle East
Saudis clamp down on valentines
11 Feb 08 |  Middle East
Whatever happened to Saudi reform?
06 Feb 08 |  Middle East
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
15 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

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