Saudi Arabia: Saudi women make video protest

BBC News
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.

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."

11 March 2008