UPDATE: Saudi Arabia: Al Sharif released, 17 June Women2Drive campaign continues

Saudi authorities on Monday freed a woman jailed nine days ago for her role in promoting the right to drive for Saudi women. Manal Al Sharif, a 32-year-old computer security specialist employed by the oil giant ARAMCO, was detained May 22 after she defied the kingdom's ban on female drivers and posted a video of her action on YouTube, as part of a national campaign. 

The divorced mother of a 5-year-old son was charged with “inciting women to drive” and “rallying public opinion.”“Another chapter has been added to the Saudi women's struggle for freedom and equality with a great young new hero called Manal Al-Sharif,” veteran women's rights activist Wajeha Al Huwaider wrote in an email. “As the Arabs say, ‘The dogs bark but the caravan continues moving ahead.'” Another Saudi female expressed relief at Al Sharif's release and quickly added that “we will continue this (driving) campaign.” (Source: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/999652--saudi-woman-who-drove-home-her-point-is-released) 

Sharif's lawyer, Adnan al-Salah, confirmed that she wrote a pledge that she will not drive a car and that she has decided to give up her leading role in the 17 June Women2Drive campaign. He said the authorities had not imposed the conditions, but Al Sharif is likely to have come under enormous pressure to end her part in the protests, which have attracted worldwide support.

Below is a statement Al-Sharif allegedly published shortly after her release. In a tweet she denied she had anything to do with it:

"Statement Issued by Manal After Release from Prison in English"

I would first and foremost like to express my profound gratitude to our leaders, in particular the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for ordering my release from detention, a gesture that does not come as a surprise knowing the King’s benevolence toward his sons and daughters in this honorable country.

Concerning the topic of women’s driving, I will leave it up to our Leader in whose discretion I entirely trust, to weigh the pros and cons and reach a decision that will take into consideration the best interests of the People, while also being pleasing to Allah, and in line with Divine Law.

On this happy occasion, I would also like to affirm that never in my life had I been anything beside a Muslim, Saudi woman who aspires to remain in God’s good graces and to safeguard the reputation of our beloved country. And I will continue to uphold these values and principles until the day I meet my Creator whose compassion, and King Abdullah’s big heart, has helped me to persevere through my short-lived ordeal.

That said, I was stunned to learn of the accusations hurled at my religious and moral beliefs especially that they originated from individuals I least expected to go down that route. I held my breath for those speaking in the name of religion and others-May Allah guide them rightly-to do me some justice, and that if I had done wrong to blame me only accordingly and fairly, without defaming my faith, creed, and moral system. For at the end of the day I’m everyone’s sister and daughter. Yet how could they wound their sister and daughter with such charges? From the bottom of my heart though I beseech Allah to shower on them his forgiveness for the serious harm they’ve caused me.

Furthermore, I must point out I do not authorize any individual to speak on my behalf or put words in my mouth, whatever their personal agenda.

Finally, I pray for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. He is Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.

Translated by Zaki Safar (@safarzo)

May 30, 2011