Saudi female who defied motoring ban in fatal accident

Manal al-Sharif injured, her female companion killed in car accident in Saudi Arabia
Saudi is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. (Getty Images)
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Wed 25 Jan 2012 05:23 PM

A Saudi
woman who defied a driving ban in Saudi Arabia has been injured and her
companion killed in a car accident, it was reported on Wednesday.

Manal
al-Sharif, who was detained for ten days in May after posting a YouTube video
of herself driving, was driving in the northern Hael province when her car
overturned, AFP said.

“One
woman was immediately killed and her companion who was driving the car was
hospitalised after she suffered several injuries” police spokesperson Abdulaziz
al-Zunaidi told the newswire.

While
there is no written law that specifically bans women from driving in Saudi
Arabia
, senior government clerics have issued several religious edicts that
prohibit women from driving.

In May,
Saudi woman used the Facebook and Twitter social-networking websites to call
for females with international driver’s licenses to use their cars June 17.
They said their plan wasn’t a protest.

Al
Sharif’s YouTube video attracted more than 500,000 viewers before it was pulled
from the video sharing website.

Campaign
group, Human Rights Watch, condemned her arrest. “Arresting a woman who drove
her family around in a car and then showed it online opens Saudi Arabia to
condemnation - and, in fact, to mockery - around the world,” Christoph Wilcke,
senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement in
May.

There
have been several accidents in recent years of women being killed in driving
accidents, in spite of the ban. A Saudi woman and three of her ten female
passengers died in November 2010 when her car overturned in a crash, said AFP.

The wife
of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal in June spoke out in support of
women lobbying to overturn the kingdom’s ban on female drivers.

Speaking
to the Today Show, HH Princess Ameerah Al Taweel said allowing women
to drive is one in a list of reforms that must be addressed in Saudi Arabia.

“We’re
fighting for our rights and we are getting them. If we were not getting them,
you would not see me talking to you now,” she said.

Asked if
she wants to be the first woman to drive legally in the kingdom, Princess
Ameerah said “Yes. [But] for me, I don’t care if I am the first or the 60th, as
long as we drive. It’s a social need but looking at the other side, there are
priorities for us women here in Saudi other than driving. We care about laws
for women, women in the workforce – basic rights.”

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