Saudi women petition for right to drive

600 Saudis have petitioned Saudi’s King Abdullah to allow women to drive in the kingdom
Sports in the patriarchal society of Saudi Arabia has long been reserved as an activity for men. (AFP/Getty Images)
By Sara Anabtawi
Thu 14 Jun 2012 12:37 PM

Around 600 Saudis have petitioned Saudi’s King Abdullah to allow women to drive in the kingdom, a year after a group of women’s-rights activists launched the Women2Drive campaign.

Signatures on the petition, which calls for the Gulf state to establish driving schools and issue driving licences, include Manal Al Sharif, founder of the Women2Drive movement, said AFP.

The petition asked to “encourage women who have obtained driving licences from neighbouring countries to begin driving whenever necessary” and “establish driving schools for women and [begin] issuing licences,” said 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.

The wife of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal last year 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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