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Tue 31 May 2011 04:45 PM

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Saudi female driver released into father's custody

Manal Alsharif challenged Kingdom's ban on women driving, urged others to follow suit

Saudi female driver released into father's custody
LEGAL VIEW: The conservative Islamic state has no written ban on women driving (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Saudi authorities released late on Monday a female activist
who was held for 10 days after challenging the country's ban on women driving
and encouraging others to follow suit, a lawyer and activists said.

Police arrested Manal Alsharif at her home on May 15 and
detained her in Dammam prison, facing charges of "besmirching the
kingdom's reputation abroad and stirring up public opinion," after she
posted a YouTube video of herself driving in the streets of Khobar in the
Eastern Province.

"She was released into her father's custody and now she
will either be taken to trial or the case will be dropped," Ahmad Al
Rashed, a Saudi lawyer following the case, said.

Abdullah al-Saadan, the Justice Ministry spokesman, could
not be immediately reached for comment.

US ally Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that does not
tolerate any form of dissent and applies an austere version of Sunni Islam in
which religious police patrol the streets to ensure public segregation between
men and women.

Besides being banned from driving women must have written
approval from a designated male guardian - a father, husband, brother, or son -
to work, travel abroad and even undergo certain forms of surgery.

The conservative Islamic state has no written ban on women
driving, but Saudi law requires citizens to use a locally issued licence while
in the country. Such licences are not issued to women, making it effectively
illegal for them to drive.

Alsharif led a campaign that aimed to teach women how to
drive and encourage them to start driving in the streets of Saudi Arabia
starting from June 17, using foreign issued licences, but her arrest has cast
doubt on the future success of the campaign.

"Her arrest was a fiasco for the Saudi
government," said Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb, a Saudi activist.

"Because her driving was put on YouTube I think the
government wanted to make an example of her so that June 17 will be aborted...
I don't think Saudi women should stop," he said.

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Kat 9 years ago

Sorry, I had to laugh - 'besmirching the kingdom's reputation abroad'.

emca 9 years ago

I agree Kat...
The government is besmirching their own reputation. Most civilized countries recognize "separation of church and state", and that laws are there to protect society, not support religious fanatacism.
As for being a US ally...money talks. If it were not for oil and money, the US would not care about Saudi Arabia and would be openly admonishing them for these discriminatory practics; unfortunately they are hypocrits.

Omar A. AlSadoon 9 years ago

You said "Most civilized countries recognize separation of church and state, and that laws are there to protect society, not support religious fanaticism."

IMHO, I think this might work for other cultures, but not the Saudi culture.
SA is a country found and based on Islam. Tribes were unified by the name of religion. It hosts more than 2Million annually for Hajj alone. The flag declares the fundamentals of Islam.

Although religious fanaticism shouldn't be encouraged, Saudi culture should still be respected by not forcing western methodologies on it. You haven't been in Saudi maybe and studied how the people think. You should do that before you judge.

Also, I think there are far too many serious human rights around the world to be considered by the US rather than who drives a car in Saudi Arabia and who doesn't.

American in Kuwait 9 years ago

Dear emca,

Have to agree that the USA and Obama are hypocrites when it comes to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain too.

Doug 9 years ago

It's not really a case of forcing Western methodologies on Saudi Arabia. Every other Muslim country in the world quite freely permits women to drive. Even countries which historically share a culture with that of the population in KSA (i.e. the rest of the GCC) permit women to drive.

Therefore I really don't understand the arguments that letting women drive is contrary to Islam or against Saudi culture. I'm not convinced that the Koran has anything to say on banning women from driving (otherwise, every other Muslim woman who drives in this world is apparently a bad Muslim), and the only reason it's against Saudi culture is because Saudi Arabia has decided to make it its culture.

As for studying what Saudi people think - here's an idea. Have a full referendum where all Saudi adults can vote on whether women should be allowed to drive. And make sure women can vote for what they want, rather that what their husband tells them to do. Then we'll see what people really want.

Syed 9 years ago

Doug you are right in a way to point out, that there is no where mentioned in the Quran and in Islam prohibiting Women to drive. Actually the interior minister of KSA did point out in 2010 that THE MATTER(prohibit women to drive) IS A CULTURAL ISSUE AND NOT A RELIGIOUS ONE. Some people are trying to give it a religious tone to defame muslim faith. Islam is a practical religion devoid of social dogmas and permits its followers ease and compatablity in all walks of life. So much so that it permits a muslim to even eat pork in severe circumstances to save ones life from certain death. Even though pork is forbidden to touch leave alone eat in normal circumstances. From this one can deduce that Islam is easy to embrace, practise and follow. Some cultures have made it difficult for which Islam is being blamed. There are a lot of muslim women driving cars dressed up in proper islamic attire in Asia , ME , US,UK & Europe going about their daily lives. Why dont people look at them.