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Thu 27 Mar 2014 01:04 PM

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Women to again defy Saudi driving ban

Amnesty International is encouraging women in Saudi Arabia to drive on Saturday in another campaign to remove the unofficial ban

Women to again defy Saudi driving ban
Saudi women, saudi women driving

Activists calling for women to be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia will again hold a campaign on Saturday, international human rights organisation Amnesty International said.

Women and supporters are being asked to defy the kingdom’s unofficial ban and drive.

Amnesty International is calling on Saudi authorities to “respect the right of women” and “to end the harassment of supporters of the campaign”.

Several activists who participated in a similar protest on October 26, last year, were detained by the Ministry of Interior and forced to sign pledges not to repeat the “offence” before being released.

Men who supported the campaign also were targeted, including Tariq Al-Mubarak, a schoolteacher and activist who was held for more than a week without charge and interrogated, according to Amnesty International.

The organisation said more than 100 women in Saudi Arabia claim to have defied the ban so far.

In January, authorities seized the car of Tadamur Al Yami, a mother of two, who posted a video of herself driving in Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are not allowed to drive. However, the ban is not written in law and is only enforced because of strict religious custom.

Women have been campaigning against it for more than 20 years and it has become one of the most high profile human rights campaigns in the region and also has been backed by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In November, Saudi Arabia’s highest Islamic authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh, said banning women from driving would “protect society from evils”.

Other opponents have claimed that allowing women, who must be fully covered in a niqab in public, to drive would increase crime rates because men would dress up in the Islamic garment in get-away cars.