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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

10/28/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Conservative Middle Eastern nation is only country in the world that forbids women drivers

A recent protest in the capital city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia saw women walking the streets, demanding their right to drive motor vehicles. Women there took to social media sites with videos showing the veiled women defiantly flouting convention by taking to the streets, driving cars. While there were no women drivers visible at the protest, that doesn't mean that Saudi women aren't driving - many times openly.

Women in Saudi Arabia rely on male relatives or hired drivers to get around. Clerics argue that allowing women to drive would represent an encroachment of Western values.

Women in Saudi Arabia rely on male relatives or hired drivers to get around. Clerics argue that allowing women to drive would represent an encroachment of Western values.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/28/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Saudi Arabia, Middle East, women, driving, demonstration


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - More than 16,000 Saudi women signed an online petition. In addition, about 13 videos and 50 other messages were received by the activists that organized the campaign purporting to show women disobeying the ban on driving. Professor Aziza Youssef says that these numbers would make it one of the most successful such demonstrations this year.

Other Saudi woman have said they decided not to drive in the country that allows only men behind the wheel, citing pressure in the tradition-bound kingdom.

"I have decided not to drive after all," Reem, an 18-year-old student at King Saud University told reporters. Reem along with two of her fellow classmates previously said they would take their family SUV and drive along the King Fahd Road, one of Riyadh's busiest highways.

"If it was just about me getting caught, then I might have gone ahead," Reem said. "There are religious fanatics on the Internet telling citizens that it is OK to beat up or even rape women who drive. So with all that's been happening and all the serious consequences that it could have for me and my family, I think that it's best just to forget about it for now."

Public warnings were issued threatening action against those flouting the ban, and mosques warned women to stay indoors this past Saturday.

Maha Al Sheikh, a mother of four from Riyadh, says that the debate is the main thing about the recent demonstration. "I think that at least it isn't being brushed aside like in the past, and this time even the religious establishment has been on our side." The head of the country's religious police has come out to declare that there was nothing in Islamic law to prohibit women from getting behind the wheel.

Women in Saudi Arabia rely on male relatives or hired drivers to get around. Clerics argue that allowing women to drive would represent an encroachment of Western values.

There have also been instances of private individuals who, vigilante style, have issued threats to any women seen driving. The Ministry of the Interior released a statement declaring that support of the online petition backing female drivers would be seen as a criminal offense.

"If anything I thought that finally this issue would be over and we could discuss more important things," a female doctor who works at the Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital said.

"Everyone was saying that the government would be fine with it, but it's the media's fault for once again making it into a big deal and this has angered the religious people and the backward people and so the government had to retaliate," she said.

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