Saudi women break driving ban, defying warnings: campaigners
ReutersRIYADH -- A few women filmed themselves driving in Saudi cities on Saturday, defying government warnings of arrest and prosecution to take part in a campaign against men-only road rules, activists said.
October 27, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
But some others stayed at home, put off by phone calls from men who said they were from the Interior Ministry, reported organizers of the demonstration against an effective ban on women drivers.
Police put up checkpoints in some parts of Riyadh, Reuters witnesses said, and there appeared to be more traffic patrols than usual on the streets of the capital — the latest sign of the sensitivity of the issue in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom.
“I know of several women who drove earlier today. We will post videos (online) later,” one of the campaign organizers told Reuters by phone.
Five videos were published on the campaign's YouTube feed and Twitter on Saturday morning, dated Oct. 26 and purporting to show women driving in Riyadh, the oasis region of al-Ahsa and the city of Jeddah.
It was not possible to verify when they were filmed.
King Abdullah has pushed some cautious reforms, expanding female education and employment . But he has also been careful not to open big rifts with conservative clerics.
Mosques across Saudi Arabia broadcast sermons on Friday telling women to stay at home.
Protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia, and public demands for political or social change have traditionally been interpreted by the authorities as an unacceptable challenge to the ruling al-Saud family's authority, local analysts say.
However, organizers said their call for women to drive on Saturday was not a political protest as they had not called for gatherings, rallies or processions of cars.
Instead they have asked women with foreign driving licenses to get behind the wheel accompanied by a male relative and drive themselves when performing everyday tasks.