S Arabia warns against women’s driving campaign

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The Saudi Arabian authorities have warned against launching any campaigns for women’s right to drive in the kingdom.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that calling for “banned gatherings and marches” to encourage women to drive is illegal.

“The Interior Ministry confirms to all that the concerned authorities will enforce the law against all the violators with firmness and force,” the ministry said in a statement.

The warning follows Saudi female activists’ opposition to the long-standing driving ban, with many defiant women already behind the wheel in more than 50 videos posted online.

The activists have called for a demonstration under the slogan “Women’s driving is a choice” on October 26 in an attempt to stand up to the prohibition in the only country that bans women from driving.

“October 26 is a day on which women in Saudi Arabia will say they are serious about driving and that this matter must be resolved,” said Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi activist who was arrested and held for nine days in May 2011 for posting online a video of hers while driving.

“There will be a November 26, December 26, a January 26, until authorities issue the first driving permit to a Saudi woman,” Sharif added.

The activists have asked protesters to put the logo of the campaign on their cars and asked women with international driving license to get behind the wheel in the day.

There is no specific law to prevent women from driving in the country, however, women simply cannot apply for driving licenses and some have been arrested for driving.

On Monday, rights group Amnesty International censured Saudi authorities for not addressing the “dire human rights situation” in the kingdom.

The group also handed in a paper to the United Nations, which included information regarding a “new wave of repression against civil society, which has taken place over the last two years.”

 

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