Dozens of women courageously drove cars and defied the Saudi authorities ban on female drivers.
Women to Drive
Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to travel, work or even study without the permission of a male guardian, in addition from being banned from driving their cars. The fundamentalist Ministry of the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has been discriminating against women and religious minorities and is also responsible for the death and the imprisonment of many religious freedom advocates.
But on October 26, women in Saudi Arabia protested against the systematic discrimination they face, by driving cars in several cities in the country. According to several activists and eyewitnesses, police filled the streets in search of female drivers. Some women were arrested, but later released into the custody of their “guardians.”
The Women to Drive campaign has gained solidarity from men. Saudi Arabia has been facing strong resistance from pro-democracy men and women, and victory--whether in women’s rights or any other human rights--is a victory for all pro-democracy activists.
While female activists are struggling against the discriminatory laws targeting women, other pro-democracy activists in several parts of the country are facing imprisonment for challenging the Western-backed system. For instance, Raif Badawi, well known for criticizing the Ministry of the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, is in prison facing a five year sentence. Abbas Al-Mezra, a pro-democracy activist and blogger who supports the peaceful protests in Qatif, remains in solitary confinement. Shiekh Nemer AlNemer, who has been threatened with crucifixion, remains at imminent risk. Lately, the prosecutor demanded crucifixion sentence for several activists from Qatif who participated in pro-democracy protests.
The Saudi government previously used Western arms (including Canadian) in the crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy activists in Bahrain. The Saudi governments’ forces have frequently targeted activists and protestors in the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia. Now the US intends to sell more than US $10 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
While it is important to be in solidarity with women resisting the discriminatory laws, it is essential for activists around the world to never forget the political prisoners, and peaceful protestors in several cities in the country. In addition to that, being in solidarity with men and women challenging the Saudi authorities means exposing the Western governments that back a sexist and repressive monarchy like Al-Saud.