Woman Sentenced to 10 Lashes For Driving in Saudi Arabia

UPDATE, 8:40 pm EST, September 28, 2011: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has overturned the woman’s sentence of 10 lashes, according to an unofficial report.

A Saudi Arabian woman, identified only as Shema, has been sentenced to ten lashes for defying the country’s ban on women driving in the city of Jeddah in July. Women2drive, which is campaigning to overturn the ban, said that Shema has already placed an appeal. Her sentence was made public just two days after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud had announced that women in the most conservative Arab country will be given the right to vote and to run in municipal elections in 2015.

Said Philip Luther, an Amnesty International regional deputy director:

“Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it beggars belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car.”

“Allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement then the king’s much trumpeted ‘reforms’ actually amount to very little.”

In addition, Najla Hariri and several other women will face a trial in a month for driving in Jeddah in June as part of a mass driving protest. Dozens of women challenged the driving ban when Manal al-Sharif, an IT expert, was detained for more than 10 days after posting a video of herself driving on the internet. Al-Sharif also called for a June 17 mass driving protest. She was released after she signed a pledge not to drive again or to speak to reporters but scores of women still participated in the mass drive. Indeed, Hariri and several other women have driven since then and Hariri has also started a campaign, “My Right, My Dignity,” to end all forms of discrimination against women.

Women who have been stopped by police for driving are usually held until a male guardian is summoned, after which the women must sign a pledge not to drive again; some are then told to appear in court. Hariri and another activist, Samar Badawi, had refused to sign the pledge when they were detained at a police station three weeks ago and contend that there is “no legal basis” for bringing the to trial. As Badawi points out,

…she has been driving every two or three days in Jeddah since June and has not had a problem. The port city is notably more liberal than the capital, Riyadh, and other parts of the country.

“We are marginalised in very basic rights,” said Badawi, who was sentenced to six months in prison for disobeying her father. “They think that by giving us some political rights, we will be pleased and shut up.”

There is no actual law in Saudi Arabia banning women from driving but citizens are required to have a locally issued license; as these are not issued to women — both Saudis and foreigners — they are in effect unable to drive. Women must hire a driver for $300 to $400 a month or rely on male relatives to drive them.

While gaining the right to vote and for two women to serve on the advisory, and currently all male, Shura Council, the list of what women in Saudi Arabia cannot do without a mahram or male guardian is long. With a  mahram’s approval, they cannot work, marry, divorce, travel, be admitted to a public hospital or live independently. Even more, “men can beat women who do not obey them and fathers or brothers have the right to prevent female relatives from getting married if they do not approve of her suitor.”

Activists contend that the trials expose a “gap between the image the kingdom wants to show to the outside world and the reality.” Says activist Aboul Khair, who has been referred to court a number of times for challenging the legal restrictions on women:

“Saudi Arabia has always had two kinds of rhetoric, one for outside consumption to improve the image of the kingdom and a more restrictive one that accommodates the religious establishment inside.”

Related Care2 Coverage

Saudi Arabian Women Granted Voting Rights

5 Saudi Women Arrested For Driving

Woman Arrested For Driving in Saudi Arabia (VIDEO)


Photo taken in the Saudi Arabian city of Gizan by Retlaw Snellac


TERRY R4 years ago


Dominic C.
Dominic C5 years ago

Islam is a very disciplined religion... Even in European Muslims are extremely conservative. Islam is not for anyone who is brought up in a lifestyle that seeks freedom and excitement. Islam is about self-control, commitment and the ability to forsake needs for the sake of the religion. If any of your friends or loved ones think they can do it...advise them properly and if anybody wishes to go to places like Saudi Arabia and to test the discipline...ask them to conduct the research fully before undertaking such a feat. Because if they fail and broke any Islamic laws or the Sha'ria, countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, etc. will not compromise and punishments are severe.

Geraldine T.
Geraldine T5 years ago

I have had a bad feeling about Muslims many years before 9/11, & now I know why. I have listen to the Muslim women who live in our christen countries, say that their religion honers women & they don't feel they are restricted or made to feel like they are owned & of course allot of them aren't, but there are some who wouldn't dare to disobey there husbands or they know they would be severely punished. I have seen women walk behind their husband right in the suburb I live in. Right now these women are being punished behind closed doors but if our countries keep letting these people establish their evil religion in our country, we will soon be taken over by them, just by shear numbers. There are muslim leaders in my country who want our government to follow shari law, & the frightening thing is, there might come a time when our country is just like Saudi Arabia.
All I can say to those women who defend their religion, is go & live in a country like Saudi Arabia, & see how you like being "protected" in that country.
No other religion these days, encourages their people to kill themselves & at the same time kill innocent by standers, only muslims do that, why would any one think that Islam is a peace loving religion when all they have done for hundreds of years, is kill anyone who doesn't follow their believes.

Ernest R.
Ernest R5 years ago

@ Margaret C You are the one who doesn’t want to know about this culture, preferring to believe that the reports of these events are fictional. It is really past time to wake up and smell the coffee. As you have decided to comment, perhaps you would care to disagree with reality like a good Islamophile and point out what you found incorrect in my post.

David Anderson
David Anderson5 years ago

Margaret C.
3:52PM PDT on Sep 29, 2011
To Huda and Abdul Aziz A., stop wasting your time! Most people don't want to know about this culture, they just want to point fingers, criticize and judge and believe that they are better. By some of the comments made, you can see that they have moral and racial issues. Don't try to educate them, they aren't listening.

Margaret, right back to you! You apparently think that everyone capable of applying critical thinking to the observation of evidence is some kind of xenophobic dolt. Try again. Aside from playing host to some of the most barbaric practices on the face of the planet, they are downright nice folks. I get thoroughly sick of misguided individuals like you implying that people like me are at fault for daring to disagree with the behavior of others, but it is apparently OK with you that the others with whom we disagree beat, maim, imprison, and execute people for disagreeing with them. Grow up.

Ernest R.
Ernest R5 years ago

@ AbdulAziz A In my post I asked several questions. You answer none of them. Saudi royalty is actually the moderating influence in their country but they must tread carefully because of the fanaticism of their population. They know what happened to a Pakistani official that attempted to moderate a “blasphemy” death sentence. I associate things with Islam that I AM aware of and if you wish to discuss them, please write coherent sentences. Honor killings, practiced by Pakistani Muslims, Jordanian Muslims, Egyptian Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, even taking place in North America, are a very poor way to show love for “mothers, wives, sisters and daughters who need to be loved and cherished”. “and this is the teaching of Islam “?

Margaret C.
Margaret C5 years ago

To Huda and Abdul Aziz A., stop wasting your time! Most people don't want to know about this culture, they just want to point fingers, criticize and judge and believe that they are better. By some of the comments made, you can see that they have moral and racial issues. Don't try to educate them, they aren't listening.

AbdulAziz A.
AbdulAziz A5 years ago

Dear Earnest R. Please do not associate things with Islam that you are not aware of and don't pass the judgement in ignorance.

Quranic text should be quoted in full rather than taking it out of context.

Saudi are Muslims but not Islam. They have their customs which dictate their actions but the blame is attached to the religion. They do not practice what they preach and are equally hypocrite as the Western rulers.
They would do any thing to maintain grip on power but hopefully the wind of change comes soon and the new rulers are more sensible.
West is trying very hard to keep them in power and hopefully they are removed as soon as possible. Women are mothers, wives, sisters and daughters who need to be loved and cherished and this is the teaching of Islam and not the practice of a lot of ignorant people who even claim to be Muslims.

Arthur W.
art W5 years ago

Give the King a break. After all he did decree that women could vote in local elections.
Provided, of course, they be with a superior male (relative) to assure they not be molested by other males excited by the sight of female ear lobes.

Arthur W.
art W5 years ago

Give the King a break. After all did he decree that women had the right to vote (in some local elections). Of course they could not appear without some superior male making sure they will not be molested for allowed their ear lobes to be visible.