5 Saudi Women Arrested For Driving


Two weeks ago, at least 42 Saudi Arabian women took to the streets by driving in a number of cities. While Saudi Arabia does not have a written law banning women to drive, women are forbidden to do so under a fatwa or religious edict issued by senior clerics following Wahhabism, a strict brand of Sunni Islam. Women have since been driving in the capital of Riyadh and other cities in defiance of the ban. But on Tuesday, five women were detained as they drove in the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea Coast, according to rights activist Eman al-Nafjan.

According to the New York Times, the four women, ages 21 and 22, were riding in one car. After being arrested by the religious police, they were taken to a police station where they signed a pledge not to drive again just as Manal al-Sharif, the Saudi women whose arrest and imprisonment sparked the campaign to overturn the driving ban, was forced to sign a pledge not to drive again or to speak to reporters before she was freed.

The fifth woman was arrested separately on Tuesday night while driving in the neighborhood of Suleimaniyah.

As Nafjian said in the Guardian:

“This is the first big pushback from authorities it seems. We aren’t sure what it means at this point and whether this is the start of a harder line by the government against the campaign.”

Saudi Women for Driving, described by the New York Times as an “informal coalition of leading Saudi women’s rights activists, bloggers and academics,” said that “these arrests will encourage more women to get behind the wheel in direct defiance of this ridiculous abuse of our most basic human rights.” Citing the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere as an inspiration, Saudi Women for Driving has called for “high-level western backing” and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and female leaders in Europe have indeed expressed their support for the campaign.

However, Clinton’s support of the campaign could put her and the Obama administration in a “delicate position,” as Saudi Arabia is a close US ally and the US is “increasingly reliant on Saudi authorities to provide stability and continuity in the Middle East and Gulf amid uprisings taking place across the Arab world.” Clinton herself has said that the Saudi women drivers “are acting on behalf of their own rights and not at the behest of outsiders like herself.” Again the question arises: How far can or will the US stick out its neck in supporting pro-democracy movements in Arab countries, while maneuvering to protect its own interests?

Go to #Women2Drive Twitter feed for more updates about the campaign to lift the ban on women driving i Saudi Arabia.

Related Care2 Coverage

Saudi Women Take the Wheel

Canadian Mother Nathalie Morin Detained in Saudi Arabia

BREAKING: Manal al-Sharif Released From Prison


Photo from a screenshot of a video of Manal al-Sharif driving on May 19, 2011, posted by noramist on YouTube.


TERRY R6 years ago


Tiberius G.
Tiberius G.6 years ago

The most important allies and friend of the USA is Saudi Arabia . Is it so because the Saudi Arabia do not allow women to drive a car.???

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W6 years ago

Oops, I've already commented on this one...

Geraldine H.
Gerri Hennessy6 years ago

I think the US shld stay out of it. It's fine to express opionions but not to use the typical bullyboy tactics the Us seem to use. Let the Saudi's hear the worlds opionions and make the change themselves. I agree they shld be allowed to drive, but the US seem to think they shld be able to tell the rest of us how to live.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

let the women drive .....

Stephen Greg
Jason T6 years ago

Evidently at least one country took the animated movie 101 Dalmatians way to seriously. "Crazy woman drivers..."

Lori Ann H.
Lori Hone6 years ago

Women have started all the changes going on in the middle east, very proud of them.

Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya6 years ago

Saudi Arabia is the United States' no. 1 ally in the middle east. Like all US allies, it's human rights record is dismal. The people of Iraq enjoyed more human rights and freedom under Saddam Hussein than do the citizens of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Egypt under Mubarak!
Telling it like it is...

Elgrit B.

I know we are dependent upon Saudi Arabia in many ways but I suspect they use what we have to offer as well. Certainly with the proper diplomatic handling of the driving issue, it could be explained that people all oveer the United States are pushing our leaders to let Saudi Arabia allow their women to drive. After all, we are suggesting and recommending and informing them, we are not forcing them. We are hopefully giving them something to think about for the future.

Valarie S.
Valarie Snell6 years ago

I agree with Keisha H