Manal al-Sharif, Latest Saudi Woman Arrested for Driving, Sparks Protest Fury


Last week, a Saudi Arabian woman named Najla al-Hariri drove for four straight days “to defend her belief that Saudi women should be allowed to drive,” but was eventually arrested anyway. “I don’t fear being arrested because I am setting an example that my daughter and her friends are proud of,” she said. This week, Manal al-Sharif did the same, filming her efforts (above) and plotting a June 17 “drive-in” protest. On Sunday, al-Sharif was arrested, too, thus mobilizing the protest movement even more.

Al-Sharif has also been the victim of an online effort to undermine her efforts. A fake Twitter account, though one with relatively few followers, said the protest was cancelled only to be refuted by a Saudi blogger who writes of a conspiracy to quash the movement’s progress.

One of the protest’s Facebook pages has over 4,000 “likes”, while the AFP reports that a similar group gathered over 6,000 “likes.” Details of the protest can be seen here, with rules including the following:

1- There will be no gathering or demonstrations. Each woman that wants to participate should just get in her car and go about her daily business without the driver.
2- Only women who have valid driving licenses from other countries are to drive.
3- There are volunteers who will teach other women to drive until the government sets up an official system for women to obtain local driving licenses
4- Everyone should drive with their safety belts on and drive carefully.
5- Women who drive are encouraged to videotape it and upload it to YouTube.

And here’s more from the AFP:

The renowned novelist Abdo Khal, writing in Okaz, deplored the ban on women driving, and said he did not know “whether to laugh or cry” over the proposed Iqal campaign.

Ahmed Sayed Atif, writing in Al-Watan, called for women be allowed to drive, and that they not be arrested for not possessing a driver’s license, as can happen now.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page titled “We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women’s rights,” has been growing in popularity, with its number of “likes” rising by about 5,000 to more than 19,000 in a day.

“It is not a revolution, it is not a plot, it is not a gathering and it is not a protest — we are only requesting to drive our cars,” one post on the page said.

A YouTube comment on the above video, left two days ago, but unconfirmed, says, “[Al-Sharif] might be released today after signing not to repeat the crime she did not do.”

[ht/ Daily What, NYT]