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October 26th: A Day for Defying Saudi Ban on Women Driving

"Women are now allowed to drive bicycles in Saudi. "Not Forbidden" reads caption on caricature by @MohammadRSharaf" tweets @moniraism

Saudi women have only been recently granted the right to ride bicycles. “Women are now allowed to drive bicycles in Saudi. “Not Forbidden” reads caption on caricature by @MohammadRSharaf” tweets @moniraism

A group of Saudi women activists have set October 26th, 2013, as a day for defying the state ban on women driving. This campaign follows a series of previous campaigns, the most notable of which was on June 17th, 2011.

On the campaign's website, a call to sign a six-point declaration [ar] explains its goals [ar]:

نرى وبما انه لا يوجد مبرر واضح يقتضي منع الدولة المواطنات البالغات اللواتي يتقنّ قيادة السيارة من القيادة، ضرورة توفير السبل المناسبة لإجراء اختبارات قيادة للمواطنات الراغبات و إصدار تصاريح و رخص للواتي يتجاوزن هذا الاختبار. و في حال عدم تجاوز أي مواطنة لاختبار القيادة فلا يتم إصدار رخصة قيادة لها، بحيث تكون متساوية مع الرجل في هذا الشأن، فيكون المعيار القدرة على القيادة فحسب، بغض النظر عن جنس المواطن او المواطنة

Since there are no clear justifications for the state to ban adult, capable women from driving, we call for enabling women to have driving tests and for issuing licenses for those who pass. In case a woman fails, she should not get a driving license. There should be equality in this matter. Capability should be the only criterion, regardless of the citizen's gender.

Answering a common response made by top Saudi officials that it is “up to society to decide on this issue,” the declaration states:

إرجاء أمر كهذا لحين “اتفاق المجتمع” عليه ليس إلا زيادة في الفرقة وليس من المعقول والمنطق إجبار الناس بالإتفاق على رأي واحد، و نحن مجتمع كغيرنا يجب عليه الرضى باختلاف وجهات النظر، خاصة في أمر لم يحرمه نص صريح من القرآن أو السنة

Postponing such as issue until “society agrees” is only a way to incite more conflict. It is unbelievable to force people to have a single opinion. We, as other societies, accept having different opinions, especially when it is not explicitly stated in Quran or Hadith.

Since the declaration was issued three days ago, over 8,600 have signed it.

The head of the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (also known as the religious police), Abduallateef al-Shaikh, made controversy when he stated [ar] that he saw no religious justification for banning women driving. He, however, denied that the Committee would not detain women who drive:

وأكد آل الشيخ في حديثه أمس لرويترز، أنه لا يملك أي سلطة لتغيير السياسة السعودية بشأن قيادة المرأة للسيارات […] لكنه نفى صدور تعليمات في الآونة الأخيرة لأعضاء الهيئة بعدم تعقب أو إيقاف نساء لقيادتهن السيارات في المستقبل.

al-Shaikh confirmed to Reuters that he does not have the power to change Saudi policy regarding women driving […] but he denied that the members of the Committee would not track and detain women for driving in the future.

The October 26 campaign site also urges readers to help in the following ways:

Teach a woman to drive
Print out the Oct26th logo and hang it in your car window
Get the word out on social media about the plight of Saudi women
Post video and audio clips expressing your support

Videos made for previous campaigns to explain driving for women have been circulating again. One of which [ar] received over 450,000 views on YouTube since it was uploaded two years ago:

The video features a woman, from the Teach Me How to Drive Campaign, explaining to viewers how to drive a car.


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