Saudi women to defy driving ban on Saturday

It’s been a little more than two years since the last time women in Saudi Arabia took to the steering wheel to campaign for the right to drive. (2011 file photo/ AP /

On Saturday, women in Saudi Arabia are going to get behind the wheel and go for a drive.

The might not seem like such a remarkable thing — except for the fact that women are not permitted to drive in that country. There is no formal law banning women from driving in Saudi Arabia, but the government does not grant them driver’s licenses.

As NPR reported in a great piece this week, this is the third time women are defying the ban. Women who have dared participate in previous campaigns by hopping behind the wheel of a car have lost their jobs or been thrown in jail.

But with each attempt, their numbers have grown.

NPR’s Deborah Amos reported: “In 1990, 47 women made the first attempt to challenge the ban. They all lost their jobs, were prohibited from traveling for years, and were shunned for their defiance. The next challenge came in 2011, when activists Maha al-Qatani was the first Saudi woman to get a traffic ticket. The campaign fizzled after some women were jailed for driving. But soon after, King Abdullah said women could vote in local elections, and 30 women were appointed to the 150-member Shura Council, an advisory body to the king.”

There’s no word how many Saudi women will participate in Saturday’s campaign, but one organizer said that more than 100 have posted videos to a Web site of themselves driving.

So, when you get behind the wheel of a car this weekend, you may want to pause for a minute and take note that despite the traffic congestion and other headaches that you may encounter on your way, at least you get to decide yourself whether to drive or not to drive.


Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.



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