Saudi women set to break driving ban

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Unfazed by fear of being arrested, Saudi female activists are preparing to test a traditional ban on women driving by getting behind the wheel, despite stern warnings.

Their Facebook campaign, dubbed Women2drive, says the action will start on Friday and keep going “until a royal decree allowing women to drive is issued” in the ultra-conservative kingdom — the only country where women face such a ban.

Saudi Arabia has been largely spared the spillover effect of uprisings across the Arab world, after two calls for protests in March went unanswered.

But now “it seems that women, who are the main victims of suppression, will carry the banner of change in the Saudi society,” said columnist and novelist Badriya al-Bishr.

There is no law banning women from driving in the oil-rich kingdom, but the interior ministry imposes regulations based on a religious edict stipulating women should not be permitted to drive.

Women in Saudi Arabia face a plethora of constraints, ranging from having to cover from head to toe in public, and needing authorisation from a male guardian to travel, to having restricted access to jobs due to strict rules of segregation.

Due to the ban, women end up having to hire foreign drivers whose wages eat into their salaries.

If they cannot afford a driver, they have to rely on male members of their immediate families to give them a lift.

 

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