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Saudi women start their engines in defiance of ban on female drivers/ USA TODAY/ONDEADLINE

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By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/06/some-saudi-women-start-their-engines-in-defiance-in-ban-on-female-drivers/1

A campaign by women to defy Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers got rolling Friday with several claiming in interviews and on Twitter that they took to the streets behind the wheel of a car.

Maha Al Qahtani, a computer specialist at the Ministry of Education, told the Associated Press that she drove for 45 minutes around Riyadh with her husband in the passenger seat. “I wanted to make a point,” she says. “I took it directly to the streets of the capital.”

Reports are sketchy, but one protest organizer, Benjamin Joffe-Walt, says there are confirmed reports of several women in the driver’s seat in the capital, Riyadh.

Twitter and Facebook pages served as a rallying point for the effort: “Take the wheel. Foot on the gas,” said one message#women2drive. Another urged, “Saudi women, start your engines.”

Veteran women’s rights activist Wajiha al-Huwaidar told AFPtoday that she did not expect a huge turnout because of a crackdown on some campaign organizers in recent weeks.

Manal al-Sherif, 35, was arrested for 10 days last month afterposting a video of herself driving while urging Saudi women to turn out for today’s demonstration. She was released after reportedly signing a pledge that she would not drive again or speak publicly, the AP reports.

There is no written Saudi law barring women from driving — only fatwas, or religious edicts, by senior clerics following a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism.

In London, the rights groups Amnesty International has called on Saudi officials to “stop treating women as second-class citizens and open the kingdom’s roads to women drivers.”

Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

June 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm

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