“Women should not be allowed to drive…period.”
How many of you readers have either heard or have spoken of a similar comment? While there is some humor to be had from such stereotypes, all of that aside, women are actually banned from driving in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Apparently, this has been around since 1990 (I did not know this).
Since then, a number of women have tried protesting the ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia over the years with little success. Just recently however, another woman is making an attempt to protest the ban.
Manal al-Sharif is an organizer of an ongoing online campaign that is encouraging Saudi women to take action and drive on June 17th. As a result of her actions however, al-Sharif was arrested this past Sunday after she posted a YouTube video of herself driving throughout Saudi Arabia. After her arrest, al-Sharif’s online efforts began to disappear.
Her video was posted twice on YouTube and removed both times. Additionally, her Facebook page—which had nearly 12,000 subscribers—advertising the June 17th protest was altered to say that the event was canceled. And it doesn’t stop there. Her Twitter account was also fraudulently duplicated and had also announced the latter.
On the day of her arrest, a Saudi blogger by the name of Eman Al Nafjan in Riyadh flagged down the fake Twitter account and said: “Someone pretending to be her tweeted that she has repented once she realized that the call to lift the ban is an Iranian and atheist conspiracy that will lead society to moral decadence.”
Despite the Saudi government’s actions, the supporters revived Sharif’s efforts by creating another Facebook event page with mirrors of her driving video. The world-renown news firm, Al Jazeera, even went as far as featuring Sharif’s video and campaign.
In a statement to a French news and media firm, Eman Al Nafjan stated:
I’m under the impression that this mobilization has somewhat changed mentalities inside the country, but I also see that authorities haven’t budged an inch. Our leaders are like many others in the Arab world: they don’t take their people’s opinions and aspirations into account.
When I saw Manal’s initiative of launching a ‘Women Drivers’ day on June 17, I immediately decided to help her. The fact that she uses new technologies like Facebook and Twitter means that she is capable of reaching a much bigger number of people. I remember in 2007 trying to rally my friends by email and over the phone: it was a much longer process. In just a few days, Manal has already alerted thousands of people and even gotten local media’s attention.
– By: Chris Chin