5 women were arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia, after almost two weeks of a hands-off approach by the authorities. Did they just have a delayed reaction, or did the Saudi religious police hesitate because they thought women would get bored of increased autonomy and independence?
Four young women were arrested in a single car being driven by one of them in the Dorat Al Aroos area of Jeddah yesterday morning. The religious police, also known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, arrested them. Later in the day four police cars surrounded a car being driven by one woman who was accompanied by either her husband or brother, in downtown Jeddah. Both the man and woman were arrested, and the car confiscated. There is no news about the arrests from authorities, and it is unclear whether they are still in custody.
The women2drive campaign in Saudi Arabia has generated a lot of attention from the international community by using social media, and is already the biggest women’s movement in Saudi history. Manal al-Sharif, a 32 year-old computer programmer, was arrested for driving in May and called upon Saudi women to start driving on June 17. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Until yesterday, the authorities have not acted in response to women getting behind the wheel.
“While the status of these five women is not yet clear, one thing is: the Saudi police decided to wait a few weeks before cracking down in the hope that international attention on the ban on women driving would subside,” said The Saudi Women for Driving on Change.org. “If Saudi police think arresting women drivers is going to stop what has already become the largest women’s rights movement in Saudi history, they are sorely mistaken. On the contrary, these arrests will encourage more women to get behind the wheel in direct defiance of this ridiculous abuse of our most basic human rights.”
Graphic by Carlos Latuff