Across Saudi Arabia, women are driving for a change.
Inspired by activists in the Arab Spring, several Saudi women hopped behind the wheel Friday, seeking to kick-start a backlash against the kingdom’s male-only driving rules.
One bold protestor even managed to cruise through the nation’s capital, Riyadh, for 45 minutes.
The Associated Press reports:
Activists have not appealed for mass protests in any specific sites. But they urged Saudi women to begin a growing mutiny against the driving restrictions that are supported by clerics backing austere interpretations of Islam and enforced by powerful morality squads.
Encouragement poured in via the Internet. "Take the wheel. Foot on the gas," said one Twitter message on the main site women2Drive. Another urged: "Saudi women, start your engines!"
The defiance could bring difficult choices for the Western-backed Saudi authorities who so far have escaped major unrest from the Middle East turmoil. Officials could either launch a crackdown on the women and face international pressure or give in to the demands at the risk of angering traditional-minded clerics and other groups opposing reforms.
It also could encourage wider reform bids by Saudi women, who have not been allowed to vote and must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel or take a job.
Technically speaking, the kingdom doesn't have a written law banning female drivers. That terrain is handled by its fatwas, or religious edicts, which say the ban protects against the proliferation of vice since women are more tempted to leave home and interact with male strangers when they are allowed to drive.