Vol. 75/No. 24 July 4, 2011
Saudi women defy ban on driving cars
BY CINDY JAQUITH
Dozens of Saudi women drove cars in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and other Saudi cities June 17 to protest the ban on women driving.
It was the first major protest against the Saudi monarchy’s reactionary ban since November 1990, when 47 women drove 14 cars in a convoy on a Riyadh highway. That action came after U.S. women soldiers were stationed in Saudi Arabia prior to the start of the U.S. war against Iraq and freely drove military vehicles.
The 47 women were arrested, lost their passports for a year, and were fired from their jobs. A religious order prohibiting women from driving was handed down and quickly embraced by the Interior Ministry.
The ruling Saudi family, a close ally of Washington, has historically invoked Islamic law to justify tight restrictions on political space, not only for women but all working people in the kingdom.
Women are allowed to drive in some rural villages, where they have traditionally taken produce to market, hauled water, and transported people.
In addition to the prohibition on driving, Saudi women cannot vote. They require a male guardian’s permission to take a job or travel.