Azza Al Shmasani alights from her car after driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh yesterday. Two Saudi women said they drove their cars in a new protest against a ban on women driving in the conservative country. The women were encouraged by a social media campaign.
Saudi women again defy driving ban; get support from Merkel
RIYADH: Two Saudi women said they drove their cars yesterday in a new protest against a ban on women driving in the kingdom. Their actions came in response to a call on the Internet for women in Riyadh to get behind the wheel, after a show of defiance on Friday in which 42 women took to the road.
Azza Shamassi, in her thirties, said she had driven her car yesterday, just as she has done “every day since last Friday”, despite a harassing message stuck to the windscreen of her car. The handwritten note read “Plz do not drive” on one side and carried an insult on the other, witnesses said. “This threat will not stop me,” Shamassi said.
Sara Al Khalidi also said she has been driving since Friday’s protest, saying she had driven again on Wednesday before being stopped by a traffic policeman, who told her that police were looking for her and that she should drive home without stopping.
She said that “people encourage me when they’ve seen me driving these last few days”.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both expressed support for Saudi women who wish to drive. No law forbids women from driving in Saudi Arabia but a religious edict stipulates that women must be driven by a male chauffeur or family member. Germany’s first female chancellor, Angela Merkel, believes a campaign by Saudi women to lift a ban on them driving is “understandable”, her spokesman said yesterday. Asked about comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who on Tuesday publicly threw her support behind the push by Saudi women, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert indicated the German leader was also sympathetic to the cause.
“The chancellor finds Saudi women’s desire to drive understandable,” he told a regular government news conference. “When she was in Saudi Arabia (on an official visit in February 2007), women expressed this wish to her.”
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