JEDDAH – An online campaign launched in October that urged the government to lift a ban on women driving in the Kingdom still appears to be going strong, with many women continuing to drive on Jeddah and Riyadh streets.
The October 26th movement received more than 12,000 signatures before it was blocked back then, but campaigners managed to put it back up again and received more than 800 signatures.
After gathering people on social media, many women have begun posting videos driving cars. However, the campaign was extended to the Dec. 28. Several women were caught by police recently but have only signed pledges not to drive again.
On Dec. 11, two women were caught in Riyadh driving and refused to call their male guardians, saying that they were guardians of themselves. They were finally released at 1 a.m.
The Twitter hashtag changed from Oct. 26 to Dec. 28, with people expressing their opinions on women driving as well as sharing stories.
Most of the arguments against the campaign describe women driving as “demonic”, “Masonic”, “Westernization” and an attempt to “liberalize” Saudi society.
One of the comments said the campaign is defying the country’s laws and regulations and those behind it should be ashamed of themselves. Despite those who are against women driving, the campaign is receiving a lot of support, with women sharing their bad experiences with drivers and how costly hiring them has become.
The campaign aims to revive the demand to lift the ban on women driving while stressing that the initiative has no anti-Islamic or political agenda. It said neither Islam nor the official laws of Saudi prohibit women from driving.
Islam and the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia both ensure that all, regardless of gender, have the right to freedom of movement, said the campaign.
“Since there is no law to prohibit adult women citizens who are capable of driving cars from doing so, we urge the state to provide appropriate means for women seeking the issuance of permits and licenses to apply for and obtain them,” said a petition statement.
The statement also said deferring an issue such as women driving until a “societal consensus” has been reached has only increased divisions.
“We as a Saudi people are diverse and accepting of all views that are not prohibited in the Qur’an or by the Prophet (peace be upon him).”