Saudi woman detained for driving

Woman who mounted internet campaign to get women driving is held for defying Saudi Arabian ban on females driving.

    A woman in Saudi Arabia was detained after she launched a campaign against the driving ban for women in the Kingdom and posted a video of herself behind the wheel on Facebook and YouTube.

    Human rights activist Walid Abou el-Kheir said Manal al-Sherif was detained on Saturday by the country's religious police, who are charged with ensuring the kingdom's rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings are observed.

    Al-Sherif was released hours later, according to the campaign's Twitter account. The terms of her release were not immediately clear.

    Al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,'' which urges authorities to lift the driving ban.

    She went on a test drive in the eastern city of Khobar and later posted a video of the experience.

    "This is a volunteer campaign to help the girls of this country'' learn to drive, al-Sherif says in the video.

    "At least for times of emergency, God forbid. What if whoever is driving them gets a heart attack?''

    'Mass drive'

    The campaigners have focused on the importance of women driving in times of emergencies and in the case of low-income families.

    Al-Sherif said unlike the traditional argument in Saudi Arabia that driving exposes women to sinful temptations by allowing them to mingle with policemen and mechanics, women who drive can avoid sexual harassment from their drivers and protect their "dignity.''

    Through Facebook, the campaigners are calling for a mass drive on June 17 and more than 12,000 people viewing the page have indicated they support the call.

    On their Facebook page, the group says women joining the campaign should not challenge authorities if they were stopped and questioned, and should abide by the country's strict dress code.

    "We want to live as complete citizens, without the humiliation that we are subjected to every day because we are tied to a driver,'' the Facebook message reads.

    "We are not here to break the law or demonstrate or challenge the authorities, we are here to claim one of our simplest rights.''

    Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women, both Saudi and foreign, from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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