Saudi women get out of the backseats of a car in Riyadh in 2011
Saudi women get out of the backseats of a car in Riyadh in 2011. Two Saudi female activists have filed law suits against the government for refusing to issue them driver's licences and banning them from driving a car, they told AFP on Saturday. © Fayez Nureldine - AFP/File
Saudi women get out of the backseats of a car in Riyadh in 2011
AFP
Last updated: February 4, 2012

Saudi activists sue government over driving ban

Two Saudi female activists have filed law suits against the government for refusing to issue them driver's licences and banning them from driving a car, they told AFP on Saturday.

Manal al-Sherif, the icon of an Internet campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a ban on driving, and human rights activist Samar Badawi filed their suits against the interior ministry.

Sherif, who was arrested in May 2011 and detained for 10 days after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving, said she decided to file the lawsuit after having been denied a driver's licence.

"There is no actual law that states woman can't drive" in Saudi Arabia and therefore "no justification for preventing them from issuing a licence," said Sherif, one of the activists behind a "My Right, My Dignity" campaign aimed at ending discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia.

Badawi said the grievance board at the interior ministry had informed her to "follow-up in a week" to confirm a court appointment for her lawsuit.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are not allowed to drive. However, they sit behind the wheel in desert regions away from the capital.

Women in the kingdom who have the financial means hire drivers while others must depend on the goodwill of male relatives.

They also have to be veiled in public and cannot travel unless accompanied by their husbands or a close male relative.

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