A police car passes the US consulate (L) in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah
A police car passes the US consulate (L) in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah 2004. A Saudi mother was freed after she was briefly arrested in the western city of Jeddah on Wednesday for defying a ban on women drivers, she and her daughter told AFP. © - AFP/File
A police car passes the US consulate (L) in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah
AFP
Last updated: August 24, 2011

Saudi woman campaigner briefly arrested for driving

A Saudi mother was freed after she was briefly arrested in the western city of Jeddah on Wednesday for defying a ban on women drivers, she and her daughter told AFP.

Najla Hariri was arrested while driving to the office of her daughter, Dalia.

"My mother was taken to the police station," the daughter said.

Hariri was later released after her husband came to the police station where she said she was "treated politely."

"I have not signed any commitment that forbids me from driving", Hariri told AFP after her release, adding that she repeatedly told the police that there was no law in Saudi Arabia which forbids women from driving.

Since mid-May, Hariri who campaigns for women's rights, has driven around Jeddah several times without being arrested.

She is among a group of activists who launched an Internet campaign on June 17 urging women to defy the ban on driving in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Since then, women regularly get behind the wheels of their cars, according to the activists.

The icon of the campaign, Manal al-Sherif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, was arrested on May 22 and detained for 10 days after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving her car around the eastern city of Khobar.

Five Saudi women were arrested at the wheels of their cars in late June in Jeddah.

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

They are also obliged to be veiled in public, and cannot travel without their husbands or a close male relative.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.

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