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  • Dare to Drive: A Saudi Woman Remains Imprisoned For Defying Moral Law

    Empowering and educating women in oppressive regimes around the world is one of the best ways to elevate freedom and democracy in those areas. The spark of a freedom movement has caught fire in one of the worst places for women in the world: Saudi Arabia.

    Manal Al-Sharif is the woman whose face is at the forefront of a new campaign to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Like the flurry of protests before it this year, the “Women2Drive” movement demonstrates a powerful thirst for freedom in a place where little exists. If this movement succeeds, it could set a precedent for new liberties to be unveiled for Saudi women.

    Al-Sharif was arrested on Saturday after violating the country’s de facto law against women driving. It was the religious police—officially called the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice—who were called to the scene after authorities stopped her while driving her brother and his family through the city. Though women aren’t legally prohibited from driving, religious fatwas have been issued against the act.

    Previously, Al-Sharif had posted a YouTube video of herself driving alone through the city of Khobar, which only served to infuriate authorities more.

    Al-Sharif’s inspiration for making a political statement came after working late one night when she was unable to get a taxi or get in touch with a male family member to give her a ride. Female driving prohibitions make it difficult for women to attend school, go to work, and participate in public life. Poor women in rural areas—without the money for personal drivers or taxis—suffer most of all.

    She was released Saturday but according to CNN was “forced to sign a form promising not to drive again.” On Sunday, police came to her home and arrested her again, and she remains in jail. She is charged with “besmirching the kingdom’s reputation abroad and stirring up public opinion,” according to Human Rights Watch.

    Saudi Arabia is arguably the most oppressive society to women in the world today, and outrage ensued when the “Women2Drive” movement came to life. The group’s goal was merely to attain permission for women to drive, and they had planned a symbolic move for women to drive around the country on June 17.

    World Pulse reports the campaign did not call for demonstrations or group gatherings, but that any woman “willing to participate should just get in her car and go about her daily business without the driver.” They were also encouraged to videotape the experience. However, things have come to a halt since Al-Sharif’s arrest.

    Online efforts including the website for “Women2Drive” have reportedly been eradicated by the Saudi government. Additionally, numerous Facebook pages against women drivers have evolved with overwhelming popularity.

    The online censorship and anti-driving groups prove the need for those like Al-Sharif to take a stand if women are ever going to overcome anti-liberty factions moving against them. It also demonstrates that these women will require broad international support to succeed.

    Internet censorship is just one of the troubling aspects of this case. Heritage’s Helle Dale writes, “It is clear that the Internet today as a medium remains highly vulnerable and easily compromised. Control of the cyber battle space will be a key freedom issue in the future.” Luckily, individuals outside of the “Women2Drive” movement have been speaking out on Al-Sharif’s behalf.

    A Twitter account and a supportive Facebook page are both currently up and running as human rights supporters attempt to spread this story far and wide.

    The National newspaper reports the words from an email Al-Sharif wrote earlier this month: “We are not here to break the law or…challenge the authorities. We are here to claim one of our simplest rights. We have driving licenses and we will abide by the traffic laws…Enough with the talk…we are here to walk the talk and just do it. It’s about time!”

    Without people to “walk the talk,” revolutions never happen. Al-Sharif’s actions are the kind of moves that make a difference for the future of freedom in oppressive environments. Those who support freedom would be wise to stand behind her.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Dare to Drive: A Saudi Woman Remains Imprisoned For Defying Moral Law

    1. Roger S., Mass. says:

      What's a "de facto law"? In terms of legality, a law is no such thing unless it is "de jure"! Governmental agencies, semi-governmental agents, non-governmental organizations "enforcing" such non-laws are acting outside of the law. In every logical and literal sense, they are acting "outlaws"!

      Since this drive "for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice" is being instigated and empowered by so called "religious authorities", what does that tell us about Islam? To me it says that the backwardness of all of these societies keyed to fundamental Islamic ideas –morally, socially, politically, and technologically– is no accident.

      It further should give pause to all in the U.S.A. who would condone or approve of the kinds of "dual jurisprudence" inherent in the permission of Sharia Law in the name of "religious freedom". Ultra-Left ideologues who would promote such ideas need to be met with a resounding "NO"! Call us "intolerant" all you want: We will not tolerate for even one tiny second, in our secular society, religious intolerance in the name of (what it isn't) "religious freedom."!

      Beyond that, we need to stop sending these folks our money. We have plenty of oil, natural gas, uranium, sun, and water on our own shores to become independent of their oil. The EPA was put in place over 30 years ago to promote our energy independence. It has failed miserably. Get rid of it! Also, get rid of the Obama administration in 2012. Get somebody in the WH who understands this and will also "walk the talk" (and who doesn't need teleprompters to help with such simple concepts.) — Fundamental Islam IS the problem, world-wide! We need not import to our shores any more of it than we already have!

    2. Krichter says:

      I want so badly to go out and partner with Manal Al-Sharif. What more can we do as women other than write our words down on blogs and facebook? We need change NOW! This is 2011 for Christ's sake!

    3. Bobbie says:

      That's what disgusts me. The fact that it's the 21st century and men are oppressing women! Since when do religious beliefs trump the law? Is it fair to understand religious fatwas as enforced laws of admission of petty intolerances and weaknesses of Saudii men against women? Gosh, that's pathetic when you're brought up in a country of strong, dignified, enduring men, who would forgive a woman without a thought of physically stoning her and sharing this matter of privacy with the public! What pathetic pigs! American women and the American man of innate chivalry, back this movement for Saudi women and respect her God given ability to be self reliant..

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