They say there is no formal law on the books that forbids women from driving. Not that authorities will respond by saying “Oh, hey, you’re right. Here are the keys. Sorry about that.” It is, if nothing else, a signal to authorities that they are not going away quietly. “Saudi activists sue government over driving ban,” from Agence France-Presse, February 4:
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.