Saudi Women Break Monarchy’s Ban on Driving


May 21, 2011

The Saudi women’s driving rights campaign took on a new challenge as activist Manal Al-Sharif, accompanied by leading advocate for women’s rights Wajeha AlHuwaider, drove on the streets of Khober in the kingdom’s Eastern Province in defiance of the Saudi Monarchy’s decades-long ban on women driving.

The pair posted a video of them driving the coastal city known for its housing of large number of western expatriates and local professionals working for Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world where Al-Sharif and AlHuwaider work along Saudi and foreign men. AlHuwaider, a long time women rights campaigner set June 17th as the National Day for Women Driving where hundreds of women will take to the streets to end the monarchy’s ban. Other activists behind the campaign are; Bahia Al-mansour, Rasha Almalki, Eman Abdullah, Manal Alsharif, Amaina Al-anazi, Mannori Al-Turki, Huda Al Essa, Ahmad Al-Yacoub. 

Local Reaction Responses to the campaign have started in Qatif where an unknown young woman accompanied by her father posted a Youtube video of her drive through the street of the Shia stronghold that witnessed the first women walkathon ever in the country earlier this year. 

Western Reaction In addition for the absence of any policy on the issue, the EU and the US administrations have never made a single statement supporting women’s rights in Saudi Arabia for driving or voting. Saudi women’s push for driving and other rights have not been received with enthusiasm in Washington and European capitals alike. During his speech on the Arab awakening last week, President Barack Obama did not address the status of women under the Saudi regime despite the monarchy’s recent ban on women voting in the ongoing limited elections for the powerless municipal councils, and the long list of violations of basic women’s rights including the ban on driving.  Saudi ambassador Adel AlJubeir was present in the audience during the president’s speech shedding light in the Obama administration’s position on the women rights issue in the desert monarchy. Several attempts for comments by the State Department were not successful. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who met with Saudi and other Gulf officials in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in April, made no mention of women rights in the Gulf or in Saudi Arabia, let alone express support for women rights in Saudi Arabia for driving and voting. Al-Sharif and AlHuwaider are both American educated. AlHuwaider holds a masters degree from George Washington University, while Al-Shairf holds a degree from Delaware.  

On the Net:
Manal Al-Sharif drives her car on May 19th 2011 in Khober

Manal AlShairif answers questions on YouTube May 18th 2011
Girl in Qatif region drives her car on May 20th 2011.
Women2drive YouTube channel:
he pioneer of women driving in Saudi Arabia driving her car in 2008
Twitter:   @Women2Drive #Women2Drive


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