Saudi Arabia: Will the Saudi Women Drive on 17 June?


nb:  Manal Al-Sherif has been released about 6 hours ago!  I have chosen not to change the post below which was written before Al-Sherif’s release although I (happily) did not predict her fate accurately.  Al-Sherif did issue a public apology and stated she would not attempt to drive again.   Issuing such words was likely a condition for her release (in my personal view).

The blog of Saudiwoman gives an excellent account and understanding on the plight of Saudi national Manal Al-Sherif and the impact resulting from her orchestrated plan that 17 June will be the day Saudi women go behind the wheel.  The initial campaign, initiated on a now defunct Facebook page, encouraged Saudi women who were in favor of gaining the right for women to drive in the Kingdom to peacefully start driving on 17 June.  These women were not planning a driving convoy by any means across the Kingdom but rather women would start driving themselves to conduct common errands such as transporting children to school or going grocery shopping.  As the campaign gained momentum some Saudi women, including Manal Al-Sherif, began driving ahead of the official date of 17 June.  Some of these women, including Manal Al-Sherif, posted videos on youtube of their epic journey on the public roadways.  Since her incarceration in a Saudi prison, the Saudi government applied leverage and Manal Al-Sherif’s video was removed from youtube.  However more videos of women driving in Saudi Arabia continue to appear on youtube in support of Manal Al-Sherif and for women to gain the right to drive.

The following video is of a woman driving in Jeddah during the daytime hours. She goes about her business without incident.


The next video is a young woman in Qatif.  She chose to take to the roadways under the cover of darkness. She drives for a longer duration than the first video but seems to carefully avoid well lit intersections and traffic lights.


However as Saudiwoman illustrates and explains so well on her blog Manal Al-Sherif’s initiative and the video which was taken while she drove has resounded with ripples just  like a stone being skipped across the water.  Some Sheiks and Imams are now speaking out in mosques and to newspapers about women driving and using their positions to influence men that women behind the wheel is evil and against Islam.

Will 17 June still be the day when Saudi women demonstrate their desire to have the right to drive?  Or will it be like the “Day of Rage” that never happened?  It seems to me that the strategy of the Saudi government is to keep Manal Al-Sherif imprisoned until 17 June has passed.  In the meantime the religious clerics have free rein to speak on the evils of Manal Al-Sherif and any women who would attempt to drive in the Kingdom.  They also address the honor and respect a family loses within the tribe and the society to consider or allow a female relative to drive.  Not all clerics oppose the right of women to drive and publicly voice support for Manal Al-Sherif.  However in my view the Saudi government is not going to allow or tolerate any attempts of women driving in the Kingdom.  On 17 June policeman and religious police will likely be out in large numbers prepared to apprehend any female seen behind the wheel of a vehicle.

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