Saudi Arabia warns against rallies for women drivers
Saudi Arabia has warned of a zero-tolerance policy towards “illegal rallies and demonstrations”, days ahead of a campaign to allow women to drive in the kingdom.
“With reference to the calls on social networks and in the media to hold gatherings and rallies under the argument of [allowing] women to drive, the regulations in the kingdom prohibit all prejudices to social peace,” the interior ministry said in a statement. “They also ban anything that leads to sedition or supports the illusions of inciters with sick dreams, intruders and predators. The Ministry of the Interior therefore stresses to all that the competent authorities will apply the regulations against violators firmly and vigorously.”
The ministry added that it appreciated “the keenness of many citizens on maintaining security and stability and avoiding the division and segmentation of the community.”
Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, even though there is no legal text that supports the ban imposed by conservative social views.
A campaign launched to allow women to drive said that women should be sitting behind the steering wheel on October 26 in a collective act of support for the right to drive.
The call won immediate support on social networks and several women posted pictures or video clips of themselves driving vehicles in several areas of the vast kingdom.
However, the call trigged angry reactions from those who opposed allowing women to drive and anti-women driving activists launched massive campaigns in the local media and online to ensure the ban is not lifted.
The debate over women’s right to drive has been one of the most heated in the Saudi media and blogosphere and social, economic and religious arguments have been widely used by both camps to support their claims.
On Tuesday, Saudi news site Sabq reported that 200 religious figures had visited the royal court in the Red Sea city of Jeddah to argue against allowing women to drive.
“We have come to highlight the gravity of the situation,” Shaikh Nasser Bin Sulaiman Al Omar, the secretary general of the League of Muslim Scholars, said.
“While those behind the conspiracy of women driving have approached the issue from the back, the shaikhs have opted for a front approach. The scholars have come from various areas of the kingdom to meet leading officials and emphasise the dangers that the country has to confront. The scholars did not provoke any problem,” he said.
Shaikh Abdul Rahman Al Mahmoud, another religious figure, said that the purpose of the visit to the palace was mainly to highlight the danger of “alienation” and “uprooting”, particularly that of women.