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Saudi Women Drivers Not Deterred by Arrest

A Saudi womens' activist writes that arrests won't stop women from pushing for their right to drive.
A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia October 22, 2013. A conservative Saudi Arabian cleric has said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems, countering activists who are trying to end the Islamic kingdom's male-only driving rules. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving, but debate about the ban, once confined to the private sphere and social media, is increasingly spreading to public forums too. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nass

RIYADH — When a woman in Saudi Arabia gets behind the wheel, the police stop her, call her male guardian and get both to pledge that it does not happen again. On Nov. 6, 1990, 47 women unsuccessfully protested the ban. They were punished so severely that no one dared again until Manal al-Sharif unsuccessfully tried in 2011 and was punished for it. This year, a new grassroots campaign was launched by a number of Saudis too large to be stopped and punished. The third time is always the charm.

No one expected the success of the Oct. 26 Women Driving Campaign. It came out of nowhere. The idea started with a draft of a petition. That draft was shown to and revised by dozens of Saudis. It inspired a logo. Then it was posted on a website and for the first couple of days, I still allowed other Saudis to revise a phrase here and there. On the third day, it was finalized. I was so thrilled when student Loujain al-Hathloul agreed to announce the campaign because we wanted to come out with a bang rather than have a buildup to it.

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