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Saudi Women Drive in Defiance

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Who can drive and under what restrictions?

Should women be allowed to drive alongside men?

While the answers to these questions may be obvious to some, they are what have animated the protests in Saudi Arabia over women’s access to cars and driver’s licenses.

Driving has long been associated with freedom and independence. On Saturday, October 26, 2013, dozens of Saudi Arabian women asserted their right to access this freedom by taking to the streets in cars, videotaping their drives, and uploading the videos to YouTube. More than 100 total women drove in the weeks leading up to the day. Their acts of defiance against Saudi Arabia’s restriction on women’s driving were met by some police intervention. According to the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal, at least six women were stopped from driving by Riyadh’s police and some were required to sign pledges that they would not drive again.

Though no law bans women from driving outright, the government doesn’t give driver’s licenses to women. According to the Guardian, government officials claim that the ban persists because it “accords with the wishes of society in the conservative kingdom.” Saudi Arabia’s complete monarchy prohibits all unauthorized civil organizations and protests. This current protest and the campaign leading up to it follows in the footsteps of two similar previous protests in 1990 and 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While increased police presence in the streets and admonitions from the government thwarted many women from driving on Saturday, grassroots organizers remain optimistic about the power of their movement to bring about positive shifts for women in Saudi Arabia.

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