A SAUDI woman will be tried for taking the wheel, in what she said was an emergency, despite the ultra-conservative kingdom’s ban on females driving.
The unnamed 35-year-old was arrested in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, then released with her father as her guarantor, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported yesterday.
The woman said she had to drive because she was suffering from a haemorrhage and, “in the absence of public transportation” and no driver of her own, she had no other way to get to the hospital, Okaz reported.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving.
There is no law banning women from driving, but the interior ministry imposes regulations based on a fatwa, or religious edict, stipulating that women should not be permitted to drive.
A group of defiant Saudi women got behind the wheels of their cars on June 17 in response to calls for nationwide action to break the ban.
The call, spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and severely punished after demonstrating in cars.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly threw her support behind the campaign, saying that “what these women are doing is brave, and what they are seeking is right”.
The icon of the campaign was Manal al-Sharif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, who was arrested on May 22 and detained for 10 days after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving her car around the eastern city of Khobar.
Last week, Saudi Arabia detained two Omani women for driving, releasing them after they signed a pledge not to do so again.
Women in the kingdom must hire drivers, or depend on the good will of male relatives if they do not have the means.
The ban, paradoxically, encourages hired male drivers to be in close proximity with their female passengers, in a country where mixing of unrelated men and women is prohibited.