Sign up for the Essential California newsletter to get great stories delivered to your inbox
World World Now

Saudi officials set up roadblocks against women's 'drive-in' protest

CAIRO - Some dared to drive. Others stayed home, but promised to take to the roads another day.

Calls for a nationwide “drive-in” to protest Saudi Arabia’s de facto ban on women driving were softened at the eleventh hour by organizers, who said Saudi Arabian authorities threatened them with serious consequences if they drove on Saturday.

Activists urged female would-be motorists to instead make it an ongoing campaign, and to get behind the wheel whenever they could. They said about 60 women altogether reported they had driven in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, with more than a dozen uploading videos of themselves doing so.

Even on a smaller scale than originally envisioned, it was the year’s biggest action against the restriction. No arrests were reported, although authorities did have stepped-up traffic patrols and some roadblocks in the capital, Riyadh.

Women in Saudi Arabia have for decades chafed at the kingdom’s driving ban, the only one of its kind in the world, which forces them to rely on male relatives or drivers to run even the most basic errands. Some women are virtually imprisoned in their homes as a result.

The pro-driving campaign drew an outpouring of international support, with backers cheering on the women on social media. “Ride, Saudi women, ride!” exclaimed one Twitter commenter. Some of the women taking part tweeted accounts of their motorized excursions.

Many men joined in the campaign as well, voicing encouragement of the drive-in. One Saudi performer made a YouTube video called -- sarcastically -- “No Woman, No Drive,” set to the tune of the Bob Marley classic, to make fun of the reasons authorities give for refusing to give women driving licenses. That included a widely mocked recent claim by a conservative cleric that driving damages women’s reproductive health.


Mexico: Fatal explosion at candy factory in Ciudad Juarez

Egyptian comic praised by Jon Stewart goes back into the fray

Two Americans taken hostage by pirates off the coast of Nigeria

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Saudi woman drives despite warnings
    Saudi woman drives despite warnings

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A Saudi woman said she got behind the wheel Saturday and drove to the grocery store without being stopped or harassed by police, kicking off a campaign protesting the ban on women driving in the ultraconservative kingdom.

  • Saudi Arabia rejects Security Council seat, lashes U.N. as failure
    Saudi Arabia rejects Security Council seat, lashes U.N. as failure

    A day after the United Nations elected Saudi Arabia to a prestigious seat on the Security Council, the Saudi leadership refused to accept the position and lashed out at the world body for "double standards" and failure to protect peace.