Saudi woman to be flogged for driving a car

Photo: LamaG6/YouTubePhoto: LamaG6/YouTubeJust two days after Saudi Arabian King Abdullah declared that women would be allowed to participate in local elections, a Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a woman to 10 lashes with a whip for driving a car.

"Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it beggars belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car," Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, Philip Luther, said in a statement Tuesday.

"Belatedly allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement then the King's much-trumpeted 'reforms' actually amount to very little," he added.

Other women have also been charged with driving by themselves and now face the possibility of flogging as well. "They called me in for questioning on a charge of challenging the monarch on Sunday," Najla Hariri, who was detained late last week, told Reuters. "I signed a pledge not to drive again, although my driving was a result of necessity, not an act of defiance."

There is no actual law again women driving in Saudi Arabia, though the prohibition has been custom for decades. The ban was formally imposed on women by the Muslim kingdom's Minister of Interior in 1990, in response to a protest by female drivers; the ban is based on an interpretation of religious rules, and applies to foreign women as well. That same religious interpretation is also used to forbid women from obtaining a passport, opening a bank account, admitting themselves to a public hospital, working, getting married, getting divorced, undergoing certain kinds of surgery, or even going to school without permission from a male relative who acts as their guardian. The law does require that citizens carry locally issued driver's licenses, but the licenses are not issued to women.

In May, some activists called on women to challenge the ban, launching a social-media campaign called "Women2Drive" and posting YouTube videos, like this one, of women driving:

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