A Saudi woman who dared to drive: Manal al-Sharif

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There’s no actual law against women driving in Saudi Arabia. But it’s forbidden. Manal al-Sharif decided to encourage women to drive by doing so — and filming herself for YouTube. Hear her story of what happened next.

 

About Women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif

Manal al-Sharif is a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia who helped start a women’s right to drive campaign in 2011. A women’s rights activist who had previously filmed herself driving, Wajeha al-Huwaider, filmed al-Sharif driving a car as part of the campaign. The video was posted on YouTube and Facebook.

Al-Sharif was detained and released on 21 May and rearrested the following day. On 30 May, al-Sharif was released on bail, on the conditions of returning for questioning if requested, not driving and not talking to the media. The New York Times and Associated Press associated the women’s driving campaign with the wider pattern of the Arab Spring and the long duration of al-Sharif’s detention with Saudi authorities’ fear of protests.

Why you should listen
In May 2011, Manal al-Sharif filmed herself driving a car in Saudi Arabia, where women are prohibited from driving. She posted the video on YouTube, called on women to participate in a Women2Drive campaign on June 17 of that year, and attracted 12,000 fans to a Facebook page she’d collaborated on called Teach Me How to Drive So I Can Protect Myself. During a second turn at the wheel, she was arrested. Nine days — and a groundswell of protest — later she was released from jail.

Al-Sharif, an information technology consultant, remains active in the women right’s movement. She has broadened her campaign to focus on guardianship annulment and family protection as well as driving rights, and has founded several groups throughout Saudi Arabia with the title “My rights, my dignity.”

What others say
“Manal al-Sharif is following in a long tradition of women activists around the world who have put themselves on the line to expose and challenge discriminatory laws and policies.” — Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International News

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