Saudi Arabian Women Drive Cars in Protest at Ban

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. Something extraordinary happened in Saudi Arabia today. A number of women hopped into their cars and drove. As in, they did the driving themselves. And in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to get behind the wheel. Many of the women also filmed themselves and tweeted their act of defiance. One of them is Maha Al Qatani. She's in Riyadh. Miss Qatani has driven before but this was her first time driving in the Saudi captial.

Maha Al Qatani: I drove in New York. I drove in Bloomington, Indiana, Gloucester, Indiana, but this is my first time in Riyadh. I drive independently.

Werman: Right. What kind of car do you drive:

Al Qatani: Hummer.

Werman: A Humvee?

Al Qatani: Hummer. Hummer.

Werman: A hummer.

Al Qatani: Hummer car H3.

Werman: That's a lot of car for your first time out in Rehad.

Al Qatani: No I drove a 4x4 truck last summer.

Werman: Ok. Not a totally new experience. Tell me why did you do it?

Al Qatani: I think this is my right and I have to have it. It's my choice to say I don't want to drive or not but it's my right. I have to have it. We have to make the change. So when I went to this evening, I would say give me the ticket and I feel like, now, OK.

Werman: Alright, so back up a second. You said you got a ticket this evening? Tell me what happened:

Al Qatani: Yes, this evening, I drove with my husband and three ladies in the back seat and we drove along Kingside Road, it's the highway in Riyadh.

Werman: And what was the ticket for that you were given by the police?

Al Qatani: 'Cause I didn't have a drivers license.

Werman: Drivers license.

Al Qatani: I showed them my ID, my international driver's license, and I don't know they wrote just she doesn't have driver's license.

Werman: So the ticket was not for driving while being a woman, I don't know if that's the charge, but it was for driving without a Saudi Arabian license?

Al Qatani: Yes. The police man, he stopped my car, and he just asked me for the keys, and asked my husband to get down and go to back. He sat for ten minutes in his car.

Werman: Were you scared?

Al Qatani: No, no. Actually, when I saw my husband in the car, I said, what they want from my husband? I was like scared about him more than myself. I had already my extra clothes, my prayer rug, I had also, with me, my toothbrush just in case. If they put me in jail I had my stuff with me.

Werman: So you were ready with an overnight back just in case they put you in jail?

Al Qatani: Yes, just in case. Just in case.

Werman: You know, women who tried doing this protest in driving twenty years ago were humiliated by authorities, many of them lost their jobs and their husbands were penalized as well. You've been tweeting about this under your own name. How worried are you about reprisals or what may come next?

Al Qatani: I'm worried about my children, their future. They ask us, "Why do you do it, Mama? Why? Why?" I looked out to say, No, we have to fight for our rights. I know it's hard, but you have to do it. I know we can survive. We have to do it, we have to.

Werman: Maha Al Qatani, who for the first time today, drove a car in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and also got a ticket for driving in Riyadh. Thank you very much for joining us.

Al Qatani: Thank you, thank you very much.

Werman: By the way you can see a picture of Maha's ticket and follow her twitter stream at