Saudi government responds to women drivers’ day protests planned for Oct. 26


Saudi women get into the backseat of a car in Riyadh on June 14, 2011, three days before a June 17 nationwide campaign by Saudi women who are planning to take the wheel in protest against a driving ban which is unique to the kingdom that applies a strict version of Sunni Islam.



Women who want Saudi Arabia to lift its ban on female drivers are planning to protest by driving on Saturday.

While it is technically not against the law for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, the country does not issue driver’s licenses to women, so the women would be driving illegally.

A petition supporting the October 26th Women's Driving Campaign has gathered more than 16,000 signatures.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday warning citizens against attending any demonstrations – understood to mean rallies either in favor or against women drivers – on Oct. 26. "The laws of the Kingdom prohibit activities disturbing the public peace and opening venues to sedition which only serve the senseless, the ill-intentioned, intruders, and opportunity hunters," the statement said.

The government also said it intends to punish women driving illegally.

"All violations will be dealt with – whether demonstrations or women driving,” Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, said. “Not just on the 26th. Before and after. At all times."

Government officials may have also contacted event organizers individually to urge them to call off the campaign.

"He said he was calling on behalf of (Interior Minister) Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and that I and any other woman should not drive and if we are caught we will be punished," one campaign organizer told the Jerusalem Post of a phone call she received.

It is not known whether the caller was truly from the Interior Ministry.

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