A coalition of Saudi women’s rights activists are calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to publicly endorse their right to drive.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving cars or even bicycles.
To date, more than 10,000 supporters have signed the Saudi Women for Driving’s open letter to Clinton, which urges her, as a “champion of women’s rights,” to take a stand on the issue.
“Many from our religious establishment openly state that the reason they prohibit women from driving is to keep women at home and in need of men,” they write, noting their additional lack of public transportation. “Our lack of this basic right to drive our own cars has been repeatedly exploited by abusive fathers, brothers, husbands and even hired drivers. Just this week a Saudi woman reported she was raped by her driver.”
The effort is a response to the Arab Spring and the May arrest of a Saudi woman who attempted to drive her own car, Manal al-Sharif.
“We were encouraged to see media reports that US diplomats have quietly pressured the Saudi government to give women the right to drive,” their letter continues. “But given the recent arrests of women trying to drive, now is the time for the US to show its muscle and make that pressure public.”
Saudi women plan to take to the streets in vehicles to protest the ban on June 17th.
Saudi Women for Driving have a similar petition circulating across the Atlantic to pressure the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, into supporting their initiative as well.