Saudi women reject Sec. Clinton’s attempts to mollify their call for rights

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The coalition of Saudi women pushing to get the right to drive in the Sharia-compliant nation of Saudi Arabia rejected Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assertion that she is engaged in “quiet diplomacy” on their behalf Tuesday.

At Monday’s State Department briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that Clinton has been advocating for their rights via “quiet diplomacy,” most recently by speaking on the phone with Prince Saud Al-Faisal last week. (Saudi women protest driving ban)

“I don’t think that the – anybody can question the Secretary’s commitment to universal human rights for women,” Nuland said. “As I mentioned, she – this subject did come in her phone call. I think she is making a judgment on how best to support universal human rights for women. There are times when it makes sense to do so publicly and there are times for quiet diplomacy.”

According to the group Saudi Women for Driving, which staged a mass drive-in protest last week on behalf of a woman jailed for driving her own car, what they need from one of the most powerful women in the world is a bold statement of support.

“[G]iven the events of the past month, we are disappointed by this approach,” the group wrote in a public letter Tuesday. “Secretary Clinton: quiet diplomacy is not what we need right now. What we need is for you, personally, to make a strong, simple and public statement supporting our right to drive.”

While the group acknowledged the complex nature of the US/Saudi relationship, they note that their movement for women’s rights should be at the forefront of any diplomatic debate, especially given the public nature of their campaign and the massive amounts of support they have gotten from the West.

“Yet despite all this incredible momentum and media attention we have heard nothing from you, a woman we consider a friend and one of the foremost champions of women’s rights around the world,” they wrote. “For the United States’ top diplomat to make no public statement about such developments sends exactly the wrong message to the Saudi government and, more importantly, to the women of Saudi Arabia.”

The group concludes their plea by requesting the Clinton reconsider making a public statement of support.

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