26 Oct 2013

Saudi women face violent opposition to driving

8:28 pm on 26 October 2013

The authorities in Saudi Arabia have stepped up warnings to women not to defy a ban on female drivers by taking part in a mass driving protest this weekend.

The BBC reports that the interior ministry says anyone flouting the ban is likely to face unspecified punishment.

A Saudi academic and expert on women's rights, Madawi Al-Rasheed, says she doesn't think many women will flout the ban, because of worries about their safety.

"The authority has changed track but also we heard that there are counter campaigns to actually drive women away from the streets - either by harming them or by crashing their cars."

Ms Al-Rasheed said the threats are all online and nothing has been seen yet.

This weekend's protest is the third protest of its kind; in the first, in 1990, several women were arrested or lost their jobs.

A ministry spokesperson, Mansour al-Turki, has explicitly restated that women are prohibited from driving.

Earlier this week, about 100 conservative clerics asked for an audience at the royal court in the capital, Riyadh, to denounce the campaign as a conspiracy by women and a threat to the country.