Saudi Arabia warned women in the ultraconservative kingdom against challenging the male-only driving rules, saying that even supporting the protest online could be cause for arrest.
The warning cam on the eve before a planned protest by Saudi women activists who obtained driver’s licenses abroad. The internet has been key to organizing the protest and reaching out to international media about the demonstration.
While no law specifically bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia, the rules are still enforced by clerics who hold influence over the ruling monarchy, reports ABC News.
The country has adopted some reforms in recent years when it comes to women and passed its first domestic abuse law earlier his year. However, the reaction to the Saudi women driving ban protest shows the nation is still reluctant to allow women much freedom.
Several women supporting the Women’s Driving Campaign, which is supposed to happen on Saturday, reported receiving threatening phone calls, notes CNN. The calls came from men claiming to be from the Interior Ministry, warning them not to drive before, on, or after Saturday.
While Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Al-Turki denied any calls were made, he later conceded that the calls were a public relations move to help some people understand a written statement that was made on Wednesday. The statement read, “Laws will be fully enforced that day.”
Al-Turki sought to clarify the calls, explaining, “There was absolutely no threat to the women contacted. The communication was made to make sure the women understood the statement. It seemed some people did not understand the statement, and they expressed this publicly in one way or another.”
The statement issued by the country on Wednesday, added, “The laws of the Kingdom prohibit activities disturbing the public peace and opening venues to sedition.” Despite the warnings, Saudi Arabian women still plan on defying the driving ban.
[Image via ShutterStock]