The Women2Drive Campaign
Athens, Greece, 28 and 29 June 2011
In Saudi Arabia some courageous women have began a campaign for women to have the right to drive in the country that has become known as the Women2drive Campaign.
The campaign for female driving rights is meant to challenge public authorities by refusing to respect the driving ban imposed on women.
The activists of this campaign decided to turn a growing number of YouTube videos that show women driving into a bigger event – a mass drive that would take place on 17 June. One of the founders and activists of the campaign, Manal al-Sharif, went out for a drive prior to the mass drive in order to raise awareness and encourage younger women to take part in the 17 June mass drive. She was arrested by the religious police for no apparent legal reason, but then later released after promising not to drive anymore. She was later arrested again for uploading a video on the Internet of herself driving, but was again released.
Her example was followed on 17 June by some other women all over the country. The exact figure of how many women participated in this mass drive is not known because of the public censorship of the campaign. The only information available came through the social media and referred to individual cases of women driving who had posted their videos or had put messages on the Internet.
The international attention raised through the Internet had an impact – most of the women driving on 17 June were not even approached by the police, the names of some of the women were reported but just two women were briefly detained followed by immediate release. None of them were arrested.
The driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia is only one manifestation of the conservative, patriarchal and sexist culture which permeates all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia, a country where women are not allowed to vote and which scores zero in the category of political empowerment according to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2009 published by the World Economic Forum 2009 and which ranks Saudi Arabia at 130 out of 134 countries for gender parity.
This situation is unacceptable and the world cannot continue to be silent.
Therefore the Socialist international Women:
Supports the Women2drive campaign;
Considers this campaign to be a step in the process of emancipation of women in Saudi Arabia;
Expresses its solidarity and admiration for all women promoting the campaign and for those involved in the event of 17 June;
Congratulates the leaders of the campaign for choosing a peaceful way to advance their request to end the driving ban for women and for their work in raising international awareness of the ban;
Condemns Saudi Arabian authorities for exercising censorship against the campaign and
States its concern of the condition of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and blames the authorities of depriving women of their human rights.