Saudi Women's Rights Activist Drops Driving Rights Campaign

Manal al-Sharif issues statement after being released from detention

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A rogue Saudi woman detained last week for posting a YouTube video of herself driving a car was released from jail on Monday after abandoning her campaign to encourage Saudi women to drive. Though it's illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, Manal al-Sharif's Women2Drive movement inspired other Saudi women to helm their family automobiles and videotape themselves breaking the law (see the Women2Drive YouTube channel for more renegade drivers). Al-Sharif, 32, faced stiff resistance from Saudi clerics, with one going so far as advocating a lashing for her transgression, reports The Guardian. Unfortunately, it appears that the conservative clerics have won. A Saudi newspaper has published a statement attributed to al-Sharif in which she appears to abandon her mission:

Concerning the topic of women’s driving, I will leave it up to our leader in whose discretion I entirely trust, to weigh the pros and cons and reach a decision that will take into consideration the best interests of the people, while also being pleasing to God, and in line with divine law.

According to The New York Times, "While the statement seems to confirm that Ms. Sharif will not continue to press for protests, it also suggests that she has not, as one Saudi newspaper had claimed, entirely dropped her objections to the ban." The video below shows al-Sharif's illegal driving video, which includes her explanation of why the country's law is wrong translated into English.

As The Guardian notes, this puts into jeopardy the mass protest Women2Drive event slated for June 17. "I am sure they told her we shouldn't continue with this issue," said Wajeha al-Huwaider, a women's rights activist and friend of Sharif, as quoted by The Guardian. "They told me that and the message was clear to me. I am sure for her it was even stronger... Usually when they are released, they are warned not to get in touch with anybody, not to talk to the media and not to get involved in any activity." Here is one of the many rogue driving videos inspired by al-Sharif:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.