Today, a number of Saudi women cruised through the streets of Saudi Arabia in automobiles, protesting the country's male-only driving rules. Fortunately, it appears the rogue drivers got away with the protest with relative impunity, according to reports on Twitter and wire services. "Reports of Saudi women driving in different parts of the country keep coming in, " tweets NPR's Ahmed Al Omran. "No arrests so far." The Associate Press concurs. "No arrests or violence were immediately reported." One message on Twitter cited a woman in a blue SUV "forced to stop aggressively by 2 police cars" but that appears to be an outlier. It's not clear how many women participated in the protest. Some peg the number at 13 while others say at least 20.
Regardless, if the lax treatment holds, it would be a real sign of progress in the country. The last time a large protest of this sort was carried out in 1990, "a group of 47 Saudi women were arrested and severely punished after demonstrating in cars," reports ABC News in Australia. The movement seems to have growing support among Saudi royalty, as NBC's Andrea Mitchell tweets, "Saudi Prince Talil among supporters of right of Saudi #women2drive protest today."
This morning, NPR's Andy Carvin tweeted pictures of Saudi women participating in the Women2Drive protest. According to the Associated Press, there is no explicit law banning women from driving, "only fatwas, or religious edicts, by senior clerics following a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism.
"They claim the driving ban protects against the spread of vice and temptation because women drivers would be free to leave home alone and interact with male strangers," reports the news wire. "The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers or rely on male relatives to drive." Al Jazeera adds, however, that a locally-issued license is required to drive in the country and they are not issued to women.
Here's more of the footage spilling out on the internet from today's protest:
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