Nearly a year after she was arrested for defying the law banning women from driving, Shaima Jastaniah has finally won a reprieve from her sentence.
Jastaniah was one of many Saudi women who got behind the wheel last summer to protest the archaic law forbidding women from driving, which is both a symbol and embodiment of the country's harsh treatment of its women. That September, she was sentenced to a punishment as barbaric as the law it was enforcing: ten lashes. Later that month, Princess Ameerah al-Taweel, the wife of King Abdallah's influential nephew, tweeted that the king had pardoned Jastaniah, which was broadly taken as true.
In December, Texas-based academic Nivien Saleh, who was Jastaniah's professor when she studied in the U.S., reported at TheAtlantic.com that she was to be lashed despite the pardon. By then, she had become a symbol not just of Saudi women defiantly fighting for their rights, but of the opaque and often arbitrary Saudi justice system. The police told her, pardon or no, she was scheduled to be flogged for daring to drive.
Saleh, who had become close with her former student, now writes to announce that Jastaniah will be spared. The good news came during one of their regular phone conversations. Earlier this month, "Shaima [Jastaniah] received a call from the Jeddah Police Department demanding that she come in for fingerprinting," Saleh told me over email. "At the police station, she was told that her lashing sentence had been dropped, not in response to the petition filed by her attorneys (nor the international attention caused by the Atlantic story, for that matter), but because the police department itself had filed a routine petition for pardon, which was accepted."