Woman sleeps in car and has passport taken in ban against females driving over Saudi border

Loujain Hathloul is an active campaigner against the female driving ban

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The Independent Online

A Saudi activist has started a protest against the ban on female motorists after she was forced to spend a night sleeping in her car as she was blocked from driving into the country.

Loujain Hathloul, 25, risks being arrested if she drives over the border of Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates - where she got her license and where it is legal for women to drive.

She has been stranded at the border for 24 hours so far as officials also confiscated her passport, MailOnline reports, while she tweets updates to her 211,000 followers.

Ms Hathloul said in posts originally written in Arabic:

10:08 AM 30 November:

I then told him, "As a customs officer, my passport is your only concern. Anything beyond that is not" he could not give me an answer, because he knows I am right.

8:39 PM 30 November:

10 hours on the Saudi borders and they still wont let me in. But the officials and employees here have been very friendly, they just brought me some dinner.

8:42 AM 1 December:

I have completed 24 hours on the Saudi borders. They aren't giving me my passport back, nor are they letting me cross the borders and the Ministry of interior remains silent. Complete silence from all officials.

The French Literature student received a flood of support from other users including both Saudi women and men who expressed their frustration and contacted authorities on her behalf - but were met with "radio silence". A friend also travelled to her at the border to deliver food and water.

A campaign group called "October 26 Driving" posted videos of Saudi women driving around capital Riyadh - where Ms Hathloul lives - in protest against her being kept waiting at the border due to the rules imposed by senior clerics, which are not enshrined in written law or Islamic holy texts.

The group has launched a petition calling for the Saudi Arabia government to lift the ban for all women who wish or need to drive in the country.

The advisory council to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia recommended the government lift the long-standing ban on women drivers despite decades of cracking down on protests.

However, even if the Shura Council’s recommendations are taken up by the monarch, the ban will still remain in place for women under 30 – an anonymous council member told The Associated Press.

Women over 30 would reportedly only be allowed to drive between 7am and 8pm from Saturday to Wednesday and from midday to 8pm on Thursday and Friday.

Permission from a male relative – a husband or father, brother or son – would be required and outside of the cities women could not drive without a man present in the car. A live-in driver would cost women around £200-a-month, it is believed.

Women drivers would also have to be conservatively dressed and wearing no make-up, according to the official.

During the first major protest in 1990, around 50 women who drove their cars in the streets were jailed for a day, had their passports confiscated and lost their jobs. Their male relatives were also barred from travelling for six months.

About 40 women in June 2011 drove in a protest sparked by the arrest of a woman who had posted a video of herself driving online. One woman demonstrator was arrested and sentenced to 10 lashes, though this was later overturned by the king.

 

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