Obama visit to Saudi Arabia: Women encouraged to drive during President Obama's trip

More than 100 women have driven in the Kingdom since a campaign to end the ban began six months ago

Women in Saudi Arabia are being encouraged to get behind the steering wheel today in a show of defiance against a driving ban, as the US President Barack Obama ends his visit in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The move comes as part of a sustained campaign to grant women the freedom to drive, which saw some 60 women flout the ban in October last year after 16 female drivers were arrested for driving.

Though no specific Saudi law bans women from driving, women are not issued licenses.

Organisers of the campaign called on more women to get in the driver's seat on Saturday when Mr Obama met with King Abdullah in Riyadh, although it was not organised specifically to coincide with his visit.

The activists say their long-term goal is not just to win Saudi females the freedom to drive, but to clear a path for broader democratic reforms.

Organiser Eman al-Nafjan said more than 100 women in total have driven since the campaign began six months ago.

Naseema al-Sada, who has driven in the eastern region of Qatif, told The Associated Press that public attitudes have changed following the movement.

"Women's rights are no longer a taboo subject," she said, noting that the campaign is also widely covered in the media.

Read more: Song about Saudi Arabia’s ban on female motorists
Saudi Arabia warns it will use force if campaigners protest
Kuwaiti woman arrested in Saudi Arabia for driving

Before leaving Riyadh, Obama met with Maha Al Muneef, the executive director of the National Family Safety Program, which she founded in 2005 to combat domestic violence and child abuse in the Kingdom.

Mr Obama, in remarks during the award at his hotel in Riyadh, praised her for not only being able to "set up services here in the kingdom, but also more importantly in some ways, being able to pass laws providing protections for women and children for domestic abuse and to provide a safe space and shelter for those who are suffering from domestic abuse".

Amnesty International had urged the President to signal his dismay at Saudi Arabia’s ban by appointing a woman as his official driver during his visit to the Arab state.

The Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said: “As well as appointing a woman driver during his visit, President Obama should try to meet Saudi women who have defied the driving ban. 

“For too long, the USA has shied away from publicly confronting Saudi Arabia over its human rights record, largely turning a blind eye to a mounting catalogue of abuses.”

“It is crucial that President Obama sends a strong message to the government of Saudi Arabia that its gross human rights violations and systematic discrimination are unacceptable.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee