Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The quiet revolution of women driving in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia driving is an act of rebellion if you are female. The Alawite monarchy does not like to see them at the wheel, although it is unclear whether there is legislation in place to prohibit it. Even so, driving can be expensive if you're not a man. On 19 May, Manal al-Sharif, a 32 year-old, got into his car and drove through the streets of the city of Khobar.

Sharif had with her Wajeha al-Huwaider, an activist for the rights of women. Al-Huwaider shot the girl driving, and both talked about the constraints faced by women in the Gulf kingdom. The brave Al-Sharif uploaded the video on YouTube, and before it was banned four days later, he was viewed more than 600,000 times.

In the video, Al-Sharif defends female driving completely logical arguments: "What will a woman do in an emergency?", "What if your husband has a heart attack?" He asks. "A woman does not lose his dignity by going to the wheel," says a convinced and attentive to traffic. The next day, al-Sharif led again, this time with his family.

The car was stopped by traffic police, who arrested al-Sharif and his brother but were released the same night. That was the first shock, but the worst came the next day, when she appeared at home the religious police and arrested again. Manal al-Sharif has been detained since then, but now circulating a photograph of him by Twitter and some sources claim that has already been released.

The history of the Saudi woman has gone around the world and has focused attention on the movement for women's rights in Saudi Arabia, one of the schemes that are most limiting. In Facebook there is a campaign, begun before the arrest of Manal al-Sharif, which urges women to "start driving" on 17 June, the group had more than 12,000 fans before it was closed.

Al-Sharif in his video explaining how to participate in the movement, the instructions are simple: No demonstrations, all women have to do is get behind the wheel. On one condition, must be recorded and post the video on YouTube to encourage the rest. Once again social networks are presented as a channel propagator of new ideas.

In fact, in the video posted by Al-Sharif, she tells her co-pilot who has learned that a woman had taken his brother to the hospital via Twitter. Your call has been answered by several women who have emulated and have hung their little revolution on YouTube.

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