Saudi woman’s detention extended

Manal al-Sharif is shown driving in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabian authorities have extended the custody of a woman jailed for defying a ban on female driving by ten days.

Manal al-Sharif was arrested by the kingdom’s religious police on Saturday after she challenged the ban by posting a video on Facebook and YouTube showing her driving a car in the eastern city of al-Khobar.

Although the police released her after a few hours, she was later re-arrested from her home by criminal investigation police, and detained at the Women’s Prison in Dammam, her lawyer Adnan al-Saleh said.

She was expected to be released on Friday but her detention has been extended by 10 more days, AFP reported on Thursday.

In solidarity with her arrest, Saudi women are uploading videos of themselves defying the ban.

The 32-year-old, who launched the “Women2Drive” campaign, had urged other women with foreign driver’s licenses to take to the roads on June 17 in peaceful protest. Her posted video of herself driving has garnered 500,000 views.

Christoph Wilcke, Human Rights Watch senior Middle East researcher, said on Tuesday that “arresting a woman who drove her family around in a car and then showed it online opens Saudi Arabia to condemnation and, in fact, to mockery around the world.”

“Just as his predecessors made their mark by introducing education for girls, King Abdullah can shape his legacy by opening the roads to women drivers,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. Women are also barred from voting, except for chamber of commerce elections in two cities in recent years, while no woman can become a cabinet member.


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