Activist Manal Alsharif recently jump-started a campaign to allow Saudi women to drive when she filmed herself behind the wheel. Now Saudi men are planning to put a stop to the fight for women's rights by beating female drivers until they give up.
A Saudi group has launched what it is calling “The Iqal Campaign,” a reference to the rope (iqal) used to hold men's headdresses in place. The group suggests that men use the ropes to hit female drivers.
Women are planning to take to the streets on June 17 to protest the driving ban. According to Algerian news reports, Saudi men have been purchasing extra rope in recent weeks in response. Thousands have joined a Facebook group supporting the “Iqal Campaign.”
At the same time, Saudi youths have started a Facebook group petitioning for women's right to drive. “We feel that women in the Kingdom should have the right to drive, just like every other woman on the planet,” founder Hilal Al-Harithy told the Saudi Gazette.
The group currently has approximately 1,700 members, and hopes to gather at least 15,000 signatures on a petition to be sent to King Abdullah.
The fight for women's rights is taking place as protest movements sweep the Arab world. Saudi Arabia has also faced pressure from its Shiite Muslim minority.
Driver Still Detained
Meanwhile, Alsharif remains under arrest. A court refused to release her on bail despite the fact that her five-year-old son is currently hospitalized with a severe infection. Instead, Alsharif will remain in prison for at least 10 more days.
Friends told Arab News that Alsharif, who is divorced, is concerned that courts may transfer custody of her young son to his father. According to her lawyer, she has withdrawn from the June 17 campaign.
Treatment of Women Hurts Tourism
The Saudi Religious Police's notoriously bad treatment of women created a second international spectacle this week, when a German tour operator pulled out of a fair in protest of the ill-treatment of a female representative.
The representative, who is Muslim, was wearing the long black cloak (abaya) which women in Saudi Arabia must wear outside their homes. However, her cloak was decorated with red embroidery, which the religious police decided was immodest. She was ordered to change her clothes, and was allegedly warned not to disclose the incident.