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Dozens Of Saudi Arabian Women Get Behind The Wheel To Protest Driving Ban

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Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 1.53.13 PMYesterday was the biggest organized protest of the driving ban on Saudi Arabian women. Sixty got behind the wheel of a car and documented their short drives in protest of the ban that somehow still exists in the country. While there is no law on record prohibiting women from driving, the Interior Ministry only issues licenses to men.

Many of the women documented their trips behind the wheel by posting YouTube videos to the Twitter stream @oct26driving and photos to the Instagram account oct26driving. Reports confirm a few women were stopped and fined, but none were jailed as they were in a similar protest that took place in 1990. That year, four dozen women drove in a convoy around the capital city of Riyadh until they were stopped by police:

The women paid heavily for their actions — all the drivers, and their husbands, were barred from foreign travel for a year. Those women who had government jobs were fired. And from hundreds of mosque pulpits, they were denounced by name as immoral women out to destroy Saudi society.

It’s hard to understand how important small steps like this are when you have always been afforded the right to drive. The fact that there wasn’t a big government pushback may make some people pay the protest no mind. But what these ladies did yesterday is huge. A woman who took place in the protest in 1990 had this to say about the effects it had on her life:

“We went through around a year of harassment because they thought we did something that is not acceptable by society. ‘The drivers,’ they call us,” she says with a laugh.

“Wherever you work, you are labeled as a ‘driver’ and you will never be promoted, no matter how good you are,” she says.

Hopefully this small protest will lead to bigger movements. I guess the easiest way to control a woman is by making her immobile and if she protests, unemployable. This kind of backwards thinking has no place in modern society. Admittedly I don’t understand the cultural differences that would lead someone to believe this type of thinking is okay – and I don’t want to. I’m for equal rights for women in all societies and cultures. I refuse to accept  “it’s a cultural norm” as an excuse for holding women hostage.

(photo: Instagram)