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Saudi Arabia: Women2Drive Steps Up Tone; Blames Government Policies

Manal al-Sharaif is a Saudi women rights activist, best known for her role in Women2Drive campaign. In May 2011, she uploaded a video clip of herself, challenging the ban on driving. Following the clip, she was arrested by the secret police for nine days, during which, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other international groups called for her release.

Women2Drive, later renamed Right2Dignity, has been campaigning for lifting the ban on women's right to drive by calling for days in which women get behind the wheel and supporting lawsuits against the Interior Ministry for refusing to grant women driving licenses. They have also sent appeals to Saudi monarch King Abdullah, hoping for reform.

However, one position they have not explicitly stated until very recently: blaming the government of the absolute monarchy, which is, in fact, the only one that can end discrimination imposed by the government itself.

In her speech at San Francisco Freedom Forum 2012 on September 28th, al-Sharif stated:

More importantly, calls for change from the people are not welcomed at all in an absolute monarchy that demands allegiance from its citizens by professing to be the sole protectors of their faith and welfare. [...] I was under the false impression that Saudi society was opening up and that the government was also pushing towards more opportunities for women, but I guess I miscalculated.

These remarks come in agreement with a Right2Dignity statement that was issued on August 31st, which was the first to explicitly blame the government for preventing women from driving:

Unfortunately our government has contradicted its own Basic Law of Governance. The State discrimination is based on gender so that men are granted the right to freedom of movement and even adolescents and children driving is tolerated while women are strictly prohibited. This is unjust. This is also not complying with the Basic Law of governance of the country.

The Internet has played a huge role in giving Saudi women and the supporters of the Women2Drive, and later on the Right2Dignity, campaigns a voice.

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