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Massive Saudi Police Presence on the Day for Women Driving

Traffic police checkpoints were set up on roads in all major cities to ensure that all drivers are male on October 26, the day chosen for defying the government ban on women driving. Since the campaign was launched, the Saudi Interior Ministry hasn't been clear on its position. For a long time, ‘society’ was to blame for banning women driving, but after multiple campaigns demanding lifting the governmental ban, this doesn't seem to be the case.

On October 25, an official from the Interior Ministry phoned women activists to warn them from participating in the campaign. al-Hayat newspaper reported [ar]:

أكد المتحدث الرسمي لوزارة الداخلية اللواء منصور التركي لـ«الحياة» أنه وفقاً لما سبق الإعلان عنه في شأن ما يثار حول قيادة المرأة السيارة واستناداً إلى نتائج المتابعة الأمنية، أجرت الجهات الأمنية المختصة اتصالات بمن ظهرت منهن بوادر تحريض أو مشاركة في شأن المبادرة – التي حددت غداً السبت موعداً لانطلاقها – لافتاً إلى أنه تم اشعارهن بأنه لا تهاون في تطبيق النظام متى ما ارتكبت المخالفات.

The Official Spokesperson of the Interior Ministry has confirmed to al-Hayat that, following the previous announcement regarding the call for women driving and as a result of security investigations, the security authorities have called those who were engaged in incitement for Saturday's initiative. He stated that they were notified that the regulations will be enforced whenever a violation occurs.

Some women have even reported police surveillance, like activist Aziza al-Yousef:

Since the early morning, two cars have been following me everywhere. They even attended a funeral at [King] Khalid Mosque.

Furthermore, harsher-than-usual punishments were imposed on those who were caught driving:

Confiscating the car for a week, a 900-Saudi-riyal (USD 240) fine and a written pledge [not to drive] are the punishments of ladies who drive. I wonder if a young, short boy drives what will be the punishment. :)

Despite this, activist Hala al-Dosari reported:

50 women drove and 18 women were stopped.

May al-Suwan recorded a video of her experience driving on October 26 that received over 130,000 hits:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN0vnhPX2hc

The Saudi governmental newspaper al-Riyadh had on its first page the following:

«26 أكتوبر» مر بهدوء.. وحملات التحريض باءت بالفشل

October 26 passed quietly. Incitement campaigns failed.

Saudi Twitter user Mishari al-Ghamdi commented on the coverage of governmental newspapers:

The newspapers that attacked the campaign today are the same ones that our extremist brothers call liberal and Western-oriented.

Historian Abulaziz al-Kheder commented on the effects of the campaign by tweeting:

The most be affected by this campaign is…the official position.

Saudi women plan to continue to push for their right to drive.

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