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Sources: Saudi King Overturns Verdict Against Woman Driver

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Sources: Saudi King Overturns Verdict Against Woman Driver

VOA Breaking News
September 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm


Sources within the Saudi government say King Abdullah has overturned a court verdict that sentenced a Saudi woman to 10 lashes for challenging the conservative Muslim kingdom's ban on women driving.

One of those who reported the king's decision was a Saudi princess who announced it Wednesday on her Twitter account. There was no official confirmation from the government.

On Tuesday, a court in the Red Sea city of Jeddah found Shaima Jastaina guilty of violating the driving ban. The verdict took Saudi women by surprise, coming just a day after King Abdullah announced that women will have the right to vote and run in local elections starting in 2015.

Amnesty International welcomed the new right to vote but said Tuesday that the king's “much-trumpeted” reforms amount to “very little” if women are still going to face physical punishment for “trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement.” The rights group said there are reports of two other women facing charges for driving in the kingdom.

There is no written law in Saudi Arabia barring women from driving, only fatwas, or religious edicts, stemming from a strict tradition of Islam called Wahhabism.

Normally, police just stop female drivers, question them and let them go after they sign a pledge not to drive again. But dozens of women have continued to take to the roads since June in a campaign to break the taboo. The defiance resulted in numerous arrests.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women – both Saudi and foreign – from driving.

A representative of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce said allowing women to drive will likely take “just a few more years.” She preferred that the government place a priority on better public transportation to help people get to their jobs.

The kingdom holds its next local elections on Thursday, but women are not allowed to vote or run in those.

King Abdullah also said that women will be appointed to the Shura Council starting with its next term. The Council is an advisory body which is selected by the monarch and so far has been all male.

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