Saudi Arabia: Women To Drive, a battle for dignity

Founder Manal Al Sharif talks to ANSAmed

08 October, 19:51

(ANSAmed) - ROME, OCTOBER 8 - She's young, beautiful and feisty, and she is the founder of the Saudi Women To Drive campaign, which is part of a larger action called My Right To Dignity: her name is Manal Al Sharif, and ANSAmed interviewed her in Italy, where she attended the International magazine journalism festival in Ferrara.

She reached the festival at the wheel of a car, from the UN High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, for the right to drive in her home country of Saudi Arabia is symbolic of the larger issue of full citizenhood.

''In my country, a man comes of age at 18, a woman never: she needs permission from a male guardian for every life choice, from studying abroad to looking for a job,'' Sharif told ANSAmed. And, while no law expressly forbids Saudi women to drive, they are de facto banned from getting behind the wheel.

The motor registry software does not issue licenses to female drivers, and women have in the past been sentenced to flogging for being caught at the wheel.

Having become famous for posting a YouTube video in which she is seen driving a car, having started a national women's mobilization and paid for it with nine days in jail, Sharif sued Saudi authorities. That legal battle has been stuck in a civil court for six months, although the floggings appear to have stopped, Sharif pointed out.

On June 17, the second anniversary of her campaign, which has thousands of Facebook and Twitter supporters, Sharif co-signed an appeal to King Abdullah, in which she points out that denying women the right to drive is ''based on customs and traditions that do not come from God.'' Sharif, married and with a child, now lives in Dubai, from where she continues to fight her battle for women's rights in her native Saudi Arabia. A country which, she points out, is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. (ANSAmed).

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