On Friday, June 17th, around 40 women in Saudi Arabia reportedly got behind the wheel to campaign for their right to drive. They asked top female politicians and diplomats from around the world, including Secretary of State Clinton, to lend support to their cause.
Social networking sites such as Twitter played a role in their actions last week both in spreading the word and highlighting photos of the women in the driver’s seat.
“I think I expected more women to go out today, not just sit at home and tweet,” one woman said. “Maybe they have their reasons, but I feel today it is my duty to say this is my right and we should have it.” After being issued only a ticket for her disobedience, the same woman, Maha, proudly confirmed, “I think I made my statement clear. I think that my voice has been heard.”
For Saudi Arabian women, the ban on driving presents numerous obstacles: with unreliable public transportation, women must rely on a male relative or hired drivers to take them where they need to go- even to the hospital- and they are not allowed to travel by bicycle.
Gaining the right to drive would reverberate in other arenas of public life as well. It would allow women greater access and the ability to go to work, school, and assemble freely with friends and colleagues. The government shows little inclination to grant Saudi women this privilege, however, and their lethal response to protests earlier this year make it clear that expanding freedom of assembly is not high on their list of priorities.