Two days after Saudi women were given the vote, two Saudi women were punished for breaking the ban on female driving.
One of the women was detained in Riyadh and Amnesty International revealed yesterday that a court in Jeddah sentenced the other to 10 lashes.
The executive director of Advancing Human Rights said: “Saudi Arabia made the giant leap this week from an F- to an F+ in human rights.
“It’s unconscionable that in the 21st century a woman cannot drive herself to work, a restaurant or just for the fun of it.”
Two days ago King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz allowed women to vote and run in the Saudi 2015 municipal elections.
But the conservative Muslim kingdom still forbids women to drive, argue in court before a judge, travel or get an education or job without a man’s permission.
Philip Luther, an Amnesty International regional deputy director, said: “Flogging is a cruel punishment in all circumstances but it beggars belief that the authorities in Saudi Arabia have imposed lashes on a woman apparently for merely driving a car.
“Allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement, then the king’s much trumpeted ‘reforms’ actually amount to very little.”
Some women, inspired by the results in other Arab countries this year, have been campaigning on social networking sites.
Campaigners have been successful with their fight to vote in 2015, thanks to their Baladi initiative, but the king failed to lift the ban on women voting in tomorrow’s election. But driving is next on the agenda for women in Saudi.
One of the Baladi campaigners, Hatoon al-Fassi said: “Women in Saudi Arabia are leading the Saudi spring. We’re going to push for driving as a next step.”
The group Women2Drive called on women with international driving licenses to break the ban from June 17.
This appeared to be working, as authorities turned a blind eye to women driving cars at first, but authorities soon started to crack down on female drivers.
Two further women are facing charges, according to Amnesty International.
Najla Hariri, one of those women said: “They called me in for questioning on a charge of challenging the monarch on Sunday.
“I signed a pledge not to drive again, although my driving was a result of necessity not an act of defiance.”
To sign a petition demanding that women in Saudi Arabia are not prosecuted for driving visit change.org