Saudi Arabia

Saudi council nixes discussing driving ban lift

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A high council in Saudi Arabia has rejected a joint request made by three of its female members to discuss lifting the ban on women driving in the kingdom.

On Thursday, the Shura Consultative Council stated that the issue was “irrelevant” to the discussions and “not within the transport ministry’s remit.”

This comes ahead of a planned nationwide protest later this month on female driving.

On September 23, activists in Saudi Arabia began a new campaign against the government ban on driving by females called the “October 26 Driving” campaign.

The campaign urged women to get behind the wheels on the day in defiance of the ban and put the campaign’s logo on their cars. It also called on women to learn driving and asked their family members to support them.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving. The ban is not enforced by law but is a religious fatwa imposed by the country’s Wahhabi clerics.

If women get behind the wheel in the kingdom, they may be arrested, sent to court and even flogged. In 2011, a Saudi woman was jailed after she posted a video of herself driving in the Saudi city of Khobar on YouTube.

Meanwhile, the Saudi women are also barred from doing sports activities in public girls’ schools.

According to Kingdom’s Education Ministry, the schools can hold sports activities in accordance with the rules of Sharia law and students must adhere to “decent dress” codes.

Last year, Human Rights Watch called on the Saudi government to set a curriculum for physical education for girls and to launch a public outreach campaign about girls’ rights to physical education.

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