Manal al-Sharif is the young woman behind the Saudi Women2Drive Campaign, which calls on women to come out driving in contravention of the driving ban in Saudi Arabia on 17 June as a form of protest. Whilst al Sharif has been forced to pledge that she will withdraw from the campaign in order to secure her release from prison after having been arrested for posting a video of herself driving on Youtube, others are preparing to come out on the day in full force.
And we must stand (drive) with Manal and them.
Since I don’t drive*, I will be cycling.
Cycling – by the way – is just as ruinous a feat for women as driving so it should be just as fun.
According to Ayatollah Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer leader of Mashhad, Iran, a woman who wears her headscarf back and cycles is more dangerous than any ‘ferocious animal and stinging insect’ (darandeh va gazandeh). Of course he says it is not ‘haram’ (forbidden) for a girl or woman to cycle in her own house. But on the streets! That is a different story.
According to him, a women cycling can result in ‘corruption’ and ‘prostitution!’
So I do hope you will come out with me on 17 June to defend women’s rights to drive and cycle and challenge these reactionaries of our times.
Don’t forget this isn’t just about driving or cycling. They are only indications of the status of women in countries under Islamic rule and one more very good reason why religion (rather than women) should be kept off the streets.
Upload a photo of yourself driving around if you can. I know I will. I think we should all do something to support this important cause. You can find out more and join the campaign on its Facebook page.
Here is the video of Manal driving that got her arrested:
* I know – it is embarrassing that I don’t drive and I do have a long-winded story to justify it, which I will tell you sometime.