Top Saudi Women: Enough "Excuses," Lift Ban on Women Drivers

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 9 2013 8:13 PM

Top Saudi Women: Enough "Excuses," Lift Ban on Women Drivers

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A Saudi woman and her children get into a taxi in Riyadh on June 14, 2011.

Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Influential Saudi women on the country’s top advisory council have called for an end to the ban that keeps women in the country from driving. This week an official request was made to the head of the ultraconservative Shura Council by female council member Latifa al-Shaalan to address all "excuses" used to keep women from driving in Saudi Arabia, according to the Associated Press.

The ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia is de facto, the law does not explicitly prohibit them from getting behind the wheel. Religious edicts by influential clerics, however, are enforced by the police, such that driving licesnses are not issued to women, effectively banning women from driving.

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King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the advisory council in January and, this week, al-Shaalan "stood and proposed that the Shura Council's transportation committee should include a recommendation that the transport ministry make preparations to allow women to drive," according to the Guardian. The Shura Council must first decide whether to accept the proposal before it is presented to the country’s transportation ministry. If the ministry rejects it, members may be called on to vote on whether to discuss the ban as a separate issue, Hanan al-Ahmadi, a female member of the council, told the Guardian.

The dramatic move comes as women seeking the right to drive in Saudi Arabia have been energized, the AP reports, by a campaign calling on them to drive on Oct. 26.

 

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.