Manal al-Sherif's campaign against Saudi Arabia's law prohibiting women from driving is earning her comparisons to Rosa Parks. After posting a video of herself behind the wheel on a Facebook page titled, "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself" and urging authorities to lift the country's driving ban for women, al-Sherif was detained and released by the country's religious police on Saturday. On Sunday she was arrested again and charged with "violating the public order."
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women, both Saudi and foreign, from driving. There is no written Saudi law on the topic, but fatwas, or religious edicts by senior clerics, are enforced by police.
The Facebook page was removed after more than 12,000 people indicated their support for its call for women drivers to take to the streets in a mass drive on June 17. The campaign's Twitter account also was deactivated.
Al-Sherif and her fellow organizers have focused on the importance of women driving in times of emergencies and in the case of low-income families. She argues that, contrary to the traditional argument that driving exposes women to "sinful temptations" by allowing them to mingle with policemen and mechanics, women who drive can avoid sexual harassment from their drivers and protect their "dignity."
The AP reports that Human Rights Watch urged Saudi authorities to release al-Sherif, but she has been ordered held for five days while the case is investigated.
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