Continue to Call for the Repeal of Saudi Arabia's Fatwa on Women Driving


UPDATE - June 2012: Saudi activists have been advocating for the right to drive for over twenty years with the most recent effort being the Women2Drive mass driving campaign launched in 2011. 17 June 2012 marks a year since the start of the Women2Drive campaign; however the government has still not taken action to give women the right to drive. Rather Saudi activists fighting for women’s rights are being targeted by the government. Manal Al-Sharif who spearheaded the Women2Drive campaign has been persecuted for her efforts including through imprisonment, threats and the loss of her job for speaking out for women’s right to drive.

This 17 June, Saudi activists are calling for renewed support of the Women2Drive campaign by asking women and men around the world to drive to Consulates and Embassies of Saudi Arabia and honk to show their support. Please join us in supporting the ongoing efforts of Saudi women claiming the right to drive and continue to call on the Saudi government to lift the ban on women driving.

Equality Now issues an urgent call for the repeal of Saudi Arabia’s Fatwa on Women’s Driving of Automobiles.

Equality Now is deeply concerned about Saudi Arabia’s Fatwa on Women’s Driving of Automobiles (Shaikh Abdel Aziz Bin Abdallah Bin Baz), 1990, and the arrest of Saudi women’s rights activist Manal al-Sherif who was detained on 22 May 2011 for nine days in the eastern city of Dammam. According to reports, she was one of the organizers of an online campaign protesting Saudi Arabia’s driving ban and twice drove an automobile to further their cause. She was arrested and detained on the charge of “disturbing public order and inciting public opinion.” While we welcomed her release from custody on 30 May 2011, we remain concerned that women are still not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Equality Now supports the growing number of Saudi women who are claiming the right to drive and are urging the authorities to lift the ban which prevents women from driving. Manal al-Sherif’s arrest and the blocking by Saudi Arabia of the widely supported on-line campaign she led, along with others, is an explicit expression of the government’s efforts to extinguish this growing campaign of Saudi women.

The human rights of women are violated by the above-mentioned Fatwa, or religious edict, which restricts the movement of women by prohibiting them from driving automobiles. Saudi Arabia is the only country that bars all women, both Saudi and foreign, from driving. While Saudi activists say that it is not legally binding, the Fatwa, enforced by the police and resulting in arrests, effectively has the force of law in Saudi Arabia. As part of our work to end all discrimination against women in law and in practice around the world, Equality Now urges the Saudi government to repeal this Fatwa, which prohibits women from driving automobiles and violates their rights under international law.

We urge you to join our call and sign the petition below, which will be delivered to His Majesty, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Minister of Justice Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul El Karim Abdul Azziz El Issa. 

I am writing to express my deep concern about Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving as exemplified in the Fatwa issued by Shaikh Abdel Aziz Bin Abdallah Bin Baz in 1990. For over twenty years Saudi women have been claiming their right to drive but no action has been taken by the government to address their demands. Rather the government is targeting Saudi activists for their work to support women’s rights. Reportedly, women’s rights activist Manal Al-Sherif is being persecuted for her efforts including through threats and the loss of her job for speaking out against the government. I would like to express support for these brave women and for the growing numbers of Saudi women who are claiming their right to drive, as key to their freedom of movement, and who are urging the authorities to lift the effective ban on women drivers. I respectfully call on you to ensure that the Interior Ministry grant driver’s licenses to qualified women applicants, and to issue clear instructions that women drivers should not be detained, arrested or harassed in any way. I urge the authorities to repeal the Fatwa and lift the ban which effectively prevents women from driving and undermines women’s ability to realize their rights. I also ask you to ensure equality and non-discrimination for women in Saudi Arabia, both under the law and in practice.

أكتب اليكم لأعبر عن قلقي العميق إزاء حظر العربية السعودية قيادة المرأة للسيارة المتمثلة بالفتوى التي صدرت من قبل الشيخ عبد العزيز بن عبدالله بن باز في 1990. تطالب المرأة السعودية منذ أكثر من عشرين عاما بحقها في قيادة السيارة، ولكن الحكومة لم تتخذ بعد أي إجراء لتلبية مطالبهن. وبدلا من ذلك، أخذت الحكومة في استهداف النشطاء السعوديين عقابا لهم على عملهم في دعم حقوق المرأة. وتفيد التقارير بأن الناشطة من أجل حقوق المرأة منال الشريف تتعرض للاضطهاد على جهودها بأشكال متعددة منها التهديدات وفقدان وظيفتها ثمنا لصراحتها في معارضة الحكومة. وأود أن أعرب عن الدعم لهاتين السيدتين الشجعاتين وللأعداد المتزايدة من النساء السعوديات اللواتي يطالبن بحقهن في القيادة بوصفها عنصرا أساسيا لحريتهن في التنقل، واللواتي أيضا يحثن السلطات على رفع الحظر المفروض على قيادة المرأة للسيارة. أنني وبإحترام أدعوك لضمان منح وزارة الداخلية تراخيص للنساء المتقدمات المؤهلات، واصدار تعليمات واضحة بشأن عدم إحتجاز أو إعتقال أو مضايقة لقيادة المرأة للسيارة بأي شكل من الأشكال. إنني أحث السلطات على إلغاء الفتوى ورفع الحظر الذي يمنع النساء من قيادة السيارة على نحو فعال، ويقوض قدرة النساء على معرفة حقوقها. أطلب اليك أيضا ضمان المساواة وعدم التمييز بالنسبة للمرأة في العربية السعودية سواء في إطار القانون أو في الممارسة العملية.


Escribo para mostrar mi profunda preocupación con respecto a la fatwa que prohíbe a las mujeres conducir en Arabia Saudí (Shaikh Abdel Aziz Bin Abdallah Bin Baz), de 1990. Las mujeres saudíes llevan más de veinte años reivindicando su derecho a conducir, pero el gobierno no ha adoptado medida alguna para atender sus demandas. Más bien al contrario, las autoridades persiguen a las activistas saudíes por su empeño en defender los derechos de la mujer. Al parecer, Manal Al-Sharif, defensora de los derechos de la mujer, está siendo perseguida por este motivo y, además de haber sufrido amenazas, ha perdido su empleo por pronunciarse públicamente en contra del gobierno. Me gustaría mostrar mi apoyo a estas dos valientes y al creciente número de mujeres saudíes que reclaman su derecho a conducir como elemento fundamental para disfrutar de la libertad de circulación, y para lo cual exigen a las autoridades que revoquen la prohibición que pesa sobre las mujeres. Con todos mis respetos les hago un llamamiento para que se aseguren de que el Ministerio del Interior expida el permiso de conducir a las mujeres que cumplan los requisitos pertinentes, y que formule con claridad las instrucciones necesarias para que las conductoras no sean detenidas ni acosadas en modo alguno. Desde aquí insto a las autoridades a revocar la fatwa y levantar la prohibición que impide a las mujeres conducir y que por tanto socava la capacidad de ejercer sus derechos. Asimismo, le ruego que garantice la igualdad y la no discriminación de las mujeres en el país, tanto ante la ley como en la práctica.

Je vous écris pour exprimer ma profonde préoccupation concernant l'interdiction aux femmes de conduire en Arabie Saoudite comme en témoigne la fatwa émise par cheikh Abd al-Aziz ibn Abd Allah ibn Baaz en 1990. Les saoudiennes ne cessent de revendiquer le droit de conduire depuis plus de vingt ans mais aucune mesure n'a été prise par le gouvernement pour répondre à leurs demandes. Au contraire, le gouvernement cible ces activistes pour leur lutte en faveur des droits des femmes. Selon des témoignages, l’activiste pour les droits des femmes Manal Al-Sherif est persécutée pour ses initiatives. Elle a été incarcérée, a fait l’objet de menaces et a perdu son emploi pour avoir dénoncé le gouvernement. Je tiens à exprimer mon soutien à ces femmes courageuses et au mouvement grandissant de Saoudiennes qui revendiquent le droit de conduire, essentiel à la liberté de mouvement, et qui exhortent les autorités à lever l'interdiction de prendre le volant en vigueur. Je vous appelle respectueusement à veiller à ce que le ministère de l'Intérieur délivre des permis de conduire aux femmes ayant passé l’examen de conduite, et émette des instructions claires stipulant que les conductrices ne devraient pas être détenues, arrêtées ou harcelées en aucune façon. Je demande instamment aux autorités d'abroger la Fatwa et de lever l'interdiction qui empêche effectivement les femmes de conduire et porte atteinte à la capacité des femmes de jouir de leurs droits. Je vous demande également de garantir la non-discrimination et l’égalité devant la loi et dans la pratique pour les femmes en Arabie saoudite.
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