1. Public Reprimands
In 2005, Dr. Mohammed Al Zulfa, in his capacity as a member, presented a proposal to the Saudi Consultative Council for lifting the ban on women driving. The Council refused to even acknowledge the proposal. However, the Interior Minister, HRH Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz made it a point when asked by the press to inform the country how disappointed he was in Al Zulfa. Needless to say, Al Zulfa was not reappointed to the Council.
Last year, three council women, Dr. Muna Al Mushait, Dr. Latifa Al Shalaan and Dr. Haya Al Manea presented another proposal to the Council to lift the ban on women driving. Again the proposal never made it to the floor. This time around the reprimand came from the Council’s chairman, Abdullah Al Sheikh. He told the councilwomen that their proposal is rejected and irrelevant.
2. Threatening Phone Calls
Saudi women who were vocal in their support for the Oct 26th Women Driving Campaign received phone calls from Ministry of Interior representatives asking them not to participate in the campaign and that “all violations will be dealt with.”
3. Police Detainment
Women caught driving their cars themselves are stopped by the police, transported to the police station and then held for several hours. They are not released until their male guardian is brought in and made to sign a pledge ensuring that he will not allow her to drive again. The detentions can go as long as ten hours.
Women who are caught driving are also sometimes fined and issued a ticket. The latest report of a woman being fined is Aliyah Al Farid, a businesswoman and member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), who was caught driving herself to the hospital.
5. Impounding Cars
Some of the women who have been caught driving, have had their cars impounded. If they are lucky, they’ll get the car back a week after paying a hefty fine. However in the case of Tamadur Al Yami, paying her fine did not get her car back. It was impounded on December 28th 2013 and remains in police custody to this day. Fortunately, average Saudis opposed to the ban on women driving pooled their money and bought Tamador a new car to replace the one in police custody.
6. Job Suspensions
Women who are caught driving risk being suspended from their jobs and studies. In 1990, 47 women drove through the center of Riyadh. Those of them who had jobs were suspended from working for a year. And even after they were allowed back, they remained barred from any promotions. Dr. Aisha Al Manea and Dr. Hissa Al Shiekh took part in the 1990 women driving protest and recently wrote a book detailing what happened. The photo above is of them at their book signing.
7. Travel Bans
Women who are caught driving also risk being barred from leaving the country. The 47 women who drove on November 6th, 1990 were not only barred from travel themselves but also their government assigned male guardians were too. The reasoning behind punishing the men is that they allowed their women to drive and so must be punished as well. It took the government a year to forgive them and lift the travel ban.
8. Job Terminations
Women caught driving risk losing their jobs. Madiha Al Ajroush (photo above) was caught driving in 2011 and as a result was fired from her job. She told The Telegraph: “My boss actually said to me: ‘There is the concern that you may contaminate women’s ideas. That’s why you need to be fired.’”
Women who are caught driving are sometimes sentenced a whipping. Shaima Jastaniah was caught driving a car at a MacDonald’s drive thorough. She did not make it to the pick-up window. Police took her in and she was prosecuted and sentenced ten lashes across the back. She managed to flee the country and after a year of petitioning the King, she was granted a pardon. Most Saudi women aren’t that lucky. Last April a Saudi woman was sentenced 150 lashes for driving her car.
Any civilian caught supporting or calling on women to drive risks being imprisoned and interrogated extensively. Manal Al Sharif was imprisoned for nine days and eventually pressured to quit her job at Saudi’s biggest company ARAMCO.
In October 2013, Tariq Al Mubarak was imprisoned for 8 days. His crime was publicly supporting the Oct 26th Women Driving Campaign and providing the campaign with a cell phone number to receive calls, photos and videos from women who drove.
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