Saudi activist and blogger Eman Al Nafjan was stopped by police Thursday while driving with a friend in the center of Riyadh.
For the last week, the Al Nafjan, also known as "Saudi Woman," has been posting videos and live-tweeting her road trips around one of Saudi Arabia's largest cities. Police, other cars, and pedestrians on the streets didn't seem to mind seeing her on the road, she said earlier this week, so why should the government?
On Thursday afternoon, Al Nafjan was live-tweeting a journey into central Riyadh when police stopped the car. She had already posted up a video of the drive.
A Saudi activist and friend of Al Nafjan said that she had been taken to a local police station and that she was currently meeting with a lawyer.
"We are hoping this will be resolved quickly, especially as we believe the authorities are not very interested in enforcing this ban," he said, asking to remain anonymous to protect his family. "She is a very brave woman and many others have been following her example."
Over the last month, thousands of signatures have been collected by the October 26 campaign, which has asked women to get behind the wheel on that day and encourage Saudi authorities to revoke the country's ban on female drivers.
A number of Saudi officials have come out in support of ending the ban. The chief of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice said that the ban "is not mandated by any text in Shari'a, the Islamic code which forms the basis for most Saudi law." And Muhammed al-Zulfa, a leading religious figure and Shura Council member, wrote earlier this year that he considers driving a "basic right."
But some hardliners continue to argue that women should be banned from driving. They seem to think that getting behind a wheel can hurt a woman's ovaries.
Al Nafjan's various drives around the city were often met with outrage. On Thursday, she noted that a hashtag had even been created calling for her arrest.
"She was not afraid of being arrested," said her friend and fellow activist. "Since there is no real law on the books banning females from driving, what are they going to charge her with?"
Nafjan was released by police after several hours of questioning. Her first response to the ordeal was to post this on Twitter:
Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F
Contact Sheera Frenkel at email@example.com.
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