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Women Who Violated Saudi Arabia Ban On Female Driving May Face Terrorism Charges

Two women have been held in a Saudi prison for nearly one month for trying to break the ban on female drivers have been referred to a court on terrorism charges.

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Two Saudi Arabian women will be tried in a court established to try terrorists for protesting the kingdom's ban on female drivers and for the online advocacy in support of female drivers.

Using driver's licenses from the United Arab Emirates, Loujain al-Hathloul, 25, and Maysa al-Alamoudi, 33, were arrested crossing into Saudi Arabia. Al-Hathloul was stopped at the border when she attempted to enter Saudi Arabia on November 30, while Al-Amoudi, a UAE-based Saudi journalist, was stopped when she went to deliver food and blankets to al-Hathloul. The two women were trying to raise awareness on Saudi Arabia's ongoing ban on female drivers.

Al-Hathloul filmed this video of herself as she drove towards the Saudi border. In it, she explains that she is trying to keep up pressure on Saudi authorities to allow women to drive.

View this video on YouTube

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Saudi activists who spoke to BuzzFeed News by phone said it was the women's social media activity that led to their arrest.

"The officials were waiting for them, to arrest them. They had their activity on Twitter all logged, they said the women had been agitating against the [Saudi] kingdom," said one activist, who asked not to be named due to her own involvement in protests against the ban on female drivers.

She, like many Saudi women, have continued to break the ban on female drivers by taking their cars out on the road. Since October 26, 2013, when dozens of women uploaded videos of themselves driving in Saudi Arabia in a mass, organized protests, support has been growing for the presence of female drivers in the street.

However, a story published by the Associated Press last month claiming that the advisory council to Saudi Arabia's king had recommended easing the ban was blasted as "fabrication" by the kingdom's official State media.

"It does not seem like they are ready for a change yet," said the activist. "And in the meantime they are watching us closer than ever before."

Human Rights Watch has called on Saudi authorities to release the women. In a separate report recently published by the international human rights group, they wrote that, "Saudi authorities are ramping up their crackdown on people who peacefully criticize the government on the Internet."

"Saudi authorities are intimidating, imprisoning, and silencing activists as part of their all-out assault on peaceful criticism, but they are seriously mistaken if they think they can indefinitely block Saudi citizens from using social and other media to push for positive reforms," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.

The Twitter account launched to promote the October 26 driving campaign has started a petition calling on Saudi authorities to release the two women. Many have also tweeted their support.

Terrorism! Saudi #Women Drivers @LoujainHathloul & @maysaaX Referred to Terrorism Court http://t.co/4ewLOeJoeg #saudi

The Power Of One.@france7776Follow

Terrorism! Saudi #Women Drivers @LoujainHathloul & @maysaaX Referred to Terrorism Court http://t.co/4ewLOeJoeg #saudi

5:21 PM - 25 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Sorry NO #illridewithyou for 2 women (@LoujainHathloul & @maysaaX) jailed 3 weeks for defying driving ban @oct26driving

yeldaRo@EldaRo_AuthorFollow

Sorry NO #illridewithyou for 2 women (@LoujainHathloul & @maysaaX) jailed 3 weeks for defying driving ban @oct26driving

10:10 AM - 22 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

BTW- Can we talk about how ridiculous it is that two #Saudi women, one who drove & other supported her, are being tried in Terrorism court?!

Nora Abdulkarim@Ana3rabeyaFollow

BTW- Can we talk about how ridiculous it is that two #Saudi women, one who drove & other supported her, are being tried in Terrorism court?!

8:48 AM - 26 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

I've sought comment from #Saudi gov for 21 days on arrest of @LoujainHathloul & @maysaaX 4defying driving ban. Still nothing. @oct26driving

Mohammed Jamjoom@MIJamjoomFollow

I've sought comment from #Saudi gov for 21 days on arrest of @LoujainHathloul & @maysaaX 4defying driving ban. Still nothing. @oct26driving

10:42 PM - 21 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

#لجين_على_الحدود #لجين_الهذلول #لجين #ميساء_العمودي #قيادة_26اكتوبر #قيادة_المرأة_للسيارة

لغم #لجين@X_saudiiFollow

#لجين_على_الحدود
#لجين_الهذلول
#لجين
#ميساء_العمودي
#قيادة_26اكتوبر
#قيادة_المرأة_للسيارة

7:14 PM - 26 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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 sheera.frenkel@buzzfeed.com.

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