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by Tim Beissmann

Women in Saudi Arabia are preparing for mass protests on Friday as they attempt to bring an end to religious laws that prohibit them from driving.

The ‘Women2Drive’ Facebook campaign explains that protest action will start on July 17 and will not stop until “a royal decree allowing women to drive is issued”.

The rules prohibiting women from driving are not enforced by Saudi Arabia itself but are religious edicts, or fatwas, imposed under the Islam faith.

Saudi women are also banned from voting, require approval from a male to travel and are expected to cover their bodies from head to toe when in public.

Women in Saudi Arabia are generally forced to pay for a driver or rely on a male family member to chaperone them wherever they go.

A counter Facebook page has reportedly called on Saudi men to beat their women if they break the ban on Friday.

Saudi writer Badriya al-Bishr told the AFP that it appeared women – who are the main victims of suppression in the ultra-conservative kingdom – would lead the change in their society.

“The political leadership should take a decision to allow women to drive,” Ms Bishr said.

“The Saudi society has changed. Sixty percent of the people are young who are ready to live in a modern way.”

A 32-year-old Saudi mother made global headlines last month when she posted a video of herself driving on YouTube. Manal al-Sherif spent two weeks in jail for her public protest.

Last week, six more Saudi women were arrested after they were caught learning to drive in north of Riyadh, the nation’s capital city. They were released after they signed papers pledging never to drive again.

To show your support for the Women2Drive campaign, you can view the official Facebook page here.




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